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Elston Howard Named American League MVP for ‘63

Nov. 7, 1963 - Elston Howard became the first Negro to be named the American League’s most valuable player today, but he typically tried to put the spotlight elsewhere. “Let me tell you,” said the Yankee catcher as he shoved crates and moved furniture in his new Teaneck, N.J. home, “Yogi Berra is going to make a great manager. Some folks may have doubts about it, but they’re going to be fooled badly. Yogi will be tremendous.” The 33-year-old Howard, who in 1955 became the first of his race to make the Yankee varsity, hardly behaved like a man who had reached another milestone in an already illustrious career. But the 6-foot-2-inch 205-pound receiver scored a smashing victory with 248 points and 15 of the 20 first-place votes. Al Kaline placed second. This marks the 16th time that a Yankee has carried off this coveted prize since the present award was instituted in 1931. The late Lou Gehrig was the first Bomber to make it in 1936. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Berra were three-time winners. Roger Maris won it twice. The other Yankee victors were Joe Gordon, Spud Chandler, and Phil Rizzuto. “This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me,” Howard said today. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing, and the three kids are making this a madhouse. On top of that, we just moved into this new house a week ago, and the cellar is flooded. I haven’t had much chance to celebrate. I put a lot of boxes and crates in the cellar, and now I’ve got to get them out before the stuff is ruined. “Personally,” Elston continued, “I thought Whitey Ford, with his 23 victories, was the most valuable player in our club. One thing is for sure. Without the help of my teammates, I could not possibly have won it.” Asked what he would do for an encore next season, Elston answered: “Well, I missed my goals this year. I wanted to hit .300, get 31 homers, and knock in 100 runs. I’d like to make those figures next year.” Why 31 homers? “Well, that would break the record for catchers,” he grinned. “But maybe I better not do that. It is Mr. Berra’s record, and he’s my manager now!” In 1963, Howard hit .287, slammed 28 homers, and knocked in 85 runs.

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