A look back at Frank Howard’s impact on baseball in Washington from someone who was there
Before playing the Rockies on Friday, the Nationals inducted former Washington Senators outfielder Frank Howard into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park. During the ceremony, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker spoke glowingly about Howard, who was his brother’s favorite player while growing up.
“He’s the most pleasant gentle giant of a man that I know,” Baker said. “Now, I’d hate to upset him because as a kid his name was Big Frank Howard or Hondo.”
Howard is one of the most beloved figures in D.C. baseball history and, to this day, no player representing Washington D.C. has been able to hit more home runs than Howard – a legendary 237.
During his time in Washington, teammates, media and fans alike marveled at Howard’s tape-measure home runs, many of which taunted cavernous D.C. Stadium’s dimensions. As Dusty alluded to, his powerful hits earned him the nicknames “The Capital Punisher,” “The Washington Monument,” and “Hondo.”
Before the ceremony on Friday, we had the pleasure to sit down with someone who knew Howard very well, Brad Eney. Brad orchestrated team travel for the Washington Senators from 1969 to 1971, and attended every Senators game during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Brad and his wife, Linda, traveled from West Virginia to Nationals Park on Friday to help honor Frank. Brad participated in pregame ceremonies, and proudly watched as Howard was inducted into the Ring of Honor.
Brad on Frank’s incredible size…
“I’ve got a picture of me and Frank [from his playing days]. I was 265 pounds at the time, and he makes me look like a 10-year-old, undernourished kid. This guy was big.”
On Frank’s legendary power…
“We were in Boston and I remember Frank was taking batting practice, and I was in left field shagging flies. He’s bouncing them off the big Green Monster. I [kept thinking] I’m going to catch this one, and then it’s ten feet over my head. You can count the dents in that wall that Frank put in there. It was unbelievable how hard he could hit a ball.”
On Frank’s amazing one-week stretch in the spring of 1968, when he hit 10 home runs in 20 at bats…
“The team had a series in Detroit, and people were just sitting there with their mouths hanging open. Another [home run]. Then another one. Another one.”
On the Senators leaving for Texas in 1971 and the Nationals bringing baseball back to Washington…
“34 years without a ball club in D.C. was heartbreaking. On the final flight before our last series in D.C., I had to get on the PA system and I know I was choking up doing it. This town wasn’t just losing a ball club, I’m losing 40 friends. It was really a sad day. It was amazing when the team came back… we never miss a game on television.”
Thank you to Brad for chatting with us, and congratulations to Frank Howard on his induction into the Ring of Honor!