Art Howe, whose football career at Wyoming was sidelined by back problems and led his induction into the UW's Sports Hall of Fame for his efforts as a middle infielder for the Cowboys baseball team in the mid-60s, has been hospitalized in Houston after being given a positive diagnosis with coronavirus.
Howe, 73, was quarantining in his Houston home with his wife, Betty, when he first came down with chills, then started to get weak last Wednesday. But all the precautions he took weren't enough to keep him from feeling cold and getting weaker.
"It got to the point where it was all I could do to sit in a chair, didn't even ever want to get up," Howe told John Hickey of InsideTheAthletics.com. "No energy to move and no desire to move. That was the time it was time to go to the hospital."
He went to the hospital by ambulance, which is the last time he's been with his wife, Betty, with whom he celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary last year. Betty Howe is at home, also in quarantine, as are two of their daughters who live in the Houston area. None of them has tested positive for the coronavirus.
"That's the best thing," he said.
Howe discussed his situation on Thursday in a phone conversation with KPRC Channel 2 in Houston:
A native of Pittsburgh, Howe was originally recruited to Wyoming as a quarterback, but the back problems developed, and he wound up playing baseball instead. In his place, then Wyoming coach Bob Devaney moved defensive back Paul Toscano to quarterback.
And in recent years, Howe has regularly returned to Wyoming with a group of retired baseball players/scouts/and media for the final home game of the season.
With Toscano behind center, the Cowboys finished the 1967 regular season 10-0, the only unbeaten major college in the country, and took a 13-0 lead against LSU in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day 1968. LSU, however, rallied for a 20-13 victory.
A friend of Art Howe's jokes that he was the key to the University of Wyoming football team that was ranked No. 7 in the nation in 1967 and went to the Sugar Bowl.
"If you hadn't hurt your back as a freshman and been unable to play college football, (head coach Lloyd) Eaton would never have converted Paul Toscano from defensive back to quarterback, the Cowboys wouldn't have been undefeated, and they never would have gone to the Sugar Bowl," the friend says. "We'd have probably gone 9-1 and been in the Sun Bowl again."
The last laugh, however, is one for Howe to enjoy.
He played baseball at Wyoming, earning all-conference honors as a third baseman in the original Western Athletic Conference, which had a membership that included the the original six, Wyoming, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, BYU and New Mexico, and in September of 1967 added UTEP and Colorado State.
However, Howe's athletic career in Laramie didn't stir any interest from major league clubs, so after he graduated from Wyoming in 1969 he went home to Pittsburgh, took a job with Westinghouse's computer center as a systems analyst and played semi-pro baseball on weekends.
The next thing Howe knew, he was signing a contract with his hometown Pirates after attending a tryout camp. At the age of 24, he reported to the Pirates' minor league camp in Bradenton, Fla., in what turned into a 38-year career in baseball in which he spent 37 years in uniform as a player, coach or manager. He spent another year scouting.
And to think, it all started when a co-worker at Westinghouse watched a couple of Howe's semi-pro games and asked Howe if he would attend a tryout camp if an invite could be arranged.
"I told him I was 23 and had back surgery," Howe said. "But he said he was going to get me an invitation. I said OK. I didn't have anything to lose."
Turned out, he had plenty to gain. The Pirates were the only one of the 24 major league teams that still had a tryout camp on its schedule in the summer of 1970, and Howe received an invitation.
"It was the first year of Three Rivers Stadium and the artificial turf," Howe said. "It was 90-some degrees and I was on the field for six hours. At the end of the workout, they kept me, Ken Macha and another guy out of more than 200. They told us they wanted us to work out some more."
Howe found himself fielding fly balls in left field. He took ground balls at first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
"I was shot," Howe said. "My uniform was soaked. I'm walking off the field and one of the scouts said, 'Didn't you pitch in high school?' I said I did. He told me to get on the mound, and I threw for 10 more minutes. After that I just went in the clubhouse and sat there. Everybody else was gone.
"I went home and hit the sack. My wife got home from work and asked me how things went. I told her. Then, the next morning i got a call and was offered a free agent contract for zero dollars. They told me to show up for spring training (in 1971) and see if I could make the (minor league) team. The rest is history."
After four years in the minors, Howe reached the majors as a utility infielder in 1974. His career took him from the Prates (1974-75) tot he Astros (1976-82) to the Cardinals (1984-85) -- but only after behind sidelined for a year while recovering from a fractured jaw he suffered when hit in the face by a pitch.
Then Howe took a coaching job with the Rangers (1986-88). He went on to manage the Astros (1989-93), Athletics (1996-2002) and Mets (2003-04). He took Oakland to the playoffs for three straight years, from 2000-02, averaging 99 wins per season.
Howe spent a year scouting for the Dodgers after being fired by the Astros and was the hitting coach for the expansion Rockies in 1995 before being hired by the A's. And after his time with the Mets, he coached for the Phillies (2006) and Rangers (2007-08) before getting off the field.