Tag Archives: John Vukovich

In January 1982 trade of light-hitting shortstops, the Phillies dealt away a future Hall of Famer

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Sandberg was a 22-year-old prospect in January 1982

This latest installment of the “Phillies Hot Stove History” series was inspired by today’s 66th birthday celebration for Ivan DeJesus. While we may celebrate his birthday, few Phillies fans have ever celebrated the 1982 swap of shortstops that brought him to the team.

In short order this would prove to be one of the worst trades in franchise history. For younger fans who may have heard of the deal but not know how such a thing could happen, let’s take a quick look back at this key “hot stove” moment from the Phillies past.
As always, a little perspective is required to set the stage. At the time of the deal the Phillies were coming off a 1981 season in which they had been dethroned as world champions.
The veteran-laden 1980 Phillies had won the first World Series crown in franchise history. The following season was interrupted by a mid-season work stoppage, and the Phillies would return to the playoffs in 1981 thanks in part to a split-season format adopted by Major League Baseball.
In baseball’s first-ever Divisional Series, the Phillies were eliminated by the Montreal Expos in five games. Following that 3-2 series defeat, Owens looked over his roster and felt that an aging team that had won four of five NL East titles between 1976-80 needed more adjustments.
One key member of that 1970’s core group and 1980 championship team had already been dealt away when left fielder Greg Luzinski was sold to the Chicago White Sox at the end of spring training just prior to the 1981 season.
Owens decided that it was now time to turn the pages on the 36-year-old shortstop Larry Bowa, with whom he was having difficulty reaching agreement on a new contract.

THE GREEN FACTOR

Another pivotal factor in the trade was the man sitting in the General Manager’s seat on the Cubs side of the deal. Dallas Green had skippered the Phillies to that 1980 World Series title. Following the 1981 playoff defeat, Green was hired to become the new GM in Chicago.
Green skippered Phillies to a World Series crown
and 1981 postseason, then became Cubs GM.

Green first raided the Phillies coaching staff, taking John Vukovich and Lee Elia with him. Then in one of this first deals, Green obtained young catcher Keith Moreland and reliever Dickie Noles from the Phillies in a December 1981 trade.

Just over a month later, Green and Owens were discussing another trade. There wasn’t much at the time to distinguish Bowa from Cubs shortstop Ivan DeJesus from one another as a player. Both were light hitters. Bowa had the far greater defensive pedigree. DeJesus was more than seven years younger.
The big factor for Green was that he wanted Bowa’s strong glove, fiery personality, and leadership as the GM instituted his “Building a New Tradition” plan for a franchise that hadn’t been to the postseason since 1945.
On the Phillies side, Owens was looking for a long-term replacement, one where the talent level wouldn’t drop off much, to help keep the club winning. It appeared to be a clean, simple swap at the shortstop position.
However, because of that age difference between Bowa and DeJesus in the Phillies favor, Green insisted that Owens toss in a young infield prospect. With his intimate knowledge of the Phillies farm system, Green had always liked Ryne Sandberg, and insisted on him as the throw-in player as a possible future shortstop. Owens agreed, and the deal was done.

THE THROW-IN

Most in the Phillies scouting department regarded Sandberg, the club’s 20th round selection in the 1978 MLB Amateur Draft out of a Spokane, Washington high school, as a borderline prospect. He could play second base and shortstop, possibly even some third base.
sandberg1-282x400.jpg
Sandberg was a 20th round draft pick who
most felt would become a reserve infielder.

After a less-than-spectacular first full pro campaign with A-level Spartanburg in 1979, Sandberg broke out at Double-A Reading in the Phillies 1980 championship season. That year he hit .310 with 44 extra-base hits, 79 RBI, 95 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases as a 20-year-old shortstop.

As the Phillies took part in that 1981 split-season, Sandberg was enjoying a solid season with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He hit .293 while swiping another 32 bags, earning a September promotion to the big-leagues.
With the Phillies during that month of September in 1981, Sandberg got into 13 games. Seven of those were as a pinch-runner. He also played in five as a shortstop, and another at second base.
Three of Sandberg’s appearances during that cup-of-coffee, including the final two on October 2nd and 3rd, came against the Cubs at Veteran’s Stadium. He also had played short during a game at Wrigley Field in the second game of a September 27 doubleheader.

THE SHORTSTOPS

On January 27, 1982 the deal was concluded. Bowa and Sandberg were shipped out to the North Side of the Windy City, while DeJesus became the new shortstop in red pinstripes. The rest is, unfortunately for the Phillies, baseball history.
Bowa was a 36-year-old, 12-year
veteran at time of the deal.
DeJesus would play three seasons with the Phillies and help the club to win the 1983 National League pennant. That team would lose the World Series in five games to the Baltimore Orioles. Over those three years, DeJesus slashed just .249/.319/.319 with 153 runs scored and 37 total steals.
Bowa spent most of the next three seasons as the Cubs starting shortstop, slashing .247/.296/.308 with 169 runs scored and 30 stolen bases while helping the team to the 1984 NL East crown. Chicago would release him at age 39 in August of 1985, and he would finish out his career playing for a month with the New York Mets.
Seems like a wash at that point. But of course, that was not the whole story. There was the issue of that prospect tossed into the deal. Sandberg quickly proved to be far more than a throw-in.

