Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ryan & Other Howards

The Philadelphia Phillies are in the thick of the National League wild card chase thanks largely to the phenomenal efforts of first baseman Ryan Howard. The left-handed slugger leads the majors with 53 home runs and 134 RBI. As last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Ryan joined Frank Howard of the 1960 Los Angeles Dodgers as the second Howard to receive that honor. He almost certainly will capture the National League home run and RBI titles, as Howard Johnson did for the New York Mets in 1991. Also, like Elston Howard with the 1963 New York Yankees, Ryan hopes to receive a Most Valuable Player award.

Ryan certainly chose the right sport, although he might feel at home in the NBA alongside Dwight, Josh, and Juwan Howard. Inside and outside the sports world, Ryan’s links to other well-known Howards are extensive. Below are just a few examples.

Ron Howard: Ryan passed Ralph Kiner for the most home runs by a second-year player. Ron, as Richie Cunningham, always outshone Ralph Malph.

Bryce Dallas Howard: A favorite of M. Night Shyamalan, Bryce is a redhead who frequently works in the Philly area. Just like the previous Phillie to win MVP, Mike Schmidt.

Howard Stern: The shock-jock has offended millions, but lately no one has been more offensive than Ryan.

Howard Dean: As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dean can provide Ryan with great advice on landing the wild card. No one knows more about finishing second.

Moe, Curly & Shemp Howard: Each was part of The Three Stooges. Ryan has caused far more than three pitchers to feel like stooges.

Howard Jones: The British pop singer had a top 10 hit with Things Can Only Get Better. Ryan proved the same after his Rookie of the Year campaign.

Howard Cosell: Rose to prominence while covering Muhammad Ali’s fights. Ryan is part of the Phightin’ Phils.

Desmond Howard: Won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, since no one could contain him in the Big House. Even a REALLY big house can’t contain some of Ryan’s blasts.

Howard Beale: Network character who famously screamed, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Over the years, Phillies fans have routinely said the same thing.

Howard Hesseman: On WKRP in Cincinnati, Hesseman portrayed Dr. Johnny Fever. As a superstar wearing number 6 in Philly, Ryan is like Dr. J.

John Howard: Prime Minister of Australia, the Land Down Under. For months, Ryan’s Phillies have been far down under the Mets in the NL East.

Howard the Duck: A notorious box-office bomb. Ryan unloaded on 23 bombs in winning this summer’s Home Run Derby.

Howard University: A prominent institution in Washington, D.C. Ryan has also had a strong presence in the nation’s capital, belting six home runs in RFK Stadium.

Howard Roark: The central character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. In the film version, Roark was played by Gary Cooper, who previously had portrayed Lou Gehrig – another first baseman who did a little hitting.

Terrence Howard: Oscar-nominated for his role in Hustle & Flow. As a Phillies first baseman, Ryan is like Pete Rose, a/k/a Charlie Hustle.

Howard Hughes: A very wealthy man who often shut himself off from the world. After surrendering three homers to Ryan on Sunday, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson wanted to be the same.

Leslie Howard: Portrayed Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind – a description of numerous fly balls Ryan will slug out of Wrigley Field.

Howard Rollins: The star of TV’s In the Heat of the Night had the name of two current Phillies. As a stage name, he also considered Utley Lieberthal.

Ken Howard: Star of The White Shadow. Until last year, Ryan was in the shadow of Jim Thome, who is white.

Howard Shore: Won two Academy Awards for best original music score for the Lord of the Rings series. Like Ryan, his scoring could be even better if he composed in Citizens Bank Park.

Ryan Howard is also the name of a character on NBC’s The Office. The show is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania – the same area where the baseball Ryan Howard tore up AAA for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Perhaps the TV character will get called up to Philadelphia soon – as long as inept boss Michael Scott doesn’t get in the way.