Elston Howard was a Major League Baseball player.
In 1948, the 19-year-old Howard entered the
Negro Leagues, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. He played
three years as an outfielder and catcher.
He was the first African-American to play for
the New York Yankees. The Yankees were relatively late to sign
African-American players, but finally signed Vic Power and
Howard. The Yankees
realized investing in African-American players would be in their
best interest. Power, however, was traded away to the Philadelphia
Athletics before ever playing a game for the Yankees.
Howard was signed from the Monarchs on July
19, 1950. He was assigned to the Yankees' farm team at Muskegon,
Michigan, and after several years in the minors, played his
first game for the Yankees on April 14, 1955. Quote from 1955
Bowman company baseball card: "Elston comes to the Yankees as
one of the most heralded rookies in many years. Although he has
been a catcher, and is carried on the roster as a catcher, it is
thought that he may be converted into an outfielder. It seems he
is just too good not to play regularly major league ball, and
yet it is hard to displace a veteran as good as Yogi Berra. Elston was with Toronto in 1954, and he batted .331, he had 22
homers and 108 runs batted in, to his credit. However, from what
the experts say, statistics don't tell half the story."
He played in nine All-Star Games, every year
from 1957 to 1965. His best year was 1961 when he had a career
best .348 average on a legendary team that featured Mickey
Mantle and Roger Maris. He was awarded the Most Valuable Player
award in 1963, the first black player to win it in the American
League. That year he batted .287 and hit a career high 28 home
runs. He won the Gold Glove Award twice, in 1963 and 1964.
On August 3, 1967 he was traded to the Boston
Red Sox for Pete Magrini and a player to be named later (Ron
Klimkowski was sent to the Yankees five days later). He was
assigned uniform number 18 by the Red Sox, and played a vital
role in the Red Sox winning the American League pennant that
On October 29, 1968 he was released by the Red
Sox. The next year, he returned to the Yankees, where he coached
for 11 years. He was the first black coach in the American
He died of a heart ailment at age 51 in New
York City. He was interred at George Washington Memorial Park in
Paramus, New Jersey. In his memory, the Yankees wore black
armbands on their sleeve during the 1981 season.
On July 21, 1984, the Yankees retired Howard's
uniform number 32 and dedicated a plaque in his honor for their
Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. On the same day, the Yankees
gave the same honors to Roger Maris, who, unlike Howard, was
then still alive to receive the honor. Howard's plaque calls him
"A man of great gentleness and dignity."
George Washington Memorial
Paramus, New Jersey
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