SABR

Paul Howard

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

It may have gotten a little confusing around Boston in 1908 and the year or two afterward. In 1906 and the first part of 1907, outfielder Del Howard played outfield at the South End Grounds for the National League Boston Beaneaters. He was a left-handed hitter, George Edward Howard from Illinois, who averaged .264 in exactly 800 plate appearances. He is not the subject of this biography. Then along came another outfielder, Paul Joseph Howard (also called “Del”). This one was a native of the City of Boston, born on May 20, 1884. He was right-handed and stood 5-feet-8, four inches shorter than the earlier Del. Paul played just on the other side of the railroad tracks, for the Red Sox at the Huntington Avenue Grounds. He didn’t get nearly the number of plate appearances – just 20. From this point forward, all references to “Howard” or “Del” are to the locally-raised Paul Joseph Howard. Truth be told, the Boston newspapers typically referred to the shorter Howard as Paul.

Paul’s father Thomas Howard was a printer in Dorchester, Massachusetts, born in 1856 in Ireland. Thomas and Mary Davis Howard had two sons - Paul and his older brother, Thomas Jr., born in 1880.

The first time Howard turns up in baseball’s record books came in 1908, when he played in the New England League for the Lowell Tigers. In 116 games, he hit for a .298 average with four home runs. The Tigers brought him back again in 1909 and he got into 123 games, hitting .273.

In either late August or early September, he was purchased from Lowell and brought to Boston to play for the Red Sox. His first game action came on September 16 and he had a nice debut. Manager Patsy Donovan gave both Howard (right field) and Steve Yerkes (shortstop) their first chance to take part in a big-league game. The game got off to a disappointing start, as the White Sox scored four times in the top of the first inning off Frank Arellanes. Howard was 1-for-2 at the plate, banging a double. He also walked once and hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Yerkes for the first Red Sox run of the game. Defensively, the September 17 Boston Globe wrote, he had “no chance to show what he could do in the outfield.” His eighth-inning two-bagger drove in another runner, Jake Stahl. The Red Sox lost, 7-5, but Howard had two RBIs and a fine first game. The Globe ran a photograph of Howard and three other new Red Sox ballplayers.

His first game turned out to be his best game. In just five more ballgames with Boston, Howard had another 13 at-bats, but only one more hit, a single. He walked two more times and was hit by a pitch; of his 20 plate appearances, only 15 of them were official at-bats. He finished the season on September 29 with a .200 average, but a .368 on-base percentage. He did finally enjoy a small handful of chances in the field, but remarkably few: three. He is credited with two putouts and one assist.

Howard was 0-for-3 with a walk on the 20th, again playing right field. On the 22nd, he singled and played right, 1-for-3. His third hit came on the 23rd, a game in which he cut down Nap Lajoie at home plate after cleanly fielding Nig Clarke’s single. His final two games saw him play left field, coming in late in both games of the September 29 doubleheader to spell Harry Hooper.

After the 1909 season was over, the Red Sox played seven exhibition games – against a mill team in Rhode Island, an all-Maine team in Portland, and then a series of games against the New York Giants. The Sox dropped the first one but won the next four. Howard was not eligible to play in the series against the Giants.[Boston Globe, October 1, 1909] He didn’t appear in either of the other games.

Not long afterward, Howard was traded by the Red Sox with Martin O’Toole, formerly with the Brockton ballclub, to the St. Paul Saints in exchange for pitcher Louis LeRoy. [Boston Globe, January 10, 1910] There appears to have been some sort of working agreement, or Howard was returned to Boston, because he never played for St. Paul that season. On August 1, 1910, the National Baseball Commission released information data indicating that his contract had been sold for $750 to the New England League’s Brockton Shoemakers.

Howard does not appear to have played organized baseball in 1910. In 1911, he finally played for St. Paul, but only collected 112 at-bats in 34 games. He hit .214 in American Association play. He was with Brockton by June and finished the season with the Shoemakers. On August 7, 1911 his sixth-inning home run tied the game against his former Lowell team, but the Tigers beat Brockton 9-5. He was considered a good hitter and a “clever fielder.” [Boston Globe, July 16, 1911]

Before the 1912 season began, well-known ballplayer, manager, and scout Arthur Irwin had recommended Howard to Frank Farrell of the New York Highlanders, who thereupon purchased his contract in mid-1912. Howard refused to report and never joined the New York team.  [Boston Globe, April 8, 1913] He played 1912 again with Brockton and hit .312 in 116 games, with 30 doubles and five triples, but no home runs. After holding out in the springtime, he wound up for a third year in Brockton in 1913, and was hitting for a higher average (.309) when he was presented the opportunity for a more secure future. Perhaps he’d started looking around when his preseason contract demands fell short of expectations. He may have been well-positioned for a return visit to the majors, but on August 28, nearing the end of another very good year with the Shoemakers, Howard announced his retirement in order to accept an appointment to the Boston Fire Department. He was told to report to Captain James J. Caine for roll call at Engine Company 38-39 on Congress Street. [Boston Globe, August 29, 1913]

Howard worked for the Fire Department until his retirement, though he enjoyed an association with baseball. His name appeared in the newspaper from time to time for attending a baseball gathering of one sort or another, and he even kept active in the game for a few years. On June 16, 1917 for instance, he is found in a box score, going 3-for-4 as the center fielder for the St. Ambrose nine of Dorchester, who beat the Brookline Beacons 3-1 at Town Field, Dorchester. Howard was involved in all the St. Ambrose runs – he scored one, and also doubled twice, each time driving in a run.  

Paul and his wife Margaret lived in Weymouth at the time of the 1930 Census and they had four children. There were twin boys, born about 1922: Paul and Thomas. A year later, Francis was born and two years after that, Leon. Margaret’s mother Bridget Sullivan, from Northern Ireland, completed the household. Margaret preceded Paul in death.

Paul Howard died on August 29, 1968 at Jackson Memorial Hospital of renal failure brought on, his death certificate informs, by two weeks of malnutrition and dehydration.  At the time of his death, at age 84, Howard was living in the Willard Hotel on NE 14th Street in Miami.

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in this biography, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, Bill Lee’s Baseball Necrology, and the Paul Howard player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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