THE HALL OF FAMER

During his rookie season of 1982, Sandberg became the Cubs starting third baseman. He hit .271 with 33 doubles, 103 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases, finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
If the Phillies weren’t already realizing that they had made a grave mistake including him in the trade, Sandberg’s 1983 performance would drive home that point.
In that 1983 campaign, Sandberg scored 94 runs, stole 37 bases, and was honored with the NL Gold Glove at second base. If you thought that his development into a star was tilting the deal way over into the Cubs side at that point, you hadn’t seen anything yet.
The following season he would up his game once again as Sandberg became an NL all-star for the first time. In 1984 he slashed .314/.367/.520 with 19 home runs among 74 extra-base hits, leading all of baseball with 19 triples. He also produced 84 RBI, stole 32 bases, and led the NL with 114 runs scored.
For that performance, Sandberg captured the National League Most Valuable Player award. He also was honored with his second consecutive NL Gold Glove and was awarded the NL Silver Slugger at second base.
Sandberg became an NL MVP and perennial
NL All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger
(Photo: Wjmummert)

Over 15 seasons with the Cubs, Sandberg would produce 2,385 hits and score 1,316 runs. He slammed 282 homers, the most by any second baseman in the history of the game at the time of his retirement. He also produced 403 doubles, and 76 triples while swiping 344 bags.

Sandberg won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1983-91, as well as seven Silver Sluggers during that same period. He was an NL All-Star for 10 straight years from 1984-93.
Sandberg finished his career with a .989 fielding percentage, the highest for a second baseman in baseball history.

He produced 15 streaks of 30 or more consecutive errorless games, and at the time of his retirement after the 1997 season, he held the all-time record of 123 consecutive errorless games by a second baseman.

During his third year of eligibility in 2005, Sandberg was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 76.2% of the vote that year.

As a post-script to this story, Sandberg entered the coaching and managerial ranks following his retirement as a player. Starting as a spring training instructor with the Cubs, he was hired to manage within their minor league system with the goal of becoming the Cubs manager one day.
When that opportunity didn’t come about, Sandberg left to become manager of the Phillies Triple-A affiliates at Lehigh Valley where he became the 2011 Minor League Manager of the Year.
In 2013, Sandberg was back in the big-leagues as the Phillies third base coach. Then in mid-August he was named Manager of the Phillies following the firing of long-time skipper Charlie Manuel. Sandberg would compile a 119-159 record over parts of three seasons before rising the position in early June of 2015.
There have been many trades made during baseball’s “hot stove” months, that late-fall through mid-winter period when teams are positioning their team for the following season, where prospects have been included as supposed “throw-in” players.
Every once in a while a team will hit the jackpot with one of those young players. That was never more the case than with the Phillies-Cubs hot stove trade of Bowa and Sandberg for DeJesus in January 1982.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies Hot Stove History: The 1982 trade of Ryne Sandberg

Remembering the 1993 NL champion Phillies in their silver anniversary season

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Daulton was the acknowledged clubhouse leader of the 1993 NL champions

The Philadelphia Phillies are officially feting the 2008 World Series championship team this weekend.

On the 10th anniversary of the historic season which concluded with that team winning the second title in franchise history, it is wholly understandable and appropriate.
However, there is another beloved Phillies team celebrating a big anniversary this year.
In fact, as someone who has been following the team closely since Veteran’s Stadium opened in 1971, I’ve always maintained that the other anniversary team provided the most fun single Phillies season that I ever experienced.
Sure, the 1980 and 2008 Phillies teams both won the World Series. I attended Game Two of the 1980 Fall Classic as an 18-year-old. I was at the parade celebrations for both championship teams.
I was inside JFK Stadium in October of 1980 when Tug McGraw told New York to “take this world championship and stick it!” I was videotaping at 15th & JFK and captured a fan making a memorable climb up a light pole on Halloween in 2008.
But for all the drama, excitement, and ultimate thrill that those two clubs provided, there was never a more fun Phillies season from start to (almost) finish for me than the one provided by the 1993 team.
It almost seems lost in all the excitement over the 10th anniversary of the 2008 club, but this is now the silver anniversary for the 1993 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies team.
Yes, it has been 25 years now since that mullet-wearing, scruffy-bearded, ‘Macho Row’-led crew stormed through baseball. In a March 2012 piece, Mike Bertha at Philadelphia Magazine summed up that unforgettable season perfectly:

“It began with a bench-clearing brawl at spring training. Then, over the course of 103 total wins, 49 extra innings, 12 playoff games and some late nights (or, more accurately, early mornings), the 1993 Phillies seduced the city. Fans spent the summer flocking to the Vet to watch their appropriately nicknamed “Animal House,” both captivated and agog as the Phillies stampeded through the National League and then marched through Atlanta to earn a date with the defending-champion Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.”

