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If these Walls Could Talk: Philadelphia Phillies
Stories from the Philadelphia Phillies Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box
By Larry Shenk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2014 Larry Shenk
All rights reserved.
Men in Pinstripes
More than 1,900 players have worn our uniform since the inaugural game in 1883. No, I wasn't around then and I didn't know all 1,900. I do know that 508 played for us at Veterans Stadium and I was around for three of our homes. Alphabetically the players stretched from Kyle Abbott to Jon Zuber.
The first time I ever saw Dick Allen was at the Hershey Arena. He was the point guard on the Wampum (Pennsylvania) High School basketball team that reached the state championship three consecutive years. As a sophomore and senior at Wampum, he won the state title. But his ability to hit a baseball overshadowed his hoop skills. Baseball scouts began following Allen as a junior. Scouts in those days doubled as salesmen, and Dick's mother, Era Allen, served as her son's negotiator. She was comfortable with the 66-year-old Phillies scout, John Ogden. Upon graduating from school in 1960, Allen signed a pro baseball contract that included a $60,000 bonus. Allen was a gifted athlete, strong and quick. His instinct on how to play baseball was exceptional, and he was driven to win.
Four years after graduating, he went to spring training and was put at third base, a new position. He had some kind of a rookie season, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Swinging a 42-ounce bat, he could punish the baseball. His titanic home runs at Connie Mack Stadium are legendary. On May 29, 1965, Allen hit a monster home run over the Coca-Cola sign atop the left-field roof in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs' Larry Jackson. Sandy Grady, the columnist I idolized, was at the game. He asked how far the ball had traveled. So he and I left the park and tried to figure out the distance. A man sitting on his porch showed us where the ball had landed. We used our gait to measure length and then estimated the depth of the left-field stands and the distance from home plate. We finally came up with 529 feet. Two years later he became the first player to hit a home run over the center-field fence between the stands and the flagpole at Connie Mack Stadium since the fence was raised to 32 feet in 1934. The homer came off Nellie Briles in a 4–3 win against St. Louis.
Since I didn't travel often in the early years, watching the games on television became the routine. When Allen was due to bat, I didn't dare raid the fridge. I didn't want to risk missing something special. Every game was recorded in a stat book. We took down the game, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, etc. for hitters. He was one of the few players that always had something else posted in his line other than a game number. Granted, that included strikeouts, too. His Phillies years were sprinkled with controversy. He became a target of the boo birds and wanted out of Philadelphia. In his autobiography, Crash, he admitted, "I always was rebellious. I liked doing things my own way." He left the Phillies and played on three other teams.
In early May of 1975, Paul Owens called me into his office and asked, "What do you think would be the fan and media reaction if we brought Dick Allen back?" I couldn't answer right away because I was stunned. Owens wanted a veteran bat between Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. I said I thought the fans would welcome him back, but I wasn't sure about the media. Allen and the media were like oil and water.
We ended up bringing him back and had a press conference in the Veterans Stadium Press Club on May 7. The room was packed. Afterward we went to the field for some photo ops. He was a slugger, and his bat was needed. He took some swings while the cameras clicked. That swing was memorable, pure, and unmistakable. It belonged to Allen. Ten years after his 529-foot home run, No. 15 returned to the Phillies. Seven days after the press conference, he singled in his first at-bat and drew a standing ovation. It was a night I'll never forget.
We were both rookies in 1964. Now we're both graying old-timers. He is a regular at alumni weekends. The fans love him, and his former teammates love him. His laugh can be heard often all weekend. He truly is a Phillies legend.
At age 30 he was on our 1983 National League champions, a virtual kid on the Wheeze Kids. At age 40 he was on our 1993 National League champions, the senior citizen of that wacky bunch. So he goes down as our only player to appear in both of those World Series. Although he fit in with both teams, he was more suited for the '93 team of misfits and rejects. No. 47 was a tough reliever with a nasty slider, but he was also adept at keeping the clubhouse loose with masks, wigs, fake teeth, colored hair, etc.
L.A. always had room for fans. He visited children and adults in the hospital without fanfare. He was more than willing to meet fans that had special needs at the ballpark. His popularity carried over to the broadcast booth where he's been a fixture since 1998, adding inside knowledge and humor. During a game broadcast, Scott Franzke was talking about a certain major league umpire. "He has a law degree, L.A.," Franzke said. "[He] passed the bar last off-season. Andersen retorted, "I never passed a bar." During the 2013 season, Andersen said out of the blue, "Scott, I'm going to start a Please Smell Museum for Dogs." He also said, "I was going to ask Dallas Green to autograph his book but was afraid he would ruin my Kindle."
