Italian/ American Mets Player Turned Coach: Larry Bowa (1985)

Lawrence Robert Bowa was born December 6, 1945 in Sacramento, California. His dad was an infielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization but never played in the big leagues.

Bowa didn’t make his high school baseball team & while at Sacramento City College only had the Phillies interested in him. When the scouts went to see him, the fiery Bowa got thrown out of the game for arguing. Bowa has always had an excited personality as a player, coach & manager later in his career.
He always had a quick temper & has been known to throw an occasional water cooler & get tossed out of games.

Eventually the Philadelphia Phillies signed the young Bowa as an amateur free agent in 1965. The sure handed, solid fielding short stop hit .300 in his first minor league season. He played in the minors for five years & after batting .287 in 1969 made the 1970 Phillies team.

In 1970 he came in third in the Rookie of the Year voting batting .250 with 24 stolen bases, but it was his fielding that would make Bowa a solid big league player.

He became one of the National Leagues best short stops in the seventies, winning two gold gloves, making five All Star teams & leading the league in fielding six times. In 1979, he even set an MLB record for shortstops with a .991 fielding average.

Bowa put in a few good offensive seasons at the plate as well. He batted over .280 four times, including one .300 season in 1975. He was a good base runner, stealing 20 or more bases in nine different seasons. He would steal thirty or more bases three times, putting up the NL's best stole base average in 1977.

In 1972 Bowa hit .250 but led the league in sac hits (18) & triples with 13. He would come in the leagues top ten, five different times hitting triples. Bowa was a fine base runner stealing over twenty bases nine times in his career. In 1974 he stole a career high 39 bases (8th in the league), while hitting .275.

In 1975 he hit over .300 for the only time in his career (.305).  Bowa was a fine singles & sacrifice situation hitter. He would be in the NL's top five in sac hits four times & singles three times. He led the league in singles (153) in 1978. Being atop the lineup often, he was in the top ten in at bats six times, leading the league with 650 in 1971.

Bowa played in Philadelphia for 12 seasons, alongside Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt after his arrival in 1973. Together they led the Phillies to five NL Eastern Titles & one World Series victory in 1980.

Post Season: In his first two NLCS appearances he only had three hits in 25 at bats, posting a .125 batting average. In the 1978 NLCS Bowa hit .333 with six hits, two runs scored & a walk against the NL Champion L.A. Dodgers.

In the 1980 NLCS against the Houston Astros, he batted .316 with two runs scored. In the final Game #5, with the Phillies down 5-2, Bowa started an 8th inning rally with a base hit. He scored when Nolan Ryan walked Pete Rose with the bases loaded.

1980 World Series: In the 1980 World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Bowa hit .375 with nine hits, three stolen bases & two RBIs. He drove in a run in Game #2 with a base hit off Larry Gura and another in Game #4  off Dennis Leonard. Bowa had a three hit day in Game #3, which the Royals won 4-3. He added two more in the next game, in the Phil's 5-4 win in Game #5 .

By 1981 he wasn’t getting along with Phillies management any longer & expressed his intent to be traded. His former manager Dallas Green was now a GM in Chicago with the Cubs. He dealt Ivan DeJesus for Bowa, but demanded a youngster named Ryne Sandberg be involved in the deal.

Bowa's veteran leadership helped mentor Sandberg & got the Cubs to the post season in 1984. Bowa hit just .200 that year. In 1985 he was released by the Cubs in August & was quickly picked up by the New York Mets.

Everyone seems to forget Bowa finished his long 16 year career with the Mets. Bowas made his Mets debut on August 23rd, going 0-4 in a 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres. The next day he got one of his two Mets hits. In 14 games in New York he went 2-19 (.105) with two RBIs, both of them coming on September 13th at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Bowa played at second base in his final game & was on deck as Rusty Staub recorded the last out of the Mets 1985 season.

Bowa finished his career with 8414 at bats (113th all time) 2191 hits (191st all time) 1815 singles (82nd all time) 151 sacrifice hits (171st all time) 262 doubles 99 triples 15 HRs, 525 RBIs & a .260 batting average.

Defensively he is 7th all time in games played at short (2222) twelfth in fielding % (.980) ninth in assists (6857) & eleventh in double plays turned (1265).

Retirement: After his playing days he became manager of the San Diego Padres (1987-1988) then went back to his old Phillies team as a coach from 1989-1996.

He became their manager in 2001 winning the Manager of the Year Award, finishing in second place. But after failing to make the post season in three seasons, was fired in 2004 after just ten games.

He became a coach for the Anaheim Angels, A.L. New York club, Seattle Mariners & L.A. Dodgers under Joe Torre in 2008. He has been named the bench coach for the Phillies in the 2014 season, under new manager Ryne Sandberg, whom he mentored back in the early eighties.

In June 2014 he ripped into his Phillies team on local radio, saying the were not playing big league baseball. Bowa singled out Dominick Brown, saying he had five or six good weeks last year & if it was up to him he wouldn't be playing now. He also said pitcher; Roberto Hernandez needed to get deeper into games “if you’ve got a big league uniform on, you gotta go more than five innings.”

In 2015 Sandberg resigned & Bowa remained bench coach under new skipper Pete Mackanin. In late August of 2015 the 69 year old Bowa, went on another tirade, this time against the New York Mets. It caused a bench clearing incident after Met pitcher Hansel Robles threw a quick pitch to Phillie Darin Ruf. 

Bowa has also worked for ESPN & Sirius XM on the MLB Channel.


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