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Howe at home with Athletics |

Howe at home with Athletics

| Wednesday, June 19, 2002 12:00 a.m

Oakland Athletics manager Art Howe has been making trips like these for years.

The 55-year-old Shaler native and former Pirates’ infielder has a busy schedule during Oakland’s three-game series in Pittsburgh — which began Tuesday — including a reunion with his Shaler High School baseball team today.

“I’ve been in the game a long time,” Howe said. “I know how to keep focused. I’m also used to a lack of sleep.”

It was Howe’s first game in Pittsburgh since he was the first base coach and hitting instructor with the Colorado Rockies in 1995. This is the first time Oakland and Pittsburgh have met in interleague play.

It was also Howe’s first opportunity to get a look inside PNC Park.

“I’m very impressed,” Howe said. “It’s a great skyline in the background. The size of it. It’s a fair park. A lot of the newer parks in the American League are smaller. They are hitter’s parks. This one seems pretty fair.”

Howe is the rare first-time visitor to PNC Park that talks more about the venue it replaced, Three Rivers Stadium. His first major-league game, when he came up with the Pirates, was there in 1974. The Pirates signed him from a tryout in the fall of 1970.

“When we came in from the airport and over the bridge, I was used to seeing Three Rivers Stadium sitting there,” Howe said. “It was home to everybody for a long, long time. I remember seeing the Immaculate Reception there. I was at that game. There was a lot of history in that ballpark.”

Howe spent his 10-year major-league career on artificial turf, playing with the Houston Astros in the Astrodome and the St. Louis Cardinals before they put in a grass surface.

“My body’s still telling me about it,” Howe said of the hard surfaces. “I was a ground ball hitter. I put the balls right through the infield (on artificial turf).”

Howe also played in Forbes Field. He was the winning pitcher in Shaler’s 2-1 victory over Monongahela in the 1964 WPIAL baseball championship game there.

Howe is now in his 12th season as a major-league manager, his seventh with the Athletics. He was the Houston Astros’ manager from 1989-93 and he still lives in Houston, coming to Pittsburgh in the winters to visit his family here.

Oakland hired Howe on Nov. 16, 1995 to replace Tony LaRussa. He took the Athletics to the playoffs the last two seasons. The team struggled early this season with the loss of first baseman Jason Giambi and outfielder Johnny Damon to free agency, and injuries to the pitching staff, but the Athletics recently moved back into the American League West race. They entered the series against the Pirates in third place at 37-31.

That put Howe’s career record over .500 at 926-923.

“We’ve been playing well,” Howe said. “We had a tough stretch in May. We didn’t do too many things right, but we’ve turned it back around.”

Howe came into Pittsburgh on Monday and had dinner with his brother. He still has two brothers and two sisters and their families in Pittsburgh. He had lunch with his mother, 88-year-old Dorothy, yesterday.

Howe will spend much of today with his former Shaler teammates.

“We are getting together to play some golf,” Howe said. “We are having dinner here. They got a suite for tomorrow’s game upstairs. We are going to make a day of it.

“I won’t know 90 percent of them. A lot of them I haven’t seen them since (high school).”

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