“He came back. OK, maybe he didn’t do it. But he did try. He did try. Oh, how he tried”
For that there is no question. George Brett knew how important a return to the field was for his manager who had just days before put his uniform back on to lead the Royals into another spring training in Fort Myers, FL. “His goal was always to be manager of the Kansas City Royals on February 20 (1987)…and he reached it.”
Just a couple of days later Howser knew a full return wasn’t to be. The Star’s Bob Nightengale reported how the hardest decision was made very simple when Howser himself asked Burke “What should I do?”
Burke, who battled cancer himself and knew how painful his words would sound, paused, and finally said: ‘I think today is the day.”
Howser agreed and they called a press conference for noon. The time was 11:35.
He did have one last meeting with the players to explain his decision to them – a measure of respect that appropriately took place on the green spring grass of a freshly mowed baseball in Howser’s beloved home state of Florida. As fate would have it the first player to reach out to Howser was Dan Qusienberry, who with tears streaming down his face shook his manager’s hand and embraced him for several moments. Others did the same.
His message to the players was delivered in the same no-nonsense matter of fact manner that marked his mangerial style:
‘I’m going to have to give it up this year, which is really hard for me to do. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed, but it didn’t happen for me…It didn’t happen. But don’t quit. Don’t quit. Everything will be all right.”
Howser’s spirit was the same in trials both on the field and off. Always prodding to get the most out of himself and his players. He was partial to ending all his exortations as a manager with the brief and blunt motto – “We’ll get it done”
Just months later he was gone. But if you ever talk to his players you’ll find out the spirit he instilled in those ballclubs endured with each of them. The calm steady hand that keep his team’s composure down three games to one would do the same in this much larger personal battle. Though it might not have felt like it on February 23, 1987 – Dick Howser had proved he was a winner on the baseball field one last time.
He did try. Oh, how he tried – Thank You #10!