Monday, July 20, 2009

Howser remembered fondly in KC

RT Staff Note: As a huge Royals fan in the 70's and 80's, I was a big fan of two coaches...Whitey Herzog and Dick Howser. Coach Howser coached the Royals to it's only World Series victory against the Cardinals and Whitey Herzog in 1985, a series I attended for all 7 games. Two years later, Coach Howser died of brain cancer. Here's a story that any baseball fan would be touched by.

KANSAS CITY -- Videos at ballparks come and go, and so when a video appears that gives fans misty eyes and glimpses of courage and most importantly hope, then everyone takes notice.

That was the case on Saturday night at a packed Kauffman Stadium where late Royals manager Dick Howser, a victim of brain cancer, was remembered before the game.

The first 20,000 fans received a figurine of the Howser statue installed beyond center field. Many fans purchased a Head for the K! ticket package that included a $5 donation to the Head for the Cure Foundation, the Dick Howser Scholarship Program and St. Luke's College of Nursing. And, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was one of Howser's twin daughters, Jana Howser of Dallas.

"It was incredibly moving for me and meaningful," she said as she watched the game later.

The "Hope Is in the Sky" video that gave fans goosebumps featured Howser, who led the Royals to the World Series title in 1985 and tragically passed away two years later.

"The memory of my father, the way that people remember him is deeply meaningful," Jana Howser said. "And how people talk to me about how much he meant to them and what he meant to this community. What is interesting over time to me is that he continues to have different meanings, which are all important."

One of those meanings is how his memory helps spur the ongoing battle against cancer of all kinds.

The video also featured players who had various forms of cancer and fought it, many successfully and some not but all with inspirational stories. Former Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry, also a victim of brain cancer, in his final days still cracked witticisms and wrote marvelous poetry.

As Broadway star Idina Menzel sings "Hope," there are glimpses of such baseball cancer victims as Commissioner Bud Selig, John Kruk, Mike Lowell, Tug McGraw, Doug Davis, Brett Butler and Dave Dravecky. The song is available via iTunes, with proceeds going to Stand Up To Cancer.

The video, produced by MLB Advanced Media, was unveiled in Lubbock, Texas, at the College Baseball Awards Show which included the Dick Howser Trophy, considered the Heisman Trophy of collegiate baseball. The video has become part of Major League Baseball's Stand Up to Cancer campaign.

It struck Jana Howser appropriate that on this special evening, there was a Dick Howser Award winner on each club in KC's Alex Gordon and Tampa Bay's David Price.

It was also appropriate that on the weekend when the Royals Hall of Fame opened and Dick Howser figurines were distributed, her father's memory was helping raise funds for cancer research.

Jana Howser noted that this year's All-Star Game at St. Louis marked the anniversary of the 1986 classic at Houston where Dick Howser's problems first were noticed. As manager of the American League champion Royals, he skippered the AL All-Stars to a 3-2 victory in '86 and, after returning to KC, was examined and received the daunting news about brain cancer.

"He had been very, very healthy literally all of his life. And he just thought he had caught a little bit of something, a little flu, he was fatigued maybe," Jana Howser recalled. "I spent some time here that summer prior to us finding out the news, and it really was more of a subtle thing and an occasional headache before he actually had that diagnosis."

Her father carried on as manager through part of the 1986 season and valiantly tried to come back in Spring Training 1987.

"A lot of those [memories] surfaced for me, too, but mainly appreciation for how much people in Kansas City and around the country have recognized the importance of committing themselves and also their resources to helping with cancer research," she said.

Jana and her sister, Jill, were 22 then their father died in '87. His spirit, though, lives on in the fight against cancer.

"The highest honor in anybody's life is the memory held by people that they've done good things and that they cared about people," she said. "That would mean a lot to my dad."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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