The Darren Daulton Foundation operates today in the name of, and as a memorial to, the namesake captain of that Phillies team. The foundation provides financial assistance to those who suffer from brain cancer and brain tumors. On June 8, they held a reunion celebration for the 1993 team.
Our own Kevin McCormick here at Phillies Nation reported on the event and those in attendance back in June:

“…the pennant-winning team showed up for the event, including: Tommy Greene, Jim Eisenreich, Larry Bowa, Milt Thompson, Ben Rivera, Mickey Morandini, David West, Tony Longmire, Curt Schilling, and even Danny Jackson who arrived after throwing out the first pitch at the Phillies-Brewers game across the street. Fans in attendance got to meet the players, take pictures, get autographs, and chat with the guys throughout the night.”

Morandini, who shared second base duties with Mariano Duncan, eventually became a minor league manager and then a big league coach with the Phillies. He remains on the payroll as a popular club ambassador.
Five of the men who were in uniform and playing important roles that summer are no longer with us, including Daulton. The catcher and leader of that ball club died a year ago this coming Monday following a four-year battle with brain cancer.

Also now gone off to play on that “Field of Dreams” in the sky is their raspy-voiced manager Jim Fregosi, along with three members of his coaching staff: John VukovichJohnny Podres, and Mel Roberts.
Phillies fans still get plenty of first baseman John Kruk (TV) and reliever Larry Andersen (radio) as members of the current Phillies regular broadcasting crew. Andersen and Daulton hold the distinction of being the only players to appear with the Phillies during both the 1983 and 1993 pennant-winning seasons.
Greene was a member of the 1993 starting rotation, joining Schilling, Jackson, Rivera, and Terry Mulholland. He and shortstop Kevin Stocker can be found chipping in work as a broadcaster and analyst respectively at times.
Some of the more popular members of that hard-charging ball club have become embroiled in controversy over the years. Beginning with nine seasons in Phillies pinstripes, Schilling built a strong Hall of Fame résumé as he continued his career helping the Diamondbacks and Red Sox to World Series victories.
The MVP of the 1993 NLCS victory over Atlanta, Schilling’s shutout in Game Five of the World Series that year is one of the greatest post-season pitching performances in Phillies history. Some now find him controversial as an outspoken conservative political and social commentator.
Mitch Williams was a respected analyst with MLB Network before he was fired in 2014 after an altercation at a youth tournament. Williams filed a lawsuit and was ultimately awarded a $1.5 million judgement in June of last year.
Lenny Dykstra finished as runner-up to Barry Bonds in voting for the 1993 National League Most Valuable Player. ‘The Dude’ or ‘Nails’ as he was alternately known blasted dramatic home runs in both the NLCS and World Series that year.
Over the ensuing decades, the now 55-year-old Dykstra has fallen the farthest and hardest. In May of this year came his latest incident, arrested in New Jersey after allegedly pointing a weapon at an Uber driver and threatening to blow the driver’s head off. Cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy were found on him by responding police.
Some members of that 1993 team are already immortalized by the organization. Bowa, previously honored in 1991 for his role as a player, would be joined by Vukovich (2007), Daulton (2010), Kruk (2011), and Schilling (2013) on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
It was a completely unexpected, fun summer filled with wild, walk-off wins, some in the wee hours of the morning. Numerous seemingly unlikely heroes stepping up to deliver pivotal hits or make clutch plays at crucial moments. A wild band of misfit characters playing the parts and winning the hearts of Phillies fans for decades to come.
They fell just two games short of the ultimate prize. But even that was nothing to hang their heads about. The Toronto Blue Jays finally ended their magic with Joe Carter‘s walk-off home run in Game Six.
That Toronto club, already defending World Series champions, put a trio of Hall of Famers on the field in Rickey HendersonPaul Molitor, and Roberto Alomar, as well as a handful more all-stars. The 1993 Phillies were within a big blown lead in Game Four and Carter’s heroics of pulling off their most stunning victory of all.
As you justly honor and remember the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies this weekend on the occasion of their 10th anniversary, take some time out to also recall that 1993 Phillies team. A silver anniversary is just as worthy of celebration, especially this one.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “World Series winners not the only beloved Phillies team celebrating an anniversary

Philography: Larry Bowa

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Bowa has seen it all with the Phillies over the last half-century as a player, coach, manager, and club advisor

 

From his very first moment in front of Phillies scouts as a teenage ballplayer in California right through the current day, Bowa has been a fiery, emotional, heart-on-his sleeve, hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar player and coach, the type that Philly fans have always embraced.

His father, Paul Bowa, had been a minor leaguer in the Saint Louis Cardinals system during the 1940’s, and a player-manager in that Cards’ system in both 1946 and 1947. Much as his future son, and in contrast to a grandson who would also reach the big leagues, Nick Johnson, Paul was a speedy, slick-fielding infielder.

