Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#255 - Larry Bowa

This is the second card in a row of a player on a former Topps rookie team. Larry Bowa, seen here about to run to first in Philly, was the shortstop on the '70 team which was pretty odd because the '69 shortstop, Don Money, was also a Phillie. But Larry was too good defensively not to get a place in the lineup so Money moved to third, eventually gave way to Mike Schmidt, and after a decade Larry and Mike would be the infield anchors on a Series winner.

Larry Bowa grew up in Sacramento where he came from baseball lineage but had a tough time cracking his high school lineup. His dad had played minor league ball and was nearly killed by a beanball when Larry was a kid. Larry then played for two years at Sacramento City College, a community school where he was all-conference and then was signed by the Phillies (by the same scout who signed Bob Oliver) when passed over in the draft late in '65. The next year he was a hitting machine in Single A and in '67 once he finished his military hitch he hit pretty well in Double A. In '68 his average fell but he began wowing people with his defense at the same level and in '69 he ramped up everything in Triple A, including stealing 48 bases. In both '68 and '69 he played for Frank Lucchesi which would be beneficial up top.

Bowa came up to stay in '70 and immediately took over shortstop from Money, who moved to third base. While his D was quite good his hitting was miserable and halfway through the season he was still in the low hundreds when he got a show of fealty from his manager, who happened to be Lucchesi. Larry picked things up, hitting close to .300 the rest of the way, finishing at a respectable .250. He came in third in NL ROY voting and made the Topps team. '71 began pretty similarly and mandated another late rally as on the field he tied a record for best fielding percentage by a shortstop. He topped that the following season as he led the majors in triples and won his first Gold Glove. In '73 Larry got hurt and his average took a tumble. But things got better fast. Joined by Dave Cash in the middle, Larry started hitting like his teammate and upped his average 64 points and stole 39 bases in '74 to grab his first All-Star appearance. The following season he topped .300 and in '76 while his average dipped a bunch he got his lifetime high in RBIs with 49. He also saw his first post-season action that fall and the next two seasons as the Phillies won their division he hit well over .280. In '79 the average tumbled again as the Phillies failed to repeat but Larry upped his record fielding average to .991 by putting up only six errors during the season. In '80 it all came together for Philly and Larry had his best post-season, hitting .316 against Houston and .375 against the Royals. After an '81 that was a bit acrimonious he left the Phillies in a trade to the Cubs with Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus. Larry left behind five All-Star nods, two Gold Gloves, and a lot of playoff games.

With Chicago, Bowa played the elder statesman, helping to groom Sandberg at second as he took DeJesus' spot at short. The first couple seasons he kept his average up but in '84 he lost some starting time to a couple other veterans. He did, however, get to be part of an exciting division championship, the Cubbies first title in almost 40 years. In '85 new kid Shawon Dunston showed up and Larry got moved to a reserve role and then to the Mets where he finished out the season and his playing career. He finished with a .260 average with 2,191 hits and 318 stolen bases. On defense he grabbed six fielding titles and ranks high for just about every major category. In the post-season he hit .254 in 32 games. In '86 he immediately got a managing gig, leading the PCL Las Vegas Stars to a title. That got him promoted all the way to the top, where he managed the Padres the next two seasons. He has stayed connected to baseball since, either as a manager: Phillies (2001-'04); coach: Phillies ('89-'96), Angels ('97-'99), Mariners (2000), Yankees ('06-'07), and Dodgers ('08-'10); and analyst: ESPN and Sirius ('05), and MLB ('11). His record as a manager up top is 418-435 and in '01 he won NL Manager of the Year as he revived the franchise. He's been a busy boy.

Larry's star bullets of course are all D-related. He broke each of these records himself later in his career. The cartoon is interesting. I wouldn't have considered the fiery Bowa patient enough to write anything down but he sure showed a lot while managing.

On this date in '74 a new number one song took over in the States, the very syrupy "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton-John. The song sort of punctuated what a sorry state of affairs popular music was in that year.

Since these two guys were Topps all-stars let's see if we can hook them up through another one:

1. Bowa and Del Unser ('68 team) '79 to '81 Phillies;
2. Unser and Stan Bahnsen '77 to '78 Expos.

1 comment:

  1. LOL Love it! Looks like Larry's tripping over his shoelaces and won't make it to 1st!