I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I love cards that chronicle one single game, one moment in baseball history. This is one of those cards, it is from the 1964 Topps set, card #139. The card’s front shows a rendering of big Frank “Hondo” Howard taking a big swing-the card is titled “Sealing Yanks’ Doom”. This could probably win just about any contest for coolest card title ever. The card celebrates the Dodgers 2-1 victory over the Yankees on October 3, 1963.
In the bottom of the 5th inning with the score tied at nothing, Frank Howard (batting 5th) came up to face Whitey Ford with 1 out and the bases empty. He had singled off of Ford in the second inning to collect the first hit of the game for either team. When Frank Howard came up in the 5th inning both pitchers, Ford and Koufax, were holding to one-hit shutouts. The shutout would disappear when Frank Howard drilled a homerun over the left field wall in Dodgers stadium to give Los Angeles an early 1-0 lead. The lead would stand until the top of the 7th inning when Mickey Mantle delivered a solo homerun of his own to tie the score up at 1 a piece. In the bottom of the 7th inning Junior Gilliam hit a ground ball to Clete Boyer at third base for what looked to be an easy 5-3 groundout. Joe Pepitone failed to field the ball and Gilliam sped around all the way to third base on the error. This was the first time that the Dodgers had a runner in scoring position all day long. Number 3 hitter Willie Davis came to the plate and delivered a long fly ball to deep center field. Mantle caught the ball for the out, but Gilliam scored on the sacrifice fly. This put the Dodgers up 2-1 on an unearned run. Whitey Ford got out of the inning, getting Tommy Davis and Frank Howard each out on infield grounders. Ford would be lifted in favor of a pinch hitter (Phil Linz) in the top of the 8th inning, out of the game on the losing end, despite only allowing 2 hits over 7 innings of work. Hal Reniff would pitch the 8th inning for the Yankees-he got the Dodgers out 1-2-3, but 2 runs were all that Sandy Koufax needed. Koufax would go the full 9 innings, striking out 8 and allowing the lone run on Mantle’s homer. The Dodgers would take game to complete the sweep of the Yankees giving the Dodgers their first Championship in the 60’s. Sandy Koufax, who won game 1 and 4 was the series MVP. Frank Howard, who drew first blood off of Ford in game 4 would bat .300 (3 for 10) in the series, had only one other hit in the series-a double off of Ford in game 1. This would be Frank Howard’s first and only World Series appearance and Hondo was a hero in the deciding game. That is my take of the event, here is what the back of the card had to say:
“Although Frank Howard got the only two hits off Whitey Ford all afternoon, the Dodgers made it a clean sweep in the World Series. Frank Howard and Mickey Mantle both hit long home runs as Sandy Koufax picked up his second victory in the October classic.”
Howard had come up through the Dodgers system; he was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1960 and had delivered 4 twenty-plus homerun seasons for the Dodgers. His best year in Los Angeles came in 1962 when he batted .296 with 31 homers and 119 RBIs. He had his worst batting average and somewhat of an off year in 1964 (.226/24/69), but still paced the team in homeruns and had only 4 errors in right field in nearly 1000 innings. PLUS he delivered some big hits in the World Series sweep of the Yankees. Still, (exactly) 2 months after his big home run the Dodgers sent him to Washington as part of a monster 7-player trade. Howard became a Senator along with Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen and Pete Richert. The trade brought Claude Osteen and John Kennedy to the Dodgers. Kennedy would be a utility infielder and pinch hitter for a couple of seasons for the Dodgers, but Claude Osteen would pitch for the Dodgers for 9 seasons, representing them in 3 All Star games and he was a huge factor in the Dodgers World Series victory in 1965. Of course Howard flourished in Washington; he earned his nickname the Capital Punisher there due to his power. He would lead the league in homers twice with the Senators and go to 4 All Star games. With Washington he was in the top-10 in the league in homers and RBI 5 times in 7 seasons there. Frank Howard would retire after spending the 1973 season with the Detroit Tigers. He hit 382 homers (56th All Time) over his 16 year career. He also drove in 1,119 runs (180th All Time), but also struck out 1,460 times, good for 52nd of all time. Most importantly he hit that big homerun off of Whitey Ford on October 3, 1963, sealing the Yankees’ doom. I love this game, I love this hobby. Troll out.