On July 15, 1986: Dick Howser Managed His Last Game -- Leading AL All-Stars to Win
After managing the Kansas City Royals to the world championship in 1985, Dick Howser earned the honor of managing the 1986 American League All-Star team, which he guided to a 3-2 victory in the Astrodome.
It was his reward for guiding the Royals to the 1985 World Championship, the team rallying from 3-games-to-1 deficits against both the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Little did Howser or anyone else know that the All-Star Game would be the last game he would manage.
Upon returning to Kansas City, Howser was disagnosed with a brain tumor. One week after the All-Star win, surgeons removed part of a cancerous tumor from the left frontal lobe of his brain. He took radiation treatments twice a day for five weeks.
”I’m not going to say it’s been easy,” Howser said later in that 1986 season. “I’ve had days when I’ve been depressed. But right now, I feel great. My plans are to manage the Royals in 1987.”
The plans didn't work out. After the first workout of the spring training, Howser held a news conference to announce he was stepping down as the manager.
“I can’t fight cancer and do my job at the same time,” said Howser. "I thought I could, but I can’t.”
Billy Gardner, who was hired to be the Royals third base coach for the 1987 season, took over as the manager.
On June 17, 1987, Howser passed away.
A personal moment:
Excuse me for taking a few minutes to reflect on the personal side of this.
I had covered the Royals from 1983-85, and Howser and I developed a special relationship. We would have daily 1-on-1 sessions where we would discuss the game of baseball, strategy, etc. No notebooks, no tape recorder, just two men talking about the game.
Having gone to work at the Dallas Morning News in the spring of 1986, I was covering the All-Star Game and walked passed the door to Howser's office on my way to the field.
"Where you going?" he yelled from behind the desk.
"Out to watch batting practice," I said.
"Come on in and let's have our daily session," he said.
I went in the office, and sat down, waiting for him to fill out the lineup card.
Then he looked up.
"What do you need?" he said.
"Just wanted to say hello," I said.
"Little busy right now," he said. "I'll see you on the field."
Bill Ziegler, the Rangers trainer who had been selected to work the All-Star Game by Howser, whom he knew from Florida State, was on the bench and saw me.
"You talk to Dick at all?" he asked.
"I was just in his office, briefly," I said.
"Does he seem different?" he asked.
I told him about the incident in the office.
"There is something wrong," said Ziegler. "I'm calling (Royals training) Mickey Cobb and telling him he has to get Dick in to see a doctor as soon as he gets home."
I had a chance to chat with Howser in August of that 1986 season, when the Rangers played at Kansas City. In the second inning, Dean Vogelaar, the Royals media relations director, asked me if I had a few minutes to talk with Howser. He said Howser was in the owner's suite, and asked him to see if I would drop by.
Of course I did.
"You never asked for autographs or anything," he said.
"I am not a collector," I said.
"Well this is a start for your collection," he said.
The autographed photo hangs on the wall in the office in our barn -- a memory of a man who gave me guidance that helped me along the way in a career that is embarking on a 45th season.