Larry Bowa, Phillies icon

May 6th, 2020

Icon: a person who is very successful and admired.

It only seems like yesterday that was a rookie shortstop, yesterday as in 50 years ago. He wore a Phillies uniform for 29 years as a player, a coach, and manager. No one has worn it longer. He also wore a Phillies Minor League uniform for four years.

Bowa, 74, is currently a senior advisor to general manager Matt Klentak. Bowa's a fixture every Spring Training as an instructor and visits the Phillies' Minor League clubs during the season. There's no better infield professor than Bowa.

Career notebook

• The first summer Draft was in 1965 and Bowa, a skinny shortstop from Sacramento, Calif., wasn't selected. Meanwhile, 824 amateur players were drafted.

• Phillies scout Eddie Bockman had seen Bowa play at various levels of amateur baseball in the San Francisco Bay area. Bockman knew Bowa had basic baseball tools, knew he had heart, knew he was a competitor, knew he had a temper and thought it worthy of bringing Paul Owens (the team's then-farm director) into the picture.

• During the 1965 World Series between the Dodgers and Twins, Bockman and Owens met in the latter's hotel suite in Los Angeles. Bockman had some eight-millimeter film of a young infielder and wanted Owens to see the home movie. They had no screen, so Owens took the sheet off his bed and the two of them attached it to the wall. Owens liked what he saw. Bowa signed for $1,200 on Oct. 12, 1965.

• Bowa was ready to quit after his first pro game in 1966, playing for the Class A Spartanburg Phillies. Hitless in four at-bats, all strikeouts against a 17-year-old fireball right-handed pitcher on the Greenville Mets, future Hall of Famer, Nolan Ryan. Bowa wound up hitting .312 and striking out only 40 more times in 93 games. He finished the season with five games in Triple-A San Diego.

• Bowa's first year in the Phillies' big league camp was 1967 in Clearwater, Fla. He wore No. 53. I remember manager Gene Mauch saying, "I can see him run, can see him catch the ball, can see him throw. When he hits, I don't hear anything."

• A natural right-handed batter, Bowa began switch-hitting in 1969 at Triple-A Eugene in the Pacific Coast League.

• A year later, Bowa made his Major League debut on Opening Day. Wearing No. 10 and leading off against the Chicago Cubs at Connie Mack Stadium, Bowa went 0-for-3 against Ferguson Jenkins, another future Cooperstown icon. First MLB at-bat: pop up to short.

• Despite hitting .191 through first two months, manager Frank Lucchesi stuck with Bowas. He finished the season with a .250 average.

• After 12 years with the Phillies, Bowa played for the Cubs and Mets, ending a 16-year playing career in 1985.

• Bowa played in the last game at Connie Mack Stadium, first game at Veterans Stadium (got the first hit there), managed the last game at the Vet and first game at Citizens Bank Park.

• Bowa's post playing career included coaching for the Phillies twice (1988-96; 2014-17) plus the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners and Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

• Bowa managed Triple-A Las Vegas, the San Diego Padres and the Phillies.

• As their manager, the Phillies finished second, third, third and second. He posted a 337-308 record and won the National League Manager of the Year Award in 2001.

• Out of uniform, Bowa spent time as an analyst for ESPN's Baseball Tonight, co-hosted a show on XM Radio and was a studio analyst for the MLB Network at various times.

• Bowa was ultra-competitive, a battler, scrappy, chirpy, feisty and an endless worker. He used all of that and ended up with 2,191 hits in 2,247 games and a .260 average. As a shortstop, he was automatic, committing only 211 errors in 19,058 1/3 innings.

• Ultra-competitive? Bowa was ejected 35 times wearing a Phillies uniform, 22 as a manager, eight as a player and five as a coach. His career total ejections is 52.

• Oh, add fidgety to Bowa's characteristics. His Sacramento buddy, the late John Vukovich, loved to tell this story: "We roomed together one Spring Training when we were coaches. Bow always grabbed the TV remove first. The longest I saw a show was 10 seconds."

• Bockman mentioned a temper. Bowa once received a plumbing bill from Phillies president Ruly Carpenter. Why? For destroying the Veterans Stadium dugout toilet with his bat.

• Chirpy? Bowa once approached Reds shortstop Davey Concepcion before a game. "Is your name Elmo? I keep seeing box scores … E-Concepcion."

• Then there's Bowa's emotion. Photographer Miles Kennedy captured Bowa as he touched home plate for the last time during the Veterans Stadium closing ceremonies. Actually, he didn't touch it. He jumped on it.

• A kid cut from his high school team three times, undrafted and ready to quit pro ball after one game wound up as one of the most beloved players in Phillies history, a true icon.