Larry Bowa: Phillies Bench Coach


Today at TBOH we’re winding down our 9-part series on the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies uniformed coaching staff with a focus on the team’s Bench Coach, Larry Bowa.

Of all the members on the 2015 coaching staff, Bowa clearly has the most ties to the Phillies organization. In addition to his 12 years playing for the Phillies from 1970-81, Bowa has enjoyed two stints coaching with the team, and managed the club as well. 2015 will mark his 26th season in uniform with the team.

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Bowa signed with the Phillies all the way back in 1965 as an amateur free agent. Five years later, he was promoted to the big club where he played fantastic defense and batted .250 with 24 stolen bases and 34 RBI to finish in 3rd place in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Bowa provided the Phillies with steady glove-work along with 288 stolen bases, 421 RBI, and a .260 batting average over a dozen seasons. As the team’s shortstop he earned five NL All-Star nods and 2 Gold Gloves during his Phillies tenure. He probably should have been awarded more Gold Gloves, but was beaten out a few times by players with greater offensive profiles.

Bowa was the Phils starting shortstop 1970-81.

Bowa was part of a very successful Phillies run during which the team reached the postseason 5 out of 6 years, winning the NL East in 4 of 5 seasons between 1976-80, and brought the organization its first-ever World Series championship in 1980.

In 1982, Bowa was traded away along with a prospect by the name of Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for shortstop Ivan DeJesus in one of the most infamous baseball trades ever, let alone in Phillies history. Bowa would approximate DeJesus’ value in the next few seasons, while Sandberg became an MVP and Hall of Famer.

Across 16 total big league seasons, Larry Bowa hit .260, accumulating 2,191 hits with 318 steals and 525 RBI for the Phillies, Cubs, and Mets. He retired following the 1985 season, one which he began in Chicago, but finished up the final month in a New York uniform after being released by the Cubbies.

Immediately after retirement as a player, Bowa was hired to take over San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate at Las Vegas. He led them to a championship that very first year as a minor league manager, and was then given the chance to manage the San Diego Padres. He was not successful there, released after a little more than a year as skipper.

Following his release from the Padres in 1988, Bowa would return to the Phillies to coach third base until 1996. He enjoyed coaching third, and would go on to do so for the Angels (1997-99), Mariners (2000), Yankees (2006-07), and Dodgers (2008-10).

In between those stints spent waving runners home, Bowa returned to the Phillies in 2001 to take over as the team’s manager position from Terry Francona. When the Phillies had their first winning season in 8 years, Bowa was rewarded with NL Manager of the Year honors. He remained as the Phils manager until being let go following the 2004 season.

When officially given his own reigns to the Phillies in the autumn of 2013, Sandberg started to put his coaching staff together. He turned to his old Phillies and Cubs teammate and trade connection Bowa to fill the pivotal role as Bench Coach because the two were longtime friends.

As Phillies Bench Coach, Bowa serves as Sandberg’s right-hand man and chief advisor. He also helps lead spring training, schedules batting practice, serves as a direct in-game advisor to Sandberg, waits at the phone for official replay challenges, and is ready to step in as an interim Manager if Sandberg is ever ejected.

Bowa has an additional position as infield instructor, so he runs most of the infield drills and gives advice to all of his infielders. Known for his slick defense as a player, Bowa is the perfect man to coach up the infield.

Bowa is famous for his high charisma and bold attitude, making him an excellent complement to the quieter Sandberg. He is often outspoken when he feels that the team or a player is lacking in some area and will make a valiant effort to bring out a change in them.

Good friends for a long time, Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg will continue to look to use their differences in personal and professional style to help extract the most they can out of a roster blend of aging veterans and young unproven players in 2015.