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Face of the Franchise:  1973

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Each season from the early days of the relocated Seattle Pilots through to the modern Miller Park era, we apply McLeam's Formula to the roster and cook up the player who represents the Brewers as the Face of the Franchise that year.

1973 Milwaukee Brewers

Wilbur Howard

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The Brewers finished 20th in winning percentage in 1973, and the 20th ranked player in WAR was rookie outfielder Wilbur Howard.

The early 70's wasn't a great time for Brewer baseball but their fortunes were on the rise, and attendance topped one million for the first time in 1973. Howard was a 19th round draft pick by the Seattle Pilots in the summer of 1968. He played four solid but unspectacular seasons in the minors, three with the Evansville Triplets, before his September call-up in '73. In his first PA in the majors he hit a single off Yankees' rookie pitcher Doc Medich. The rest of his fall audition with the Brewers was unspectacular, he failed to log an extra base hit and struck out 10 times in his 42 plate appearances.

Howard might have been able to stay on as the utility outfielder, but there was another utility outfielder making his rookie debut that season who was a former 1st round draft pick and future all-star - Gorman Thomas. Howard mostly played the corner outfield spots, and Thomas could back up Dave May in center field. After the season Howard was traded to the Houston Astros for Larry Yount, the brother of their first round draft pick that season, Robin Yount.

Howard was never successful at the plate. He had a career .605 OPS and was used primarily as a defensive replacement. He had one season of opportunity in 1975 where he saw 400+ PA, and managed to steal 32 bases, but it was clear that there were better offensive options. The Houston Astros might not have been the best organization for a minority player to play in at that time but he established a friendship with another young Astro, all-star pitcher J.R. Richard. Howard even spelled catcher Luis Pujols in an extra-inning game in 1978 and caught his friend Richard for a few innings.

In 1980, Howard's time in the majors was through, but he was still worried about his friend. Richard had been complaining about arm fatigue and dizziness, and management thought he was being soft and lazy, but Howard was concerned for him. On July 30 Richard collapsed during pregame throwing drills with Howard and they rushed him to the hospital. Richard had suffered a major stroke and would never pitch again.

1973 FotF: Wilbur Howard was a role player and a loyal friend. His career was altered by moves that would bring the team success in the future, and even though he never won accolades on the field, he was an all-star off of it. Howard wouldn't be the last Brewer to relish the outdoor activities that Wisconsinites enjoy.

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You can also read about 1972's Face of the Franchise Ken Sanders here.

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