He's also one of the leading pranksters. The television broadcasters have a shirt dress code for each telecast. In early September of 2013, Gary Matthews didn't get the message during the day that a certain sweater was to be worn that night. All broadcasters do their pregame work in a room behind the broadcast booths at Citizens Bank Park. Matthews learned of the change, headed for the Majestic Clubhouse store, and purchased the size XL sweater. Upon returning to the broadcaster's workroom, he left the room and made the mistake of leaving the sweater at his station. Meanwhile, Chris Wheeler's size M is hanging on a hanger, and he's not in the room either. Andersen took Matthews' XL out of the plastic bag and replaced it with Wheeler's medium-sized sweater. Wheeler returned, put on the XL, didn't think anything of it, and headed for the booth and the first three innings. Matthews' time on the air is the fourth through the sixth innings. So just before the fourth, he grabs the plastic bag, pulls out the sweater, and can hardly get it on, let alone zip it. Matthews gets angry with himself for buying the wrong size. The radio booth is adjacent to the TV booth, and Andersen couldn't wait to see Matthews. Andersen cracked up watching Matthews in the booth with the tiny sweater.
What do Gavvy Cravath, Hans Lobert, Ryne Sandberg, and Larry Bowa have in common? They were the only ones to play, coach, and manage the Phillies (not counting interim managers). What nobody has in common with Larry is that he was scouted on a bed sheet. The first ever summer draft took place in 1965, and Bowa, a skinny shortstop from Sacramento, California, wasn't selected, even though 824 amateur players were.
Our scout, the late Eddie Bockman, had seen Bowa play at various levels of amateur baseball in the San Francisco Bay area. He knew Bowa had basic baseball tools, knew he had heart, knew he was a competitor, knew he had a temper, and thought it worthy of bringing Owens (director of the farm system then) into the picture.
During the 1965 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins, Bockman and Owens met in the latter's hotel suite in Los Angeles. Bockman told Owens he had some eight-millimeter film of a young infielder and wanted him to see the home movie. They did not have a screen, so Owens took the sheet off his bed, and the two of them scotch taped it to the wall. Even with the film slightly out of focus, Owens could tell that Bowa had three tools: he could run, field, and throw. "His hitting didn't look very pretty," Owens said at the time. But Owens had moved from scouting to the front office a few weeks before that first draft and knew the system lacked middle infielders. When he asked him how much it would take to sign Bowa, Bockman replied, "I believe I can get him for $1,000, would like to kick in a couple hundred more, you know, for shoes and a new glove." Bowa signed for $1,200 on October 12, 1965.
Bockman's scouting report that day: "The past three months Larry has shown consistent progress. He had been inconsistent, and this could have been because of his temperament. He used to have a distinct quick temper, but he's controlled this, and his progress has been steady. He has a major league arm for a shortstop. His glove is getting better, due to the improvement in his range. He's had a problem with the bat but has picked up some improvement. Larry runs well and has good judgment on the bases. He has great desire. Cannot sit around, has to be doing something all the time. He has some leadership in the field. Keep him playing, he could be there in four years, maybe less."
"Bo" made his pro debut in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1966 but was ready to quit after going 0–4 with four strikeouts in his first game. He was a victim of a young flamethrower named Nolan Ryan. His first year in our big league camp in Clearwater, Florida, was 1967. He wore No. 53. I remember manager Gene Mauch saying, "I can see him run, can see him catch the ball, can see him throw. When he hits, I don't hear anything."
Bockman said Bowa could reach the majors in four years, maybe less. Bowa made it in four years. A right-handed batter, he began switch-hitting in 1969. The next year he was in the majors, and if it hadn't been for manager Frank Lucchesi, Bowa may not have lasted very long. Off to a slow start as a rookie, Lucchesi stuck with Bowa, who finished his career with a .260 average and 2,191 hits. Bowa was eliminated on the first Hall of Fame ballot because of a low number of votes. To me that is a crime. But that's another story. His career ended as the greatest shortstop in Phillies history ... until Jimmy Rollins came along.
Did Bowa have a temper? Well, he's the only player I know who received a plumbing bill from the club. It seems that the porcelain toilet in a restroom behind the Vet dugout got destroyed by Bowa's bat one time. He didn't take failure lightly. In our clubhouse I once made a casual remark, "This team's too tense." Bowa heard me and barked, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN TENSE?" He was an ultracompetitive battler who was scrappy, chirpy, and feisty. He had verbal run-ins with his manager, Green, in 1980, had his own radio talk show in which he didn't hold back opinions, got on the fans at times, but on the field, he was driven to excel. His glove seemed to be made out of gold.