In the off-season prior to his father’s debut as a  manager, on December 6th, 1945 in Sacramento, California, Larry was born. By the early 1960’s, the scrawny Bowa was trying out for the team at McClatchy High School in Sacramento. He would never make the team in the entirety of his high school days.

It was very disappointing. The reason they gave me was not because I wasn’t good enough but because I was too small,” Bowa told saccityexpress.com early this month.

 “I used to watch little guys play in the big leagues, and I figured it doesn’t matter how small you are. As long as you play the game right, you have a big heart, and you’re willing to sacrifice, I think anything is possible.

At Sacramento City College, Bowa finally broke through, becoming the starter at shortstop. With a slick glove, soft hands, and a strong arm, Bowa was the prototypical great fielding, light hitting middle infielder. He was expected to be selected in the 1965 MLB Amateur Draft process, but was passed over.

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The Philadelphia Phillies had been the one team to show any real interest. The club sent one of their top scouts, Eddie Bockman, to watch Bowa play in a doubleheader.

Bockman got the first taste of what all of Philadelphia would learn in the coming years when Bowa was thrown out of the first game for arguing with the umpire, and then again tossed out before the 2nd game could even begin.

Still, Bockman had seen and heard enough. He convinced the 19-year old to play for a fall league team in the area. Bowa impressed, and was signed by the Phillies as a free agent on October 12th, 1965.

In his first professional season in 1966, Bowa was fantastic with the Phillies’ A-level team at Spartanburg. He hit .312 with 70 runs scored and 24 steals in 453 plate appearances over 97 games, earning a late-season promotion all the way to AAA San Diego.

Too young for a full shot in AAA, Bowa was sent back in the Phillies system the following year. Over the next three seasons, Bowa rose incrementally back through the minors, again reaching AAA in 1969, this time at Eugene. He hit .287 with 80 runs scored and 48 steals across 608 plate appearances. He also continued the tremendous defense at shortstop that was becoming his hallmark.

It was obvious that Bowa was ready defensively for the big leagues by the late 1960’s. With his offensive game advancing, it was time to promote him to Philadelphia.

The Phillies already had a young shortstop named Don Money who had seen his own first full season of action in the big leagues in 1969. Club management made the decision to move Money and his more classic power bat over to 3rd base, opening up shortstop for the better fielder in Bowa.

In 1970, in the franchise’ final season at Connie Mack Stadium, Bowa opened the year as the Philadelphia Phillies starting shortstop. He would hold that job for a dozen seasons.

In his second career game in the Majors, on April 9th at home against the Chicago Cubs, Bowa sliced a one-out single to left field off Ken Holtzman for his first career big league hit.

Then with the Phillies trailing later in that game by a 3-1 score, Bowa came to bat with a man on first base and nobody out in the bottom of the 7th, and delivered a double for his first extra-base hit. One out later, with the club still trailing 3-2, Deron Johnson cranked a 2-run homer, scoring Bowa with his first career run.

Bowa came in third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting following a 1970 season in which he hit .250 with 24 steals. He opened eyes with his defensive play and fiery temperament as well.

When the Phillies opened the brand new Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on April 10th, 1971 against the Montreal Expos, Bowa singled to right off Bill Stoneman for the first hit in the history of the ballpark.

Money would homer in the bottom of the 6th, the first home run in the history of The Vet. Then in the bottom of the 7th, Money’s sacrifice fly scored Bowa with an insurance run in a 4-1 victory behind future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, the first-ever win for the team at Veteran’s Stadium.

In 1972, Bowa would win the first of two career Gold Glove Awards, a travesty since he was clearly a better defender during the 1970’s than Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion, who won five Gold Gloves during the decade.

But the Reds shortstop was a far stronger offensive player, something that appeared to regularly be factored by voters in those days. Bowa would win his 2nd Gold Glove in 1978.

Meanwhile, things began to change around him. The Phillies had begun the decade, and Bowa’s big league career, as a big loser. They dropped 88 games in 1970, which would prove to be their best season of his first four.

But in 1972, the Phillies traded for a future Hall of Fame starting pitcher in Steve Carlton. Meanwhile, more of Bowa’s fellow homegrown prospects began to reach and make their mark in a Phillies uniform.

That group included slugging outfielder Greg Luzinski, catcher Bob Boone, and most especially a powerful 3rd baseman by the name of Mike Schmidt, who debuted in late 1972 and then took over as the starter at the Phillies ‘hot corner’ from Money in 1973.

With that core leading the way, the Phillies became contenders from 1975 onwards. Bowa became an NL All-Star for the first time in 1974 for an improving Phillies club that finished 80-82. His appearance in that Mid-Summer Classic would be the first in a run of five out of six All-Star seasons for Bowa.

In 1976, the Phillies won the first of three straight NL East crowns. The team would win a franchise-record 101 games in both 1977 and 1978. Bowa received National League Most Valuable Player votes every year from 1975-78, and finished 3rd in that NL MVP voting for a ’78 season in which he hit .294 with 31 doubles, 24 steals and won that 2nd Gold Glove.

