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Frank Howard, a gentle giant who hit epic home runs

Best known for his pro baseball career, the 6-foot-7 Howard was a 2-sport athlete and basketball star at Ohio State whose rebound record still stands.  

In an older photo, a white man leans toward the camera while wearing his baseball uniform, glasses and a baseball cap. He looks focused and serious.

Frank Howard, who was with the Washington Senators from 1965 through 1971, was a right-hander who played outfield and first base. (Photo from Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Frank Howard is best known for hitting towering home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Senators: 382 in his 16-year Major League Baseball career. But Howard, who died October 30, 2023, at the age of 87, was better known during his Ohio State days for his basketball prowess. The Buckeye legend was an All-American in 1957, a 6-foot-7 scoring and rebounding machine.

“I think he would have been an NBA All-Star,” says David Barker ’61, who played basketball with Howard. “When he was under the basket, he was just so strong. You couldn’t stop him.”

Off the court and diamond, Howard was a gentle giant. “He was hard-as-nails physically, but as soft as he could be as a person and friend,” says Barker, who kept in touch with his teammate over the years. “He was so pleasant to be around, and when he spoke to people older than us, it was always ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’”

Howard was a Buckeye baseball letterwinner in 1956 and ’57. He led the team in batting average (.366), hits (26), RBIs (13), doubles (six) and stolen bases (six) in 1957 and was an All-American.

On the basketball court, Howard averaged 17.4 points and 13.9 rebounds a game during his three seasons. He still holds the school record for the most rebounds in a game, 32 against Brigham Young University on December 29, 1956.

Barker remembers a game against Michigan, which featured Wolverine Ron Kramer, a football and basketball star who went on to a long NFL career. “Watching them go at it, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is big-boy basketball,’” Barker says. “And that’s what Frank was, a hard-nosed player who was as good of an All-American as there ever has been.”

Howard was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982. 

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