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Astros History: Art Howe The Athletic Movie Star

A look at Art Howe the character of a revolutionary book and movie who got his start in Houston.

Jason O. Watson

For any Astros fan that saw the movie Moneyball there was one character in the movie that was easily recognizable, Art Howe. From 1996 to 2002 (the year the Moneyball movie was set) Howe managed the Oakland Athletics and did so to the tune of a .530 winning percentage. In seven years with the Athletics Howe had a 600-533 record as manager. He finished first in the American League West twice, second twice, third once and fourth twice.

Before Howe was portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Moneyball he managed the Houston Astros; before that he played for the Houston Astros.

Art Howe was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates by the Astros January 6, 1976, as the player to be named in the Tommy Helms trade. With Pittsburgh Howe had been little more than a utility infielder. He broke into the big leagues in 1974 at the age of 27 so he wasn't exactly a big time prospect. He only appeared in 26 games for the Astros after they acquired him. The following year, at the age of 30, he saw a significant increase in playing time and rewarded the Astros faith in him with a 108 OPS+ and .9 in defensive WAR at second base. In seven seasons with Houston Howe posted an OPS+ of 100 or more four times in 100+ games. He provided positive defensive value all around the infield, primarily at second and third base. In 1981 he finished 18th in MVP voting. From 1977-1982 Howe posted 13.9 WAR for the Astros, according to Baseball-Reference.

At the age of 36, Howe was granted free agency by the Astros after the 1983. He signed on with the Cardinals and played a part-time role in 1984. He returned to the Cardinals for the 1985 season but appeared in only four games before being released on April 22. And that would finalize Howe's career.

Four years later he would return to Major League Baseball as the rookie manager of the Houston Astros. In five years with the Astros he would post a .484 winning percentage and a 392-418 record. A lot like Bo Porter today, Howe was dealing with a club that was trying to rebuild after a tremendous run in the early and mid 80s. In 1982 and 1992 Howe would finish fourth in Manager of the Year voting. Both years the Astros won 80+ games.

With the sabermetrics movement well on it's way in Oakland, under Sandy Alderson, the Athletics hired Howe in 1996. At the end of the 1997 Billy Beane took over as General Manager setting up what would eventually be Art Howe's debut as a character in a movie.