Drugs, suspensions interrupted promising career

At one time Steve Howe was one of baseball's best relievers. But we'll never know how good the oft-suspended pitcher could have been.

Originally Published: April 28, 2006
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
How talented was Steve Howe, really?

We'll never know, really. In 1979, Howe's first professional season, he posted a 3.13 ERA in the hitter-friendly Texas League. In Howe's second professional season, he posted a 2.66 ERA for the Dodgers and was named National League Rookie of the Year. He pitched even better in his third year (1981), and then again in his fourth.

Steve Howe
Jonathan Daniel/Allsport
But after that fourth pro season, in which he'd gone 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA and 13 saves, Howe entered a clinic to treat his addiction to cocaine. He'd been using the stuff since college, and in '82 he'd been snorting two grams of coke per day. Everything seemed great in '83; in his first 22 innings of the season, Howe didn't allow a single earned run. At that point, Howe's career stats included a 2.18 ERA in the major leagues, and he ranked as perhaps the game's No. 1 left-handed relief pitcher.