However, Bowa and his teammates kept falling short in the postseason. Underdogs in 1976 to the Reds, the Phillies were stunned as favorites in both 1977 and 1978, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series each October.

In 1979, despite the addition of living legend Pete Rose as a free agent, the Phillies finished a disappointing 4th in the NL East. At 33 years old, Bowa hit just .241 with 20 steals, the lowest total he had swiped in six years.

When 1980 began, the Phillies veterans were on notice from manager Dallas Green that they either had to produce something big, or the core of the team would be broken up and dealt away.

Produce something big they would, but it wouldn’t be easy. The club fought the tough defending World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates and a young, emerging Montreal Expos team into the final weeks. They shook off the Bucs in early September, but battled those Expos to the final weekend before finally capturing their 4th NL East crown in five years.

The 1980 National League Championship Series against the Houston Astros is considered by many to be the greatest NLCS in history. The Phils won the first game by 3-1 with a late rally, and the next four games all went to extra innings. The Phillies took the final two games in dramatic style on the road in Houston to bring home the franchise’ first National League Pennant in 3o years.

In those 1976-78 NLCS defeats, Bowa had hit just .209 with 5 runs scored in 11 games. But in the 1980 NLCS victory, Bowa finally rose to the occassion, hitting .316 with a .409 on-base percentage.

In the decisive 5th game, 8-7 comeback victory, it was Bowa’s leadoff single to center field with the club trailing 5-2 that started a 5-run rally against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

In the World Series against Kansas City, Bowa hit .375 with three runs scored. In the 6th and deciding game at The Vet, he doubled with two outs in the bottom of the 6th, then scored on a base hit by Boone to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead. They would hold on against a late Royals’ rally to win 4-1, clinching the first world championship in the 98-season history of the franchise.

Bowa would have a bounce-back year in 1981, hitting .283 as the Phillies won the first half NL East crown of what turned out to be a strike-shortened, split-season format.

But in the frustrating 3-2 loss to the Montreal Expos in a first-ever NLDS, Bowa hit just .176 with three hits in what would prove to be his final five games in a Phillies uniform as a player.

For the 1982 season, Bowa would be reaching 36 years of age. His bat was clearly slowing, and his defense, while still excellent, was a tad below its former Gold Glove status. Bowa was aging, and the Phillies looked to cash in before it was too late.

On January 27th, 1982 the Phillies sent Bowa and a 22-year old third baseman named Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 29-year old shortstop Ivan DeJesus.

The 1982 Phillies, with DeJesus at short, fell just short. The club finished three games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NL East race. Meanwhile, the Cubs with Bowa finished 19 games out in 5th place, with Bowa hitting for just a .246 average.

In 1983, the Phillies aging ‘Wheeze Kids’ got hot in September, and again won the NL East crown for a sixth time in eight seasons, counting their half of 1981. The Phils then gained a measure of revenge over the Dodgers for the 1977-78 NLCS defeats, taking down Los Angeles to reach the World Series.

They came up short in that Fall Classic, losing in five games to future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie MurrayJim Palmer, and the Baltimore Orioles. However, the Cubs again finished in 5th, 19 games out again, with Bowa hitting for just a .267 average.

At that point, it appeared as if the Phillies had won the January 1982 trade. DeJesus had provided the Phillies with two solid seasons at shortstop heading into 1984, when he would still be just 31 years old. The club had continued to win, and was coming off a National League Pennant, while the Cubs lost big.

Meanwhile, Bowa would be turning 38 years of age for the 1984 season. However, something unexpected was also happening. The throw-in of that apparent 1982 shortstop swap, Sandberg, was emerging as a real player.

In 1982, Sandberg finished 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The Cubs then switched him from 3rd base to 2nd base, and he won a 1983 Gold Glove. It was only the beginning of what would become a Hall of Fame career.

In 1984, Bowa and the Cubs, with Sandberg leading the charge, won the NL East crown. Meanwhile, the Phillies faded to 4th place, 15 1/2 games out. Sandberg became an NL All-Star for the first time, won another Gold Glove, added a Silver Slugger Award, and capped it all by being named the National League Most Valuable Player. So much for winning the trade.

The Cubs would lose a tough NLCS in a full five games to the San Diego Padres and their own emerging future Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn. In that series, Bowa hit just .200 with three hits and a single run scored.

As the 1985 season got underway, the 39-year old Bowa was pushed to backup status by 22-year old rookie Shawon Dunston. The Cubs finally released Bowa in mid-August after a little more than three years in the Windy City.

Bowa signed exactly one week later with the New York Mets, and would play in his final 14 big league games in a Mets uniform. Included in that stretch was an 0-3 performance on September 24th against the Phillies in what was his final game as a player in front of Philly fans at Veteran’s Stadium.

On October 6th, 1985, Bowa played the entire game at shortstop for the Mets in what would be his final big league game, a 2-1 loss to the Expos. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Bowa singled to leadoff against Expos pitcher Dan Schatzeder for what would be his final career hit.

