Howe Returns to Laramie This Weekend as a Hall of Famer
A friend of Art Howe’s kids him that he was the key to the University of Wyoming football team that was ranked No. 7 in the nation in 1967 and went to the Sugar Bowl.
“If you hadn’t hurt your back as a freshman, and been unable to play college football, (head coach Lloyd) Eaton would never have converted Paul Toscano from a defensive back to quarterback, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been undefeated, and never would have gone to the Sugar Bowl,” the friend says. "We'd have probably gone 9-1 and been in the Sun Bowl again."
The last laugh, however, is one for Howe to enjoy.
He did play baseball at the University of Wyoming, earning All-Conference honors, and will be inducted to the University of Wyoming Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday night, along with Sean Dent (basketball, 1984, 1986-88), Jessica Fox Rasby (Track and Field, 2003-05), Steve Suder (wrestling, 1975-79, wrestling coach 1989-2008), Cory Wedel (football, 1994-97), and the 1987 WAC Championship football team.
Howe’s athletic career in Laramie, however, didn’t stir any interest from Major League Baseball so after he graduated from Wyoming he went back to Pittsburgh, took a job with Westinghouse’s Computer Center as a systems analyst, and played semi-pro baseball for the Northside Mets on weekends.
The next thing Howe knew, he was signing a contract with his hometown Pirates after attending a tryout camp. At the age of 24 he reported to the Pirates minor-league camp in Bradenton, Fla., in what turned into a 37-year stretched in which he spent 36 years in uniform as a player, coach or manager, and the other year scouting.
And to think, it all started when a co-worker at Westinghouse watched a couple of Howe’s semi-pro games, and asked Howe if he would attend a tryout camp if an invite could be arranged.
“I told him I was 23, and had back surgery,” said Howe. “But he said he was going to get me an invitation. I said okay. I didn’t have anything to lose.”
Turned out he had plenty to gain. His hometown Pirates were the only one of the 24 Major League teams that still had a camp on the schedule in the summer of 1970, and Howe received an invitation.
“It was the first year of Three Rivers Stadium and the artificial turf,” said Howe. “It was 90-some degrees and I was on the field for six hours. At the end of the workout they kept myself, Ken Macha and another guy out of more than 200, and told us they wanted us to work out some more.”
Howe found himself fielding fly balls in left field. He took ground balls at first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
“I was shot,” said Howe. “My uniform was soaked. I’m walking off the field and one of the scouts said, `Didn’t you pitch in high school?’ I said I did. He told me to get on the mound, and I threw for 10 more minutes. After that I just went in the clubhouse and sat there. Everybody else was gone.
“I went home and hit the sack. My wife got home from work and asked me how things went. I told her. Then, the next morning I got a call and was offered a free-agent contract for zero dollars. They told me to show up for spring training and see if I could make a team. The rest is history.”
After two years in the minor leagues, Howe was in the big leagues with a career that took him from the Pirates (1974-75) to the Astros (1976-82), and after being sidelined for a year recovering from being hit in the face by a pitch and suffering a fractured jaw, to the Cardinals (1984-85).
Then he took a job on the bench as a coach with the Rangers (1986-89). He went on to manage the Astros (1989-93), the A’s (1996-2002), where he led the team to 91 wins in 2000, 102 wins in 2001 and 103 wins in 2003, and the Mets (2003-04). He spent a year scouting for the Dodgers after being fired by the Astros and was the hitting coach for the expansion Rockies in 1995 before being hired by the A’s.
And after his time with the Mets he coached for the Phillies (2006) and Rangers (2007-08) before getting off the field.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” said Howe.
And the next stop on his ride is the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame.