Why punish 'The Capital Punisher'?
Frank Howard ended his time in Washington baseball on a sad note. The final Senators game on Sept. 30, 1971, never was completed because the fans stormed the field in the top of the ninth inning, giving the New York Yankees a forfeit victory.
"It was a sad day for Washington, but they got baseball back, and that's the important thing," Howard said.
Yes, baseball returned in 2005 -- but not Frank Howard, not until now, 40 years after the Senators played their final game in the District and moved to Arlington, Texas.
Howard, 75, finally has come back to Washington baseball by way of Loudoun County, Va.
"The Capital Punisher," as the popular giant slugger was called during his playing days in Washington from 1965 through 1971, has been hired as an ambassador and adviser by the Loudoun Hounds, the Atlantic League franchise scheduled to start play in Northern Virginia in 2012.
"I have over 50 years in baseball as a player, manager, coach and scout," Howard said. "I don't know if there is anything to be said for experience, but I have been there and done that, and they value what I might add to their program, whether it is in player development or wherever they need me."
It's a shame the Nationals did not hire him first.
It is stunning and embarrassing that Howard has not been part of the Nationals' organization. There is something purporting to be a statue of Howard on the center-field plaza of Nationals Park. Yet save for the occasion appearance before private groups, the Nationals failed to step up and make Howard part of the organization.
"I would have loved to," Howard said when asked why he was not part of the Nationals' organization. "But they're a new club and are trying to create their own identity. Maybe it wasn't the right situation or timing."
Maybe it was owners who didn't want to spend the money. That's not stunning.
Several years ago, there were negotiations to bring Howard on board in some role. But sources with knowledge of the negotiations said the Lerners wanted MASN -- Peter Angelos' network -- to help foot the bill. That failed to materialize, and the team didn't come up with whatever pocket change it would have taken to hire Howard.
The Loudoun Hounds, who seem to understand the value of connecting with the local fan base, were willing to pay.
Atlantic League baseball -- finishing up its 14th season -- is a good product with a variety of players, from former major leaguers to prospects trying to get another look.
"It's a good level of play," Howard said. "It's affordable and fan friendly. I'm enthused and excited, and hopefully I can add something to the Hounds. They apparently think I can because they want me on board."
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