Also appearing in that same game for New York, going 0-4 as the leadoff man, was Bowa’s teammate, a 22-year old rookie center fielder by the name of Lenny Dykstra.

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A free agent following the season, Bowa elected to retire. He finished his Major League Baseball career with 2,191 career hits across 16 big league seasons, with a .260 career average, 987 runs scored, and 318 stolen bases.

At the time of his retirement, Bowa’s defensive excellence was reflected in the all-time Major League Baseball record books. His .980 career fielding percentage was the all-time MLB record until broken decades later by Omar Vizquel. His National League fielding percentage and games played records at shortstop would finally be broken by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

On the Phillies all-time franchise leaders lists, Bowa is currently 4th in Games (1,739), 4th in At-Bats (6,815), 6th in Hits (1,798), 14th in Runs (816), 7th in Triples (81), and 6th in Steals (288).

Bowa was always considered a smart baseball man and a leader, and with those traits and his experience, he did not remain unemployed for very long. The San Diego Padres organization hired him as the manager of their AAA Las Vegas Stars affiliates for the 1986 season. He guided the club to an 80-62 record and the Pacific Coast League championship.

Impressed with his performance, and with a number of his young players coming up to the big leagues, the Padres made the move to hire Bowa as their manager of the big league club on October 28th, 1986.

Bowa would not find success in his first shot as a big league skipper in San Diego. The Padres went just 65-97 in his lone full season of 1987. When the club began 1988 began with a 16-30 record, Bowa was fired.

Again, he was not out of the game for long. In August of that same season, the Phillies hired Bowa to be their 3rd base coach, a role that he would hold for eight years through 1996.

In 1993, as the Phillies won the franchise’ 5th NL Pennant and advanced to the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Bowa and longtime friend and former Phillies teammate John Vukovich became the first two men to reach the Fall Classic with the organization as both players and coaches.

After the 1996 season, Jim Fregosi was let go as the Phillies manager, and Bowa interviewed for the position. Though a fan favorite for the job, the team instead chose to go with one of the game’s leading young minor league managers, Terry Francona.

Bowa left for the Anaheim Angels, taking their 3rd base coach position, which he held for three years. He then moved north to coach 3rd base for the Seattle Mariners in the 2000 season.

With Francona fired following that 2000 season, the Phillies managerial position was again open. This time Bowa got the job, officially hired to manage the team on November 1st, 2000.

Bowa was taking on a huge challenge. The Phillies had won just 65 games in the 1999 season, finishing tied with the Cubs for the worst record in baseball. They had losing records in the previous seven seasons, and in 13 of the previous 14 years.

In Bowa’s first season of 2001, he guided the club to an 86-76 mark, finishing in 2nd place in an NL East battle with the Atlanta Braves by just two games. Bowa was particularly influential in helping introduce the team’s talented new shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, to the world of Major League Baseball.

The Phillies under Bowa appeared to be a rising team, but the 2002 club finished a frustrating 80-82 in what would be their last losing campaign for a decade. In 2003, the Phillies rebounded to win 86 games as the club said goodbye to Veteran’s Stadium, which Bowa had christened with his single 33 years earlier. Then in 2004, in the first season at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils won 85 games.

But despite being in the playoff hunt during three of his four seasons at the helm, the Phillies under Bowa just didn’t seem to be able to get over the hump and actually capture a division crown. He was fired with two games remaining in that 2004 season, finishing with a record of 337-308 as the Phillies skipper.

The following season, Bowa spent the full year out of uniform for the first time since he was five years old. He was not totally out of the game, however. He spent that 2005 season as an analyst on the “Baseball Tonight” TV program with the ESPN network.

I CONSIDER MYSELF A BASEBALL LIFER” ~ BOWA

Longtime friend Joe Torre then hired Bowa to be his 3rd base coach with the New York Yankees for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. When Torre left the Yanks to become skipper of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bowa followed him as the 3rd base coach in LA, and was coaching 3rd for both of the Dodgers teams that were eliminated in the NLCS by the Phillies in 2008 and 2009.

When Torre retired after the 2010 season, it was back to the TV studios for Bowa. This time he worked with the new MLB Network, where Bowa would serve as an analyst for three seasons.

During those same seasons, Bowa also got reacquainted with the Phillies organization, working as a post-game analyst for some of the club’s local broadcasts with the WPHL station.

When Torre was named as the manager of Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Bowa again returned to uniform as his bench coach. That stint led directly to Bowa being named to that same bench coach role with the Phillies in 2014 alongside his former Cubs teammate Sandberg.

Loyalty is one of the traits that has made Bowa most appreciated by men like Torre and Sandberg. When Sandberg came under fire early in the 2015 season for an apparent laid back personality, Bowa came to his defense in an interview with CSNPhilly.com insider Jim Salisbury:

This guy competes. I was with him. I played next to him. When he made a good play, when he hit a home run, his personality was the same. He doesn’t get too up; he doesn’t get too down. He’s very patient and he better be patient with what we’re doing right now and he is. That’s all I’m saying.”

