Howard took the Nationals Park mound for the honor one day after another Washington baseball legend, former Nats manager Frank Robinson, did the same. At 6-foot-7, Howard was known as "Hondo" or "The Capital Punisher" throughout his 16-year playing career, which included seven years as an outfielder and first baseman for the Washington Senators, from 1965-71. The four-time American League All Star was also named the NL's Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1960, and his 237 home runs while playing for the Senators are still the most hit by one player for a Washington-based team. Howard led baseball in home runs twice (44 in both 1968 and '70) and RBIs once (126 in 1970).
Howard began his career in 1958 with the Dodgers, for whom he played until being traded to the Senators prior to the 1965 season. After the Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season, the Columbus, Ohio, native spent most of 1972 season with the Rangers before his contract was sold to the Tigers in late August.
Howard retired after the 1973 season, finishing his career with a .273/.352/.499 slash line, 382 home runs and 1,119 RBIs. In 1981, he managed the Padres to a 41-69 record in a strike-shortened season. Howard also took over as manager of the Mets for the last 116 games of the 1983 season, going 52-64 in that span.