The Yankees’ first black player, Howard was forced to play the outfield through much of his first five seasons because Yogi Berra was behind the plate. By 1960, Howard was the starting catcher and Berra was more often in the field. Howard was an exceptional defensive catcher; his .993 career fielding average is one of the highest ever, and he pioneered the use of a hinged catcher’s mitt that led to the modern one-handed catching techniques. He was also highly regarded as a handler of pitchers. He was named to the AL All-Star team nine consecutive years.
Howard was a strong hitter, three times topping .300, with a high of .348 in 1961. He hit from an exaggerated spread stance when he came up, which he modified later in his career. He was AL MVP in 1963, as much for his leadership as for his .287 BA, 28 homers and 85 RBI. He led the Yankees to their fourth straight pennant in a year when Maris and Mantle were often out with injuries.
After playing in nine WS with the Yankees, he was traded to Boston in August of 1967 and helped Boston to that season’s pennant. In 1969 he returned to the Yankees, where he served as a coach for eleven years. Howard and Pee Wee Reese share the record for playing on the most WS losers.