Ryan Howard’s Legacy
2006 players have worn the Phillies uniform since the franchise was established in 1883. Some are in the Hall of Fame and the Phillies Wall of Fame, some had good careers, others were awful and a few had cup-of-coffee appearances of one game only.
The legacy of Ryan Howard is that he did some things no other Phillies can claim. A Rookie Of The Year followed by the Most Valuable Player. The Phillies have had several of each but not in back-to-back seasons (2005-2006).
2006, there’s that number again, was his best season. He became the only Phillies player to reach 50 home runs in a season and he did it in dramatic fashion, #50-51-52 in the same game at Citizens Bank Park. It was the only time he went deep three times in one game.
That season finished with 58 home runs, a mark that has been permanently marked with a bronze plaque in Section 145, row 7 at Citizens Bank Park. Mike Schmidt held the previous club record for the most home runs in one season, 48, in 1980.
Howard followed his 58 with seasons of 47, 48, 45. No Phillies hitter ever had four consecutive seasons of 40 or more home runs. Over his first five seasons, he averaged 44 homers. Again, unmatched by any Phillies slugger. Chuck Klein averaged 136 RBI his first five seasons; Howard is second, 127.
In those five seasons, he became the fastest player in baseball history to reach 100, 150 and 200 home runs.
He was the MVP in both the Florida State League (2003) and Eastern League (2004). His 2006 NL MVP was followed by finishing fifth, second, third, 10th and 10th in the voting over the next five seasons.
The Phillies had a lot talented players through those years and won a lot of games. Howard was the constant #4 hitter and big-time power bat, earning the nickname, The Big Piece, from manager Charlie Manuel.
The Cardinals eliminated the Phillies from postseason play in 2011. Howard was the last out in Game 5, October 7, at Citizens Bank Park. He struck out and crumbled to the ground just outside the batter’s box in pain. He tore his left Achilles tendon. Surgery five days later.
The big man was never the same after that. He worked, battled and grinded out at-bat after at-bat. He finished with 25 homers this year, the most since 33 in 2011.
Through it all he maintained even-keel despite struggles at the plate and in the field, personal issues, a media attack about taking PEDS and the lack of playing time. Tommy Joseph came out of nowhere this season and began to get more starts at first base. A major distraction was preached by the media. Howard and Pete Mackanin handled it with class eliminating any issues.
Said Joseph, “He never made me feel like he was the man on top and I was still trying to hunt him. That guy has done everything in this game, almost — MVP, Rookie of the Year, World Series champion. That guy just made me feel like we were on a level playing field, when in reality, we’re not. That guy is a special player and a special human.”
One more stand-alone statistic: most grand slams in Phillies history, 15. #14 was part of his 30th and final two-homer game, Friday night this August 12. Only fitting that Ryan (Miles Kennedy photo) would put on a show for his predecessor, Jim Thome, who was inducted into the Toyota Wall of Fame that night. Watching the game from a suite, Thome stood and cheered when Howard went deep with the bases loaded.
As big as Howard was in the middle of the lineup, he was that big off the field.
He actively supported PAL programs, donated tickets to PAL kids and was an active member of the Philadelphia Action team, a national youth volunteer initiative administered by the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Volunteers of America.
He donated money toward new baseball fields in North Philadelphia.
Along with his wife Krystle, the Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation was formed in 2013. Its signature program is the Ryan Howard Reading Challenge, a K-3 literacy-based program to engage children in reading. A year ago the Howards released Little Rhino, a baseball-themed children’s book series.
On July 21 this summer, the Ryan Howard Training Center, a new 7,500 square-foot indoor baseball/softball facility was officially opened. The Training center is part of the Phillies MLB Youth Academy located in the Marion Andersen Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. The Howards made a significant monetary commitment to the Academy through their Foundation so that more than 8,000 RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) players can improve their skills year round. The RBI players will also have access to fitness training as well as educational and vocational programs.
A kid from St. Louis certainly has made a huge imprint in Philadelphia both on the baseball field and in the community.