Glancing Back and Remembering Elston Howard
The career of Elston Howard belonged to a gentleman who was both a great ballplayer and a true pioneer in so many aspects of the modern game.
9-time All-Star and 1963 AL MVP
A standout athlete in high school, Howard turned down college football scholarships to play for the Kansas City Monarchs starting in 1948. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1950, and made his first appearance with the Yankees in 1955, the first African American to play in a Yankee uniform. (He also got a hit in his first at-bat for the Yankees.)
For the next five years Howard played fill-in roles at catcher, first base and in the outfield for Yankee teams loaded with talent. By 1961, he had become the Yankees’ regular catcher, hitting .348 that year with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. In 1962, he drove in a career-high 91 runs, and in 1963, Howard hit 28 home runs with 85 RBIs to win the American League Most Valuable Player award, the first African American to do so.
Howard’s defense was as solid as his hitting, and he won the Gold Glove for catching in 1963 and 1964. Howard was also an excellent handler of pitchers. In his 13 seasons with the Yankees, Howard was chosen for the American League All-Star team nine times.
Howard appeared in 54 World Series games, the third highest total in major league history behind only Yankee teammates Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. (Another first: Howard homered in his debut World Series at-bat.) The last seven World Series appearances were with the Boston Red Sox, where Howard played a critical in the Bosox’ pennant-winning re-emergence after being dealt to Boston midway through the 1967 season. He retired after the 1968 season.