Friday, April 14, 2006

"Hondo" Still The Benchmark For Power In One Week

Chris Shelton has seven homeruns after just nine games for the Tigers, and it looks like it might be a neck-and-neck race between he and the White Sox's Jim Thome, if the first week or so of the season rings true.

Seven homers in nine games? Not bad, Big Red. But still, you go sit in the corner.

Frank Howard -- the Capital Punisher, or Hondo if you prefer -- once hit 10 dingers in a single week, for the old Washington Senators. And I mean, a single week -- Monday thru Sunday, babe. It was in 1968 -- the last Year of the Pitcher as we know it. Starting in 1969, the baseball powers that be lowered the mound by several inches, and a new age of offensive prowess was ushered in.

Hondo about to dole out some capital punishment

Howard comes to mind, because he always does whenever someone goes off on a power binge like Shelton and Thome -- who has six homers after blistering Tigers pitching this week -- have.

Ten homers in seven days is Ruthian, but if anyone could occasionally travel in such rarified air, it was Frank Howard. And he was briefly a Tiger, which some folks don't even know.

Howard, 6'7", broke into the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and after several good seasons in L.A., he was dealt to the Senators. He was the diamond stick pin on the crumpled suit that was the Washington baseball entry in the American League. Howard crushed homeruns at the rate of about once every 13 at-bats in his heyday, but his Senators teams were mostly awful.

Then, with about a month to go in the 1972 season and the Tigers in a dogfight for the AL East crown, GM Jim Campbell rescued Howard from purgatory. The Senators had moved to Texas and became the Rangers, but they still stank. So Campbell made the trade, and Howard chipped in with a homer in 32 closing week at-bats for the Bengals. And the Tigers captured the division.

Problem was, Howard was acquired just a day or two after the cutoff for players to join their new teams and still be eligible for postseason play. So despite helping the Tigers win the AL East, Frank Howard had to watch his team lose a heartbreaking 3-games-to-2 ALCS to the Oakland A's. His bat may have helped to reverse that result, but we'll never know.

Hondo stuck around for one more season in Detroit before calling it quits at the end of the year, 37 years old and his playing career over after 382 homers and 1,119 RBIs. He later became a first base coach for the Yankees.

So revel in Chris Shelton's hot power start if you'd like. But it's still nothing like Frank Howard's week in 1968.


Blogger Ozz said...

Too bad Campbell wasn't able to pull the trigger on getting Howard a few days earlier than he did. Wonder what the holdup might have been.

4:06 AM  

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