“If people think he has to throw a Gatorade to show he cares … trust me, he cares. He cares as much as any human being that’s putting on that uniform…There might be some guys who want to win as much as him, but nobody more than him.

In the last couple of months, Bowa was a leading contender to become the manager of the Miami Marlins. Despite receiving two interviews, he was passed over for that job in favor of Don Mattingly, and is slated to once again be the bench coach for skipper Pete Mackanin in the 2016 season.

This past season was Bowa’s 50th season in professional baseball, and he has lost none of his passion for the game after that half-century. He turned 70 years of age just last week. Back in spring training in March of 2015, Bowa was interviewed by Philly.com’s Bob Brookover, and spoke about why he keeps on doing it.

I still have a lot of fun doing it,” Bowa said. “You can talk trash. Spring training is probably the hardest time because I’m there at 5:30 in the morning . . . and then once the games start I probably don’t get home until 6:30 or 7 at night. I’m in bed by 9.” He later hinted at when he might actually walk away from the game: “I consider myself a baseball lifer,” Bowa said. “Just like Don Zimmer.

Bowa has indeed been a baseball lifer, and the vast majority of that life has been in a Phillies uniform. His first season came in the team’s last at Connie Mack Stadium. He had the first hit in Veteran’s Stadium history. He was the shortstop for the first Phillies team to win a World Series. Manager of last team at The Vet, and then of the first team at Citizens Bank Park.

In 1991, almost a quarter of a century ago now, Bowa was selected to the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame. Few men have deserved that honor more. Back in 1965 when a Phillies scout was watching that teenage Bowa get thrown out of both games of a doubleheader, no one – no one – could have ever seen any of it coming.

1971 Phillies: My first team

 

 

 

 

 

I was just nine years old when a then ultra-modern sports cathedral known as Veteran’s Memorial Stadium, also known as Veteran’s Stadium or more simply “The Vet”, opened virtually in my South Philly back yard.

And it was the 1971 Phillies team, the first to play on a new Astroturf surface, that became the first Phillies team I ever followed.

My friends and I were fans of The Vet even before the place officially opened. We would ride our bikes to the stadium on the nice March days prior to it’s opening, and on many days even once it did open. We rode our bikes around the concourse, picking up speed, and then would hit the long, sloping pedestrian access ramps at full speed. The effect would be like putting our bikes on turbo-powered boosters.

My dad took my brother, Mike, and I to a Phillies formal “Opening Day” event for The Vet. This was not an actual game, but took place prior to that first game. We had seats somewhere in the upper deck, probably around what was the 600 level.

1971 Phillies
Veteran’s Stadium opened for that 1971 Phillies season

I clearly remember being in awe of the place. Everything was shiny and new at that point. The gleaming white concrete outer pillars. The surreal-looking green Astroturf artificial playing surface. The brown dirt of the base cutouts.

There were dancing fountains of green water in center field. A giant, 13-star Colonial era flag unfurling above them. Revolutionary War characters Phil and Phillis shooting off a cannon along the outfield walls. And what seemed like a massive computerized scoreboard.

I had never been to old Connie Mack Stadium, something that I still jokingly hold against my dad in our conversations. The neighborhood of that old ballpark around 21st and Lehigh had become so dilapidated during the late-60’s, when I was a little kid but old enough that I would have appreciated a trip there, that my dad just felt it was too unsafe to take us. And besides, he was not a big baseball fan back then. Golf and basketball were his sports.

But here we were at The Vet for this special Opening Day, because it was new, and it was an event that was close to our home. For that nine year old me, it was love at first sight. I was in love with the place, but I had still never seen a baseball game in real life. That would be a love that would last to this very day.

The Phillies began playing at the stadium just days later, and the 1971 Philadelphia Phillies team would become the very first that I would follow in my lifetime.

In the true Opening Game, on April 10th, 1971, the Master of Ceremonies for pre-game festivities and introductions was a new broadcaster in town by the name of Harry Kalas.

The Phils defeated the expansion Montreal Expos by a 4-1 score, with future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning getting the win, and all-time Phillies player/coach great Larry Bowa registering the first hit at The Vet.

1971 Phillies Montanez
Center fielder Willie Montanez banged 30 homers and finished 2nd in the 1971 NL Rookie of the Year vote.

The 25-year old Bowa would eventually grow to become one of my favorite players. But that first year my actual favorite players were a little second baseman named Denny Doyle, and a hot dog  of a center fielder named Willie Montanez.

Doyle was a scrappy 26-year old, playing his second season in the big leagues and as Bowa’s double play partner. Montanez was an exciting 23-year old who hit 30 home runs and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting that season.

The manager of those Phillies was named Frank Lucchesi, a little olive-skinned Italian who fit right in with South Philly. Unfortunately the second year skipper would only last until halfway through the following season.

In that first year at The Vet, Lucchesi had a mixture of veterans and kids to call upon in both his lineup and on his pitching staff. That lineup was led by 32-year-old veteran first baseman Deron Johnson who would bang out 34 home runs and register 95 RBIs, and 29-year-old catcher Tim McCarver, who would later become a famed broadcaster.

