One of my favorite all time characters of the game is Frank Howard. We crossed paths when he was the first base coach and I was one of the catchers for the 1996 New York Mets. “Hondo” played like 15 years in the big leagues, won the rookie of the year in 1960, hit about 400 homers in his career, and later went on to manage and coach several teams. First off, this guy was one of the biggest human beings I ever saw. He was about 6′8″ and at least 275lbs. A big, giant, larger than life, lumbering man. A true gentle giant and super funny. The stories about him are endless.
My favorite Hondo story is we when we were on this 2 week road trip that took us at some point up to Montreal. Now usually as a big leaguer, you don’t go through airports or handle luggage, but since we were coming back to the States from Canada we all had our luggage and were trudging through customs at about 2 in the morning. So we’re all standing in line and I look over to the other side and there’s Hondo leaning against a wall smoking a nail. No luggage, no waiting, nothing. I looked behind me and asked Todd Hundley “what’s with Hondo? Why isn’t he waiting in line, and where is his luggage?” Hundley looked at me like I was crazy and said, “you don’t know?” And I said, “don’t know what?” Apparently Hondo didn’t use luggage because he didn’t bring anything. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. Two week road trip and no extra clothing. No toothbrush, nothing. Basically he would get to the field everyday at about 10 in the morning. He would then strip down into a jock (seeing this old man/giant parading around in the clubhouse in a jock is a whole different story) and give his suit to a clubhouse kid to dry clean. He brought an extra pair of underwear in his suit pocket which he washed in the sink of the hotel and he had dentures, so I guess he didn’t need a toothbrush. Classic Frank Howard, I love that guy.
“Now I can kind of believe those white seats a little bit more.” – Nationals third basemen Ryan Zimmerman after standing next to 6 foot 7 former Washington Senator Frank Howard. RFK Stadium has white seats in spots in the upper deck to commemorate home runs that Howard hit while a Senator.
“How can you wheel that lumber tomorrow if you don’t pound that Budweiser tonight?” – Frank Howard speaking to his players after a game.