Yankees History: Elston Howard outstanding catcher and trailblazer
Howard played consistently well for the Bombers during his career. He was selected as the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 1963 pennant-winning Yanks, becoming the first black player in AL history to win the award. During that year he led the league in slugging average (.528) and was fifth in home runs (28). He won Gold Glove Awards in 1963 and 1964, setting AL records for putouts and total chances in a season in 1964.
Ellie struggled in 1967 while backing up Jake Gibbs. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in August of that year, and the Red Sox released him in 1968. He retired that year with a 27.1 WAR.
Ellie played in 12 All-Star Games and on four World Series championship teams, all with the Yanks. His lifetime fielding percentage of .993 as a catcher is impressive (obviously, Bill Dickey taught him well), and he retired among the AL career leaders in putouts and total chances.
Howard returned to the Bombers and was their first-base coach from 1969-1979. He was the first black coach in the American League, and he was a role model for black players. He then became an administrative assistant with the Yanks, but he had to relinquish the position due to poor health. Sadly, he passed away in 1980 from a heart ailment at the young age of 51.