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Thursday, April 4, 2024

Steve Howe struggled with addiction over 12 ML seasons

Steve Howe 1990 Salinas Spurs card

After picking up the long save in the decisive Game 6 of the 1981 World Series, Dodgers pitcher Steve Howe celebrated with champagne with his teammates - and pointed to the club's veterans, according to The Allentown Morning Call.

"They worked their a---- off for 10 years for tonight," Howe told The Morning Call after the win. "I hope someday some young player like myself can say that for me and the other young players who will be the Garveys, Lopeses, Ceys and Russells of the future."

For the second-year player Howe, though, his career wouldn't be like those other players. While he would still be playing a decade from then, his career would devolve into a series of substance abuse violations, suspensions and second chances. 

He would ultimately see time in 12 seasons, but his career would also end in boos. A decade after that, he would lose his life in a drug-connected crash.

Howe's career began in 1979, taken by the Dodgers in the first round of the draft out of the University of Michigan. 

Howe started with the Dodgers at AA San Antonio.  He went 6-2, with a 3.13 ERA in 13 starts. He then made the jump to Los Angeles for 1980 - and won Rookie of the Year. In 59 relief appearances, he had a 2.66 ERA and 17 saves.

Howe then went 5-3 in 41 relief appearances, with a 2.50 ERA in 1981 and 7-5, with a 2.08 ERA in 66 relief appearances in 1982. He also made the All-Star team that year.

Soon, though, he was well into an addiction to cocaine. He'd even admitted to using cocaine during games. After team suspensions, he was ultimately suspended all of 1984 by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. 

"I didn't know what Steve's problem was before he admitted it the first time," Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told The Associated Press in October 1985, "but I had suspicions. He'd always have an excuse for being late. I'd tell him, 'You sleep with dogs, you're going to wake up with fleas.' He'd seem all right for a time, then boom, he'd have problems again."

Howe played 1985 between the Dodgers and Twins, then lost 1986 and returned for 1987 to see 24 relief appearances with the Rangers.

He then didn't return to the majors until 1991, with the Yankees. He saw 37 outings that year and 20 the next. He stayed with the Yankees each year into 1996. 

In between, Howe pleaded guilty to a drug misdemeanor in 1992 and was suspended permanently, a suspension later overturned.

The Yankees then released him in June 1996, after mounting boos from Yankee fans.

"This doesn't hurt," Howe told The New York Daily News of his release. "I'm going to miss my teammates and that is the difficult part. But life doesn't always deal you a good hand."

He then returned for 12 final outings with independent Sioux Falls in 1997 to end his career.

Then, in 2006, Howe was killed in a crash. Methamphetamine was found in his system.

"I wish more people knew Steve Howe the way I knew him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told The AP. "His struggles in life were well documented, but he always tried to fight through them and I will always respect that."

Steve Howe 1990 Salinas Spurs card

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,343
Made the Majors:1,401-32.3%-X
Never Made Majors:2,942-67.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:570-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:352

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