Camden Courier Post - December 2, 1980

Dodgers’ Howe selected top rookie


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Lefthander Steve Howe, latest of sports' baby-faced assassins, came up to the Los Angeles Dodgers not even listed on their roster and proceeded to become the National League's Rookie of the Year yesterday.


He was cool, calm and collected during the baseball season yet even his wife, Cindy, said she didn't expect her 22-year-old husband to be in the big leagues this season.


Injuries to Terry Forster and Don Stanhouse left an opening in the Dodgers' bullpen and Howe filled the bill to an extent that second baseman Davey Lopes said, "I think he was the most valuable player on the Dodger team. He was our bullpen."


Howe, from the University of Michigan, posted a relatively unimposing 5-7 record but he had 17 saves and that was most imposing.


"I'm not going out to the mound and be in a we of anyone," Howe said at a news conference celebrating his selection by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Howe gained 80 points in the BBWAA voting to top Montreal's Bill Gullickson, 53, and the Phillies' Lonnie Smith, 49.


He admitted to being surprised that he was mentioned in a possible trade package to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Fred Lynn in the event the Dodgers' Dusty Baker became a free agent.


"I got on the phone and told Dusty he'd better sign because it had taken me a long time to get out of the cold country," Howe said with a smile.


Baker did sign and the trade talk stopped.


Almost everybody had expected Howe to be with the Dodgers' farm club at Albuquerque after he was 6-2 at San Antonio in 1979, his first year in organized baseball.


He went to the Dodgers' spring camp and with Forster on the disabled list, Howe won a job. Before his stint at San Antonio, his credentials included being the all-time winningest pitcher at Michigan with a 27-8 record.


"I depended mainly on my fast ball," he said. "I changed up on a few people but mainly it was learning where to throw the fast ball. I hadn't relieved before, so I really didn't know what to expect."


Howe became the second straight Dodgers pitcher to win the rookie honors – Rick Sutcliffe being the top NL rookie in 1979.


"I never expected at the beginning of the year to be with the team at all," Howe said. "But all the people worked with me and helped me and kind of carried me through."


He said he was happy to be returning to the Dodgers and "I'm not thinking about whether I will be starting or relieving. "With all the rumors going around, I'm just happy to be a Dodger."


He said the biggest influence to his success were his fellow players, and "I learned a lot in the course of the season."


Lopes would come in from second base with frequent advice.


"Davey was always at the mound to help," Howe said. "If he spotted something I was doing wrong, he'd tell me. One day after Joe Morgan hit a home run for Houston, Davey told me I had thrown a pitch he would hit. That time it was too late."


Lopes pointed out, "He has a tremendous aptitude and didn't make the same mistake twice. Had it not been for Steve Howe, we'd have been third instead of in a playoff for the West title. To me, he was our most valuable player."


The Dodgers, who tied Houston for the West title, lost in a single game playoff.