Sunday, March 11, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #23 Larry Bowa

Of all the memorable players from the 1980 World Champs, Larry Bowa most epitomized the determination and fiery passion of the Philadelphia fans. Undrafted and largely ignored as a college player, Bowa almost blew his only chance to sign as a professional. The Phillies were the only team interested and sent a local scout to watch him play, only the witness Bowa ejected for arguing. He eventually got scouted and signed for a $2,000 bonus in 1965.

After four minor league seasons where he further developed his signature soft hands and strong arm; Bowa took over as the Phils shortstop (from Don Money) in 1970. In his second season, he recorded the first ever hit at the newly minted Veterans Stadium on April 10, 1971. Never a serious offensive threat, it was his defense that initially kept him in the lineup. When he did get on base he used his speed and stole more than 30 bases three times. In 1974 he actually stole more bases than the number of runners he drove in.

Grinding it out on last place teams in the first four big league seasons, Larry Bowa helped reverse the losing trajectory of the franchise while laying the foundation for the club's divisional titles in 1976, '77 and '78 and capped it off with a World Series ring in 1980. He was also a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. Through it all, he gave everything he had to the team, hustling, stealing bases, diving for balls, and calling out anyone who dared to not work as hard as he did.

His trade to the Cubs following the 1981 season is best remembered by Phillies fans not for delivering the younger Ivan DeJesus, but for tossing in future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. In 1984, Bowa and Sandberg helped deliver the Cubs first playoff appearance in 39 seasons.

When he finished his playing career following the 1985 season (he spent his last 14 games in what had to be a humiliating Mets uniform) he held the NL record for games played at shortstop (2,222), years leading NL shortstops in fielding (6), and for fewest errors in a season of 150 or more games (9). He also held the ML record for highest fielding percentage for a career (.980) and for a season of over 100 games (.991).


Jim from Downingtown said...

Bowa was the longest-tenured Phillie on the 1980 champions.

Dick Allen Hall of Fame said...

You know, I never thought or realized that was true. Very cool.

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