Not too long ago I got an e-mail from long time hobbyist and all around great guy Phil Wood. Many of you know Phil from years past or maybe more recently as a baseball radio personality here in the DC/Baltimore area. Phil was working on an article for the 2009 Nationals Yearbook and had some questions about player bat use. I don’t want to steal too much of Phil’s thunder if you are going to a Nats game this year, but the story does involve Frank Howard and a recently acquired player.
If ever there was “Big Man on Campus” at The Ohio State University, it was Frank Howard. At 6’, 7”, 255lbs, Hondo exploded on the national scene in 1960 by winning the National League Rookie of Year with the LA Dodgers. I had looked at Howard’s H&B records only briefly in the course of my Adirondack project. Howard did use Adirondacks and I have found at least one model of his; a 194A. But the real story lies in the lumber logged out of Louisville. Over a player’s career or over the course of a season, bat lengths and weights may change. Models will also emerge based on a player’s personal preference. In the case of Frank Howard, he began as an S2 man almost exclusively from 1958 through the mid point of the 1962 season were he dabbled with four orders for K55’s. During this time frame, he only had one model made for him, that being the H173 (M110 barrel, S2 handle) in April of 1958.
The lengths of the bats from the first part of his career only varied 1 ½” inches from 35 ½” to 37”, but it’s the weight ranges that are incredible.
Bats weights ordered 1958-1962
40oz (June 1958)
45oz (Apr 1959; Apr 1960)
48oz (Nov 1959)
For the period of 1963 through 1973, the range of both bat lengths and weights also expanded with his change to a preference for the R43. Howard’s bat lengths can be found from 35” to 38” with the majority being 36 ½”.
Bat weights ordered 1963-1973
42oz (Jan 1966, Feb 1966, Jan 1971)
44oz (Feb 1970, Jul 1970)
45oz (Mar 1964; Jan 1967, Sept 1967, Jan 1968)
48oz (Sept 1963)
50oz (Sept 1964)
The largest bats ordered throughout his career were shipped on September 25th, 1964 and were the R43 at 38”, 50oz (Note: The records have these as being sent to Green Bay Wisconsin). In my opinion, this is just staggering when you consider the size of the bats used by many of the today’s top slugging big men that weigh in the 31-33 oz range. Just how heavy is a 50oz bat? Take a take two 33 ½ oz bats, cut one in half length wise and affix it to the first one and you have it just about right.
In my years of looking at uniforms, I have only seen a few Frank Howard jerseys. Maybe they were sent down to the minors to house players. These, like his bats are huge. I have some idea of what the jerseys must be like as I have a 1971 Ted Kluszewski Cincinnati Reds home flannel that is a size 50.
Frank Howard Uniforms in the Hobby
1960 Dodgers home jersey; Rawlings, size 50
1969 Senators road jersey; Wilson, size 52
1970 Senators home jersey; Wilson, size 52
1970 Senators road jersey, Wilson, size 52
1981 Padres road jersey, Wilson, size 52
Even without these sizes, I would still have been likely to estimate the size of his home pinstriped Senators jerseys as being in the size 52 range based the number of pinstripes and use of an object of know size. This can be done using a similar period product knowing the width of space between the pinstripes is about 1 inch. You would be surprised at the number of folks who will claim to have a “photomatch” without even bothering to count the number of pinstripes on a jersey. This is just one of the reasons I detest that phrase.
A size 52 jersey swinging a 38”, 50oz bat with great effect and all of this leaves little doubt that the nickname of the “Capital Punisher” was not well deserved. The other thing that players like Frank Howard deserve is mention and discussion from time to time. This is to ensure that a generation of fans and collectors not familiar with him can become so.
As always collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. If you collect Frank Howard… good for you.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com