In 1965, the Philadelphia Phillies signed an undrafted free agent for $2,000 (equivalent to about $15,000 today). That same player ended up becoming a five-time All Star, and one of the best shortstops to ever play in the Phillies organization. With plenty of other opportunities sprinkled in over the years, he remains employed by the team that originally signed him all these years later.
Celebrating his 70th birthday in December, Lawrence Robert Bowa has spent his 25th, 50th, and 70th birthdays as part of the Phillies organization. As Larry Bowa celebrates this milestone, we’ll reflect on his lengthy, impressive career in the big leagues.
Because he has spent so much time in the Phillies organization, different generations will remember him in different ways. Many will remember him as the two-time Gold Glove shortstop who won a World Championship in 1980. Bowa played 1,739 games in Phillies pinstripes, shining defensively with his “soft hands.” Always reliable on defense, Bowa led the National League in fielding percentage six times throughout his career.
The switch-hitter had a career .260 average during his 16 major league seasons, including 12 with the Phillies. He also stole 318 bases throughout his career.
1978 was arguably his best year, as Bowa helped lead the Phillies to the National League Championship Series. During the ’78 season, Bowa batted .294 and finished third in the MVP voting. In addition, Bowa played a pivotal role in the postseason, as he batted .333 in the 1978 NLCS. He continued his postseason success in 1980, when he batted .375 during the World Series, helping the Phils lock down their first ever championship.
Others, like myself, will remember him as the fiery manager who put on a show when it came to arguing with umpires. Bowa, hired as Phillies manager in 2000, was awarded National League Manager of the Year in 2001. Although Bowa never made it to October as a manager with the Phillies, he finished with a managerial record of 337-308 for the city he has made his professional home.
There are also some fans that could remember Bowa for his time coaching in other organizations or for his on-air analysis for ESPN.
Bowa has since returned to the Philles organization as a bench coach. Today’s younger generation may not think of him to have a big role on the current team, but it is important to teach them about Bowa’s legacy with the Phillies and how far a player can come after only being scouting by a single professional team. In 2014, Phillies Nation ranked him in the Top 100 Phillies players of all time.
Whether he is remembered as a player, coach, or manager, Bowa will always be known for his heart. He was hard-nosed, the kind of player that Philadelphia loves. He wears his emotions on his sleeves and is not afraid to speak his mind, much like many fans that have cheered him over his decades on the field and in the dugout.
Happy (belated) 70th birthday to Larry Bowa, who continues to reach milestones with the Phillies organization.