Pride of Philadelphia
Near the end of the 2006 season, Philadelphia Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard repeatedly received one of the highest “honors” bestowed upon power hitters - opposing teams intentionally walked him, even in close games with men in scoring position. Prior to the start of the season, the Phillies’ management made Howard their permanent first baseman by trading Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox. Howard, the reigning 2005 National League Rookie of the Year, rewarded the Phillies’ faith in him throughout the 2006 season. In an April game against the Florida Marlins, Howard amazed the crowd at Citizen Bank Park by becoming the first player to hit a home run into Ashburn Alley. The historic blast traveled approximately 496 feet away from home plate. The game also marked Howard’s first multiple home run game of his Major League career. In June, Howard amazed the hometown crowd again when he became the first player to hit a home run into the third deck of right field. This historic blast traveled approximately 481 feet away from home plate; the Phillies commemorated the home run by painting a white “H” on the seat where the ball landed.
At the All-Star Game in July, Howard participated in a tense Home Run Derby battle that thrilled fans both in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and in homes across the country. Fans waiting in the Allegheny River dove into the water, sometimes almost colliding with boats or other crafts, to retrieve home run baseballs hit by Howard. In the final round, Howard out-slugged David Wright of the rival New York Mets for the Home Run Derby crown, the second consecutive crown won by a Phillies player. Howard’s final home run sailed dramatically into the right field seats, hitting banner that netted a lucky fan $1,000,000.
Following his All-Star Game performance, Howard continued with his remarkable season. In late August, he hit home runs in four consecutive games. On August 29, Howard hit his 48th home run in a game against the Washington Nationals in RFK Stadium; with the home run, he tied Mike Schmidt for the Phillies’ single-season home run record. Two days later, Howard took sole possession of the record by hitting his 49th home run of the season. Raucous standing ovations and chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” greeted Howard when he returned to Citizens Bank Park. On September, Howard went 4-for-4 in a game against the Atlanta Braves, hitting his 50th, 51st, and 52nd home runs. With those achievements, Howard became the first Phillies player to his 50 or more home runs in a season; he also broke Ralph Kiner’s record for most home runs in a sophomore season. Sever al weeks later, Howard hit his 58th and final home run. At the end of the season, Howard led the Major Leagues with 58 home runs and 149 RBIs.
For his achievements, Howard was named the National League Player of the Month for both August and September. Philadelphia’s baseball writers honored Howard with the Mike Schmidt Most Valuable Player award. In early October, The Sporting News named Howard its 2006 Player of the Year; later that same month, Howard won the National League Hank Aaron Award as the league’s top hitter. Howard won additional honors in November, including the National League Silver Slugger Award for first base. The biggest honor came on November 20 when he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, becoming only the second player in Major League history to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in successive seasons. Howard also became only the fourth player in Phillies history to win the National League Most Valuable Award—joining Chuck Klein (1932), Jim Konstanty (1950), and Mike Schmidt (1980, 1981, 1986). For his truly remarkable and historic season, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame was pleased to honor Ryan Howard with a 2006 Pride of Philadelphia award.