Friday, May 14, 2021

#149 "Dixie" Howell - Chicago White Sox

Millard Howell
Chicago White Sox

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  210
Born:  January 7, 1920, Harold, KY
Acquired:  Purchased by the Cleveland Indians from Logan (Mountain States) before 1938 season
Major League Teams:  Cleveland Indians 1940; Cincinnati Reds 1949; Chicago White Sox 1955-1958
Died:  March 18, 1960, Hollywood, FL (age 40)

Not to be confused with Dixie Howell the catcher, this Dixie Howell was a right-handed pitcher who spent 18 seasons in the minor leagues finally seeing regular playing time at the age of 35 with the White Sox in 1955.  Howell won at least ten games in the minors in nine different seasons between 1937 and 1953.  He saw his first big league action in 1940 with the Indians, but then spent the next three seasons pitching in the Eastern League before missing all of 1944 and 1945 while serving during World War II.  He was taken prisoner by German troops in September 1944, spending six months as a P.O.W. before Allied forces stormed Germany six months later.

Howell then pitched for three more seasons in the minors with the Reds before appearing in five games with Cincinnati in 1949.  After short stints with the Giants and Phillies' organizations, Howell finally got a chance to pitch in the majors on a regular basis with the White Sox in 1955.  He appeared in at least 34 games for three seasons in a row, going 19-14 with a 3.55 ERA and 18 saves with Chicago.  He appeared in one game with the White Sox in 1958 before returning to the minors for the 1959 season.  Howell tragically died of a heart attack suffered during spring training with the White Sox in March 1960.

He was inducted onto the Syracuse Chiefs Wall of Fame in 2002 as the team's all-time leader in wins (55) and home runs by a pitcher (12).  Howell holds the major league record for the longest time (16 years) between his major league debut (1940) and his first major league win (1955).  He's also holds the major league record for most hits recorded (five) during a season without a single.  In 1957, his five hits were a double, a triple and three home runs.

Building the Set

April 22, 2000 in Raleigh, NC - Card #199
I paid $4 for this card at the Sports Card & NASCAR Collectibles Show held in Raleigh, North Carolina a week after tax deadline day and the day before Easter.  I bought six cards that day, paying a grand total of $20.  Pictures from this time in my life are few and far between, but it looks as if my parents paid a visit to Raleigh for Easter weekend as I have photos of them dressed for what has to be for a church service.  We're standing outside the apartment complex where I was living at the time.  And it's quite possible my Dad attended this baseball card show in Raleigh with me, which would have been a rarity in those days.

This day is also notable as it's almost 10 years to the day before our youngest son Ben was born.  There were some bumpy roads coming up for a few years following this picture, but eventually things got back on track.

The Card / White Sox Team Set
This is Howell's rookie card, and he'd go on to also appear in the 1957 and 1958 Topps sets.  While his SABR biography notes he was named for our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, the back of this Topps card indicates that his middle name was actually Fillmore as well.  Baseball Reference lists his full name as simply Millard Howell.  The cartoon panels on the back of the card reference his longevity in the minors, and his brief stint as an outfielder for the Reds.  While he never played in the outfield in the majors, he was used as a pinch-hitter 11 times.

1956 Season
Coming off a successful 1955 campaign, Howell found himself once again in the White Sox bullpen, appearing in 34 games and going 5-6 with a 4.62 ERA and four saves.  No other White Sox reliever was used as much, and his four saves actually led the team.  He made one start for the club on August 23rd against the Yankees, lasting 5 2/3 innings and picking up the win.

Phillies Connection
On January 26, 1952, the Phillies purchased Howell from the Giants.  The Baltimore Orioles in the International League were the Phillies' top minor league affiliate in 1952, and Howell struggled mightily with the Orioles.  In only five games, he went 0-3 with a 11.08 ERA over 13 innings pitched.  Apparently that was enough for the Phillies, and he was returned to the Giants (I'm assuming for a refund?) on May 15, 1952.

1957 Topps #221
1958 Topps #421

Other Notable Baseball Cards

First Mainstream Card:  1956 Topps #149
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (3):  1956-1958
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1958 Topps #421

The Trading Card Database for Howell intermingles his cards with those of Homer "Dixie" Howell the catcher.

5 - Howell non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 5/5/21.
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Trading Card Database

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