Bowa has seen it all with the Phillies over the last half-century as a player, coach, manager, and club advisor
From his very first moment in front of Phillies scouts as a teenage ballplayer in California right through the current day, Bowa has been a fiery, emotional, heart-on-his sleeve, hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar player and coach, the type that Philly fans have always embraced.
His father, Paul Bowa, had been a minor leaguer in the Saint Louis Cardinals system during the 1940’s, and a player-manager in that Cards’ system in both 1946 and 1947. Much as his future son, and in contrast to a grandson who would also reach the big leagues, , Paul was a speedy, slick-fielding infielder.
In the off-season prior to his father’s debut as a manager, on December 6th, 1945 in Sacramento, California, Larry was born. By the early 1960’s, the scrawny Bowa was trying out for the team at McClatchy High School in Sacramento. He would never make the team in the entirety of his high school days.
“It was very disappointing. The reason they gave me was not because I wasn’t good enough but because I was too small,” Bowa told saccityexpress.com early this month.
“I used to watch little guys play in the big leagues, and I figured it doesn’t matter how small you are. As long as you play the game right, you have a big heart, and you’re willing to sacrifice, I think anything is possible.”
At Sacramento City College, Bowa finally broke through, becoming the starter at shortstop. With a slick glove, soft hands, and a strong arm, Bowa was the prototypical great fielding, light hitting middle infielder. He was expected to be selected in the 1965 MLB Amateur Draft process, but was passed over.
In his first professional season in 1966, Bowa was fantastic with the Phillies’ A-level team at Spartanburg. He hit .312 with 70 runs scored and 24 steals in 453 plate appearances over 97 games, earning a late-season promotion all the way to AAA San Diego.
Too young for a full shot in AAA, Bowa was sent back in the Phillies system the following year. Over the next three seasons, Bowa rose incrementally back through the minors, again reaching AAA in 1969, this time at Eugene. He hit .287 with 80 runs scored and 48 steals across 608 plate appearances. He also continued the tremendous defense at shortstop that was becoming his hallmark.