August 14, 2020

Remembering Steve Howe

March 26, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

The accident scene was so eerily similar to his reckless existence. Steven Roy Howe lay dead on a California highway with his late-model vehicle resting on top of him; a witness told cops that Howe’s truck simply drifted off the roadway. When I first read of the death of this once-promising athlete from Michigan, I immediately concluded that the last few moments of the 48-year-old’s life ironically mirrored the Steve Howe that the baseball world knew all too well. He died in the fast lane–rolling and spinning out-of-control–while not being able to help himself; sadly, it was reminiscent of his days in baseball when cocaine and alcohol destroyed a “can’t-miss” lefty–a guy who once had it all. Howe had been facing addiction issues while with the Dodgers, and while some of the best rehabs are in California, his addictions continued long after he had left the state.

When I first saw Steve Howe pitch in 1980, I was amazed by this cocky kid’s fearless, exuberant approach amid a veteran Dodgers team fighting for a division title. At age 22, were there ANY limits on what he could do? He set a Dodgers rookie save record (17) and won seven games in relief–giving up only ONE home run in almost 85 innings. Sure, he could throw incredibly hard at times (and possessed a WICKED slider), but he wasn’t a strikeout pitcher; the key to his success was how much his ball MOVED in the strike zone–often sending opposing batters back to the dugout shaking their heads in frustrated amazement. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in ’80; he’d nail down the final out against the Yankees in the 1981 World Series as the Dodgers became world champions. An All-Star year in 1982 would follow. No limits/roadblocks, right? Just one: addiction.

As cocaine reeled in Howe sometime during the early ’80s, it soon became clear that the man was not the same pitcher–or PERSON–he once was. He was suspended for the entire ’84 season, and pitched to inflated ERA’s of 5.49 and 4.31 in ’85 (for L.A. and Minnesota) and ’87 (Texas) respectively; ’86 was lost due to a relapse. His well-documented seven suspensions from baseball would often be the subject of debate regarding how many chances one person should get to clean up his/her act. Yes, he DID show signs of his former brilliance at times from 1991-1996 with the Yankees–but never stayed clean for long; a 6.35 ERA over 25 games in ’96 was Howe’s ticket out of baseball. A gun possession charge followed. Relapses, drug possession charges, bans, countless rehabs; pick up a sports section from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s and you read about Steve Howe in the police briefs. I recently gazed at a close-up picture of Howe while he was attempting a comeback in 1997 with Sioux Falls of the Independent League. Quite frankly, it looked like death had already encompassed him; it could have been used for a poster reading “Cocaine Kills.”

Call me selfish; I feel cheated that I never got to see the Steve Howe I had once envisioned: a non-addicted, passionate lefty whose only vice would be overthrowing at times. Hell, EVERY baseball fan should be saddened by the tragic story of a man whose potential once knew no bounds. “If it wasn’t for the cocaine, he probably would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher,” said Dodgers former bullpen coach Mark Cresse–speaking to the Palm Springs Desert Sun. No argument here–he was THAT good; the “what might have been” cliche will surely always come up in conversations revolving around a former baby-faced phenom named Steve Howe.

Whether drugs played a role in his death or not, it’s almost as though fate finally caught up with Steve Howe–like it HAD to happen this way; Howe, himself, would have been the first to say that he was lucky to have seen his 40th birthday. The TRUE sadness here lies in the fact that Steve Howe was a very giving person; despite being enveloped by addiction for a good portion of his life, he enjoyed helping people–and did just that. Sadly, he just couldn’t help himself.

The hope here is that the death of Steve Howe will somehow save the lives of others by bringing additional attention to the scourge of addiction–regardless of HOW he died. Perhaps fans and Howe’s family members can take solace in that he may now finally have the peace that surely eluded him during his short, troubled life.

Bob Lazzari is an award-winning sports columnist for both Connecticut’s Valley Times and NY Sports Day, where his “Sports Roundup†column is featured weekly. He is a member of the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance and host of  “Monday Night Sports Talk,” a cable television show on CTV/Channel 14 in Connecticut.


5 Responses to “Remembering Steve Howe”
  1. Ray says:

    I knew Steve when I started catching him at age 16 in 1984. This man was fearless on the outside. There are so many things that I could write about the man, but one thing that was mentioned in this article about saving other’s lives. He did. His example convinced me to never take hard drugs. It was tough for me to see him do what he did with all of the talent in the world. The idea of doing Cocaine scared me. Steve was a giving person and was always a pleasure to be around. There is only one Steve Howe. His son Brian is a great kid. I know he will grow to be an asset someday.

  2. Brian Mouland says:

    Likely Hall of Famer if not for the booze and drugs

  3. Barbara Howe says:

    He was our golden child

  4. Mike Lynch says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.


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  1. […] on March 10, 1958. But Howe died six years ago at the age of 48 by the side of the road when his pickup drifted off the road and overturned at 5:55 a.m. on April 28, 2006. Howe had been one of the best pitchers in baseball, […]

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