Couple of new knockout SABR biographies from Mark Armour…including another Primer fave, Willie McCovey.
After the Senators’ 10th-place finish, new owner Bob Short took over in January 1969 and decided to replace manager Jim Lemon after his single season. To replace Lemon, Short lured Ted Williams out of his eight-year retirement, surprising everyone around the game. For Howard, this would be another turning point, perhaps the most important one. Williams believed he knew how to make Howard a better hitter. “He called me into his office one day in the spring of ’69,” Howard recalled. “He said, ‘Bush! Come on in here.’ I’d only been in camp a couple of days, and I’m thinking, ‘Gee, I’m not in his doghouse already, am I?’”
“Can you tell me how a guy who hit 44 home runs only got 48 walks?” asked Williams. After Howard offered some explanation, his manager got to the point. “Well, let me ask you. Can you take a strike? I’m talking about if it’s a tough fastball in a tough zone, first pitch. Or if it’s a breaking ball, you’re sitting on a fastball … Can you take a strike? You know, try to get yourself a little better count to hit in?” Howard said he could. “Well try it for me.”xxi
In the event, Howard increased his walk total from 54 to 102, while his strikeouts fell from 141 to 96. He took advantage of more hitter’s counts, and ended up hitting .296 with 48 home runs and 111 RBI. He led the league with 330 total bases, and finished among the leaders in on-base-percentage (.402) and slugging percentage (.574). He hit a home run off Steve Carlton in the All-Star game, held at his home park of RFK Stadium.
“I did it without even trying to walk,” said Howard. “I was ready to hit, if it was my pitch, but if it was something other than I was looking for, I took it. I was laying off some bad pitches, getting more counts in my favor, and all because of Ted Williams. He’s one in a million! A marvelous, marvelous, man!”xxii One wonders what kind of career Howard might had if he had learned to do this 10 years earlier. People had been trying to get him to lay off bad pitches his entire career. Williams, with a very simple piece of advice, succeeded. Williams was impressed. “He still hit more home runs, some of them out of sight. I mean he crushed the ball. I think without question the biggest, strongest guy who ever played this game.” Williams had quite an influence on the rest of the team as well, as they finished in third place in the new six-team AL East with a 86-76 record. Williams was named the league’s Manager of the Year.
Posted: January 16, 2013 at 06:19 AM | 78 comment(s)
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