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Bowa fondly recalls days as Phils player, coach


Larry Bowa spends three nights a week at MLB Network's studio in Secaucus, N.J. While he's there, he watches a lot of baseball. And on nights Bowa is not working, he, well, watches a lot of baseball. Especially Phillies games.

Which isn't surprising, since Bowa has been a player, coach and manager for the Phils. He's a postgame analyst for PHL17 after Sunday games. Besides, Bowa is simply a baseball junkie with an ever-inquisitive mind for the game.

After he managed the Phillies from 2001-04, Bowa got a call from ESPN. He worked for the network for a year before becoming Joe Torre's third-base coach, first for the Yankees, then the Dodgers. When Torre retired, Bowa accepted an offer from MLB Network.

"It keeps you involved. It lets you see probably more games than you want to see," Bowa said with a laugh. "It would be a lot easier to just cover one team. But you get to see every team, every night. Which is good. Sometimes it's hard when you have teams like Houston and Miami, where you really don't know the guys. But it's a lot of fun."

Twenty years ago, Bowa was the third-base coach for the worst-to-first Phillies team that is this year celebrating the anniversary of that magical season. That, too, was fun. A lot of fun.

"It was a group of misfits that loved to play baseball," Bowa recalled. "You had guys who played hard. I loved it, because there were guys who were throwbacks. They had the cockiness about them that no matter where we went or who was pitching against us, that they can win. And they had characters on that team.

"After a game, you could be in that locker room an hour-and-a-half, two hours after the game, guys still sitting there talking baseball. At that time, you could still have beers, so you'd sit down and have a couple beers and [shoot the breeze]. It was a fun team to be around. And [Jim Fregosi] did a great job managing. He let those guys be themselves. He had to lay the law down a couple times. But for the most part, he let me and [coach John Vukovich] do all the dirty work. He'd sit there and say, 'Would you get on that [guy]?' So we'd go over and get on him and everything would be OK.

"We had coaches who would play cards with players, the manager would play cards with players. It wasn't like the coaches were in their room -- the manager was in his room. It was guys who literally liked hanging out with each other."

Bowa broke in with the Phillies in 1970. He's lived in the area ever since.

"The first three or four years, we had a lot of guys who lived in the area. We played basketball and did appearances," the Sacramento, Calif., native explained. "And I just stayed. It was perfect for me. I loved the change of seasons. I just love it here."

And the fans loved Bowa in return, loved his scrappy style and his success. Until Jimmy Rollins came along, it was widely accepted that he was the best shortstop in franchise history.

Bowa roots for the Phillies, of course, and believes they can return to the playoffs this season if the bats heat up.

"I just think the way that National League East is right now, Atlanta has a lot of holes, as far as striking out a lot," Bowa said. "I think the best team is Washington. And with two Wild Cards, if they can get their act together and be a little more consistent, offensively, I think they have a shot."

In addition to his television work, Bowa will manage in the annual Under Armour Game, a four-day showcase for some of the best high school underclassmen in the nation, at Wrigley Field on Aug. 24.

"To see those talents is really fun to get involved in. They put two teams together and play each other. No seniors. It's the top juniors. Work out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and play the game Saturday. There are all kinds of scouts there and everything," he said. "They're really talented kids and they're like sponges. They hang onto everything you say."

So does that give Bowa an itch to get back into uniform?

"The only way would be if it was somebody I knew real well and they wanted me to be a bench coach or something like that. I would think about that. But I've had a lot of fun doing what I'm doing," he said. "I watched [a 14-2 loss to the Marlins] and I was starting to get upset. 'What's that guy doing, man?' Just think if you were in uniform. Multiply that by 50."

Bowa laughed again. It's easy to picture him watching games on television, getting agitated when he sees things he doesn't like. He texts Rollins from time to time with suggestions and advice. It's why, one way or another, Bowa will always be watching baseball. Especially Phillies games.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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