Howser was a shortstop from 1961-1968, playing for the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees. He came on the scene as a solid rookie (2nd in the AL ROY voting) for the Athletics in 1961. In 158 games, he hit .280, 3, 45 with 108 runs scored, 171 hits and 37 stolen bases. He added 92 walks with just 38 strikeouts while making it as an American League All Star. After 1961, he failed to duplicate his rookie numbers and was traded to Cleveland during the 1963 season. Some say his best season was with the Indians in 1964, where he played in all 162 games. That season, he led the American League in plate appearances (736) and sacrifices (16). Overall, it was a productive season for Howser, who hit .256, 3, 52 with 101 runs scored, 163 hits, 23 2Bs and 20 stolen bases. He had 79 walks, while striking out only 39 times. That would be the best Howser would show, as he failed to play more than 107 games in any of his other 6 MLB seasons. He spent his last two seasons with the Yankees, including a surprising 1968 team that won 83 games.
Howser was one of the last 7 Yankees who wore number 10 before it was retired for Phil Rizzuto. They kept him on as a coach, where he spent the next 10 seasons. In 1978, he was named interim manager after Billy Martin was fired before he was replaced by Bob Lemon after 1 game (the Yankees lost the game). He got his chance to manage the 1980 Yankees and led them to a 103-59 record. Ironically, it was the Royals who beat the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS. The Yankees let him go and the Royals thankfully snatched him up in the middle of the 1981 season. Replacing Jim Frey, Howser led the Royals to a 1st place finish in the second half of the abbreviated 1981 season and on to the postseason. The Yankees made it as well, under Bob Lemon, who returned to manage the team replacing Gene Michael. The Yankees beat the Twins, but the Royals were swept by the Athletics, preventing what would have been an odd rematch for Howser.
After a 90 win second place finish in 1982, the Royals struggled in 1983, finishing under .500. Howser led the Royals to back to back AL West titles in 1984 (lost to the Tigers in the ALCS) and 1985, capped off by the only World Series Championship in Royals history. After Howser stopped managing due to his condition, the Royals have not yet reached the postseason. While staying competitive until the early to mid 1990s, they never returned to the playoffs. Since 1994, the Royals have had just one winning season.
Howser finished his managerial career with a 504-477 record, with a winning record in 4 of his 5 full seasons as a manager. Due to his reputation as a good communicator, he had a chance to have a long and distinguished career as a big league manager. Unfortunately, due to his untimely passing, we will never know what he could have accomplished. RIP.