Davey Concepcion was a brilliant shortstop with the Cincinnati Reds during much of Bowa's career. Bowa used to needle him, "Is your name Elmer? I keep seeing E-Concepcion in the box score." Bowa could chirp and agitate his own team, too. He was in constant motion. Bockman said he "has to be doing something all the time." Bowa was chirping in the clubhouse, and Steve Carlton had enough. Lefty walked up to Bowa, put his strong hand around his neck, and squeezed. He didn't say a word, but the message came through. Jim Kaat pitched for the Phillies for a few years and paid Bowa the highest compliment. "Leading 1–0 with two out in the top of the ninth and a runner on third, I wanted the ball hit to Bowa," Kaat said. "He was automatic."
You want to talk about a competitor. During Game 1 of the 1980 World Series, the Kansas City Royals led 4–0 with the Phillies coming to bat with one out in the bottom of the third inning. Bowa started things off with a single. He then stole second — not exactly your textbook play when down by four. That steal sparked a five-run inning, and we went on to win 7–6. When Tug McGraw ended the series with a strikeout, the players rushed to McGraw. I can still see Bowa leaping like a kangaroo on his way to join the delirious pile of happy Phillies.
During that series Bowa started seven double plays, a World Series record that still stands. Following the emotional World Series parade, Bowa said, "All those fans, all in red, entire families, generations of Phillies fans, tears rolling down their faces, those memories will stick with me the rest of my life. To me Philadelphia is the greatest place in the world to play, and an even better place to win."
After his playing career, he came back to coach and may have been baseball's best third-base coach. In later years Bowa coached for Joe Torre with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. When Torre was named manager of the USA team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he named Bowa his bench coach. On TV he could be seen chewing sunflower seeds constantly while not missing a trick on the field.
While he and fellow Sacramento buddy, John Vukovich, were coaches with us, they shared a high-rise condo on Sand Key Beach one spring. "Bowa always grabbed the TV remote first. The longest I saw a show was 10 seconds," Vukovich said, laughing.
When Ed Wade was running the team, he interviewed many candidates before settling on Bowa as manager in 2001. Bringing back Bowa to the Phillies was what we needed. He provided credibility, a known winner who bled Phillies red. Most of the new manager press conferences are held at the ballpark. This time I wanted to do something different. We were welcoming him back to Philadelphia. The top floor of Loews Hotel had the perfect location, a panoramic view of the city. The luncheon/press conference drew a large media crowd. It was great having No. 10 back in his No. 10 pinstriped jersey.
Three years later Wade made a change, a very difficult one, and decided to remove Bowa as manager. I was told to go to Bowa's office at Citizens Bank Park to see how he wanted to handle the media. Bowa grabbed a yellow tablet, wrote his comments, handed it to me, and said that would be it. He wrote: "I want to thank the Phillies organization for the opportunity to manage. I wish them the best of luck in the coming years." He was miffed as generally is the case with any manager being let go.
Bowa has the distinction of playing in the last game at Connie Mack Stadium and in the first one at Veterans Stadium. (He recorded the first hit there.) Then he managed the last game at the Vet and the first game at Citizens Bank Park. A kid who was cut from his high school team wound up wearing a Phillies uniform for 26 years, the longest in our history. A year behind him came his buddy, Vuk. Two Sacramento natives became fixtures in Philadelphia.
Not much attention was paid to the 1980 Amateur Draft in June. Philadelphia's focus was on the Phillies' road to their first world championship. In the 25th round (629th overall selection), the Phillies selected Darren Arthur Daulton, a 170-pound catcher out of Arkansas City, Kansas. He was the fourth catcher we selected that day after Lebo Powell (first round), Doug Maggio (third round), and Jerome Kovar (10th). All three signed professionally but never got beyond three years of minor league baseball. Darren, or Dutch, or Bubba, as he was called, made it big time. The only other player we selected in that draft who had a big league career of significance was short- stop Steve Jeltz.
Dutch was the greatest team leader I've ever seen. Jim Fregosi trusted him to run the clubhouse, patting guys on the back or reaming them out. He'd challenge anyone and was the general on the field. Vukovich said, "I played with better players. I've coached better players. But in 32 years I never saw a bigger leader. For me he set the standard of being a man."
"There was no one else who could even come close [as a leader]," John Kruk said. "But he did it the right way. He would pull people aside one on one. It was always private and very calm and casual. I heard him tell guys on our team, 'If you don't straighten out and start doing things the right way, I'm going to kick your [butt].' And it got straightened out."
Although Daulton didn't get a ring with the Phillies, he did as a member of the 1997 Florida Marlins. He was a veteran whose skills were on the downward trend, but the Marlins wanted him for his leadership in the clubhouse. Al Leiter and Daulton were driving together to the Marlins park the second day Daulton was with the club. He told Leiter he was going to call a team meeting because after one game with the Marlins he saw some things he didn't like. He commanded that kind of respect.
Excerpted from If these Walls Could Talk: Philadelphia Phillies by Larry Shenk. Copyright © 2014 Larry Shenk. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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