Howard entering record territory

Berowski_90.jpgBy Freddy Berowski

Ryan Howard is one of those players who always seems to save his best work for late in the season.

9-24-09-Berowski_RuthHoward.jpgIn 2007 and ’08, the man Phillies manager Charlie Manuel calls his “Big Piece” was just that in the Phillies’ late-season surges to overtake the Mets and win the National League East. In total, Howard posted 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in just over 400 at-bats during August and September in those two seasons. And this year, the 2006 NL Most Valuable Player has already posted numbers along the same lines, hitting 16 home runs while knocking in 52 in August and September, through Wednesday. The only difference this year is that the Phillies are in cruise-control right now, 6 1/2 games up on the Braves, with the Mets not even in the rear-view mirror, already having been eliminated from postseason contention.

One of the most dominant sluggers of this era, Howard didn’t become a regular in the Phillies lineup until age 25, midway through the 2005 season, because he was blocked at first base by slugger Jim Thome. This season, however, Howard has matched many Hall of Famer milestones.

A month ago, he joined Hall of Famer Chuck Klein as the only Phillies to top the 30-home run and 100-RBI marks in four consecutive seasons. Two weeks ago, Howard became the fastest player to reach the 600-RBI plateau since Hall of Famer Ted Williams more than a half century ago. The 2009 campaign also marks Howard’s fourth straight season with at least 40 home runs and 120 RBIs, something only Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Babe Ruth have done before.

Freddy Berowski is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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