Otherwise, this was a young ball club. Besides Bowa, Doyle, and Montanez there was 23-year old third baseman John Vukovich, 21-year-old left fielder Oscar Gamble, and 25-year-old right fielder Roger Freed.

The Phillies bench was also fairly young, with only 35-year-old fan favorite infielder Tony Taylor having much experience. That bench also included 24-year-old infielder Don Money, who hit the very first home run in Vet Stadium history.

The others who left an impression on me included infielder Terry Harmon (27), outfielder Ron Stone (28), catcher Mike Ryan (29), outfielder Larry Hisle(24), and outfielder Mike Anderson(20). And then came a September call-up from the minors for a prodigious 20-year-old slugger named Greg Luzinski.

The pitching rotation was led by Bunning, who was then 39-years-old in the final season of his Hall of Fame career. Bunning would make just 16 starts in that 1971 season. The last of those was a horrible appearance at the Astrodome in mid-July in which he would yield four earned runs on seven hits in lasting just a single inning.

Bunning also made 13 relief appearances, and it was as a relief pitcher that Bunning wrapped up his career with a two-inning stint at The Vet on September 3rd against the New York Mets.

Another veteran in that rotation was lefty Chris Short. A decade earlier, Bunning and Short had nearly helped lead the Phillies to an NL Pennant. Now they were both aging and in decline. Short was now 33-years old, and would go 7-14 across 26 starts in what would be his final year as a regular starting pitcher.

Also in the rotation for the 1971 Phillies was their up-and-coming stud, a 25-year old named Rick Wise. The right-hander would win 17 games for a team that won just 65, and would be traded just prior to the following season for a left-hander named Steve Carlton.

Filling out the rotation were Barry Lersch and Ken Reynolds, both of whom were back-end starters by today’s lingo. Veteran Woodie Fryman was strong as a swing-man who both started and relieved.  Joe Hoerner was an effective lefty closer for that Phillies team. The bullpen also had a quintet of good-looking 20-somethings in Bill ChampionDick SelmaBill Wilson, and Wayne Twitchell.

Those were my first Phillies. I watched them as much as I could on TV in those days, though not many games were broadcast other than on Sunday afternoons.  More often, I listened that summer for the first time to the excellent work being done from the radio booth by the team of veteran By Saam, former player Richie Ashburn, and the newbie Kalas.

My Dad got us out to The Vet for a couple of games before the end of that 65-97 season. But the losing record really didn’t matter to me at that point. I had been introduced to a new game, a new stadium, a new team, a new love.

I had no way of knowing at that time, but a bunch of those first 1971 Phillies in my life would become enshrined as part of a team Wall of Fame that had not even been established yet. That group included Bunning, Short, Bowa, Vukovich, Luzinski, and Taylor.

In just a few years, they would start to win at The Vet. Carlton and minor league reinforcements named Mike Schmidt and Bob Boone would join Luzinski and Bowa to form a winning core. It all began for me with those 1971 Philadelphia Phillies, and the opening of Veteran’s Stadium.

Top 20 Philadelphia Phillies Influencers of All-Time

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Harry Wright was the club’s first winning manager from 1884-93

The Philadelphia Phillies have a history stretching back to the 1883 season in the National League.

Many players, front office personnel, and others have contributed greatly to the team and its enjoyment by the fan base since that time.

I ran a series for Fansided’s “That Ball’s Outta Here” website during early January that highlighted those who I considered the “Top 20 Phillies of All-Time”, those individuals who my research found had played the largest roles in team success and enjoyment.

Those twenty individuals are listed here. Just click on each name to view their individual story and contribution to the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Ten of them are already on the Phillies Wall of Fame. At least four others, and possibly a few more, are sure to eventually end up honored there by the club itself.

As always with this type of list, it is purely subjective. It is my opinion and rank. I am quite sure others would list different players, or some of these in a different order. Would love to hear your own ranking as well.

20. Al Reach – owner/founder

19. Harry Wright – first winning manager

18. Dan Baker – public address announcer

17. John Vukovich – player/coach / Wall of Fame

16. Ed Wade – general manager

15. By Saam – tv/radio broadcaster

14. Darren Daulton – catcher / Wall of Fame

13. Robin Roberts – pitcher / Wall of Fame

12. Charlie Manuel – manager / Wall of Fame

11. Dallas Green – manager/farm director / Wall of Fame

10. Harry Kalas – tv/radio broadcaster / Wall of Fame

 9. Paul Owens – manager/GM/farm director/scout / Wall of Fame

 8. Chase Utley – second baseman

 7. Ryan Howard – first baseman

 6. Pete Rose – first baseman

 5. Cole Hamels – pitcher

 4. Jimmy Rollins – shortstop

 3. Richie Ashburn – outfielder/broadcaster / Wall of Fame

 2. Steve Carlton – pitcher / Wall of Fame

 1. Mike Schmidt – third baseman/broadcaster / Wall of Fame