MLB Slugger Ryan Howard Turns 39 Today

Happy birthday to the game’s last great African-American first baseman. 

It’s Ryan Howard’s birthday and he turns 39 years young today. Howard officially retired in September at the age of 38 as “The Last of MLB’s Black Slugging First Baseman.”

Howard’s first eight years were Hall of Fame worthy as he dominated MLB pitching and displayed historic power from his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2005 to the end of the 2011 season when Howard hit the deck between the batter’s box and first base, rupturing his Achilles and altering the course of baseball history forever.

At the time, Big Piece was on his way to becoming a titan as one of four players to hit at least 40 home runs and have 130-plus RBIs in four straight seasons. Howard finished with an impressive 382 dingers, but he hit 198 (60 percent) of those career home runs in a four-year span.

In his peak seasons, from 2006-2011, he was one of baseball’s all-time celebrated Black Knights. He teamed up with 2007 NL MVP and shortstop Jimmy Rollins to bless baseball with the only World Series squad baseball has seen in decades that was driven by All-Star African-American players.

They represented two lost gems in baseball; the black shortstop and first baseman.

A cultural shift in baseball began with the ending of Rollins and Howard’s careers and now Black first basemen and shortstops are almost nonexistent in MLB.

Howard led baseball with 58 homers with 149 RBI in 2006, In 2007, he delivered 47 homers with 136 RBI, and in 2008 he crushed another MLB-leading 48 homers while leading the Phillies to their first World Series title since 1980. In 2009, his last healthy year as a player, he pounded another 45 homers.

Prior to Giancarlo Stanton’s  59 bombs in 2017, Howard was the last African-American to lead all of MLB in homers. Oakland A’s outfielder Khris Davis did it again this season, jacking 48 bombs. 

Let’s remember some of the greatest black first basemen to grace the game in honor or Ryan Howard’s 39th birthday.

Frank Thomas

Eddie Murray


Rod Carew


Fred McGriff

Willie Stargell

Dick Allen

Dick Allen’s Absence From The Hall Of Fame Doesn’t Sit Right

Prince Fielder


JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.