From the middle of The Common Man's ode to the manly awesomeness of Frank Howard (one of my favorite players who I never actually saw):
- In fact, it might be helpful to think of Frank Howard as the player everyone thinks Jim Rice was. Like Rice, Howard was a defensively challenged corner outfielder. Both lasted 16 seasons, each playing from age 21 to 36, and both hit, believe it or not, 382 homers. Howard’s career OPS was .851, and Rice’s was .854. Rice had a higher batting average, more hits, and more doubles, but also had 1700 more plate appearances. While superficially similar, however, Howard’s performance actually towers over Rice when we account for the era and stadiums in which he played. While Rice spent his whole career taking aim at the Green Monster, Howard was mired hitters’ hells in Dodger Stadium and RFK Stadium for almost all his career. Howard had two full seasons in LA’s Memorial Coliseum in 1960 and 1961, and one full year at Tiger Stadium in his last season, but otherwise played in a scoring wasteland.
Their careers also differ in another essential way. While some writers have twisted themselves into knots to demonstrate that Jim Rice was The Most Feared Hitter In the American League, it’s Howard who was really frightening.
Again, while getting just four times at bat to every five that Rice got, Howard was intentionally walked 75% more often (135 to 77), including 29 times in 1970 (when he also had 103 unintentional walks and still hit 44 homers). Rice, meanwhile, was never passed more than 10 times in any season (and maxed out at 62 walks for his career high). Howard scared opposing pitchers and teammates alike, not just for the terrific distances his hits traveled but the terrible speed with which the ball came off his bat.
There are many examples of Howard's fearsomeness cited, and I encourage you to read the whole article. This particularly resonates with me because just last night I watched a special about the 1968 season, during which Howard hit 44 home runs (in what was called, even then, "The Year of the Pitcher"). Here's what Jim Kaat says about Howard: “Frank might have been the most intimidating hitter that I ever faced. Frank was 6-7, I think about 300 pounds … If there was one hitter that would strike fear into you, it would be Frank Howard.”
I don't really want to get into the Hall of Fame thing, but I wouldn't have voted for Howard or Rice. I will vote, however, for appreciating Howard as just the sort of player that Rice was: a devastating hitter for a few years who didn't do much else and whose career petered out a bit earlier than his fans would have liked.