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Article:The Baseball Demise of Elston Gene Howard

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by Harold Friend

Doris Binder lived in Long Beach, New York. She was a New York Giants' fan who hated the American League, which meant that she was not too fond of the New York Yankees.

Although she had only read about the Yankees' World Series victories over her Giants in 1923, 1936, and 1951, she did live through the 1962 Series.

Doris had three giant posters in her room. One commemorated the 1921 World Series, a second commemorated the 1922 World Series, and the third was one of Willie Mays making the greatest catch in World Series history.

Significant Problems

On May 3, 1965, the New York Yankees found themselves in the unenviable position of eighth place in the 10 team American League. The Yankees had just dropped a twin bill at Yankee Stadium to the Baltimore Orioles. To add insult to injury, Robin Roberts, a Yankees' reject, shut them out in the nightcap, allowing only six hits, but there were more significant problems on the horizon.

A Bone Chip

It was learned that Elston Howard would need an operation to remove a bone chip from his right elbow. He would be lost for at least two months. General manager Ralph Houk made his moves.

A Pattern Was Being Established

Johnny Blanchard, a back-up catcher and left handed pinch-hitter, along with right hander Rollie Sheldon were shipped off to the Yankees' cousins in Kansas City in return for catcher Howard "Doc" Edwards.

Losing Elston Howard was a serious blow to the Yankees' pennant hopes. It was only early May, but a pattern was being established. The Yankees no longer could reach into their farm system to replace injured or aging stars, and they no longer struck fear into the hearts of the opposition.

Howard had batted .313 in 1964, hitting 15 home runs and batting in 84 runs. He was a master at calling games behind the plate and knew how to handle a pitching staff. Ellie had been the league's MVP in 1963.

I loved when the Yankees faced problems, but I didn't want to beat them because they suffered injuries. I rooted against them, but admired and respected Elston Howard. I certainly had mixed feelings about his problems, but injuries were part of the game.

Doc Edwards

It looked as if the Yankees would have a tough time, especially when they tried to replace the almost irreplaceable Elston Howard with someone like Doc Edwards, who batted .224 in 1964 with Kansas City. Edwards came up with the Indians in 1962, and was traded to the Athletics in 1963.

Howard recovered faster than anyone expected. He pinch hit unsuccessfully on June 4, and caught his first game on June 13 at Dodger Stadium against the Angels (yes, the Angels played at Dodger Stadium), but he had lost a lot. Howard started only 93 games behind the plate, batted .233, and hit only nine home runs.

The Doc Edwards trade didn't work out too well for the Yankees. Edwards hit .190, with one home run. He was sent to Cleveland after the season.

Roland Sheldon Provided Great Satisfaction

Roland Sheldon, however, gave me great satisfaction. He led Kansas City's pitching staff with 10 wins. He lost eight games, and had a respectable 3.95 ERA. On June 24, Sheldon faced the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Before the game, a reporter asked Rollie if he were nervous about facing his former teammates. "If I've got good pitches, there's no difference who I pitch against. Of course, 10 runs would help."

Ken Harrelson hit a three-run home off Mel Stottlemyre in the first inning. Sheldon held the Yankees to a pair of runs and six hits as he went the distance for a 6-2 win. I loved it when someone stuck it to the Yankees, and that's just what Sheldon did. I always rooted for players the Yankees traded, for obvious reasons.

The Yankees Were in Trouble

After the Sheldon game, the Yankees were in seventh place, with a record of 30-37. They trailed first place Minnesota by 10 and one-half games. I kept telling my friends who were Yankees' fans that they were in more trouble than they realized. Not only were they more than ten games out of first, but there were six teams ahead of them. It appeared that I would really enjoy 1965.




By LEONARD KOPPETT. (1965, May 4). Howard Faces Surgery Tomorrow; Yanks Get Edwards From A's in Trade :INJURED CATCHER OUT FOR 2 MONTHS Blanchard, Sheldon Are Sent to A's as Yankee's Act to Replace Howard. New York Times (1923-Current file),54. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 101544179).

By JOSEPH DURSO. (1965, June 25). Sheldon Defeats Former Yankee Teammates, 6-2; HARRELSON HOMER GAPS 3-RUN FIRST Stottlemyre Pounded Early. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 23. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 97212919).

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