Interview Conducted by Brian Waller, AngelsWin.com Feature Writer
Intensity is something you can’t teach. It’s not a pitch you can practice in the bullpen; it’s not a flaw in your swing you can fix in the batting cages. It’s an intangible that doesn’t show in stat lines on the back of baseball cards. It’s a personality trait that is found in winners and leaders throughout baseball’s long history.
Few men are more intense when it comes to the game of baseball then Larry Bowa. Bowa played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball, 12 of those seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. Fast feet, soft hands, a quick temper, and unlimited determination characterized Bowa's years as a player in which he was selected to five All-Star games and was the recipient of two Gold Glove awards. The pinnacle of Bowa’s playing career came in 1980 however when he, along with Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and Steve Carlton beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series bringing the Phillies their first ever championship. Bowa would go on to play another five seasons before retiring in 1985.
Rather than enjoy retirement, Bowa instead chose to begin a new chapter in his baseball career by becoming the manager of the San Diego Padres in 1987. Bowa’s time in San Diego would be brief however as he and the Padres parted ways in 1988. Following his departure from San Diego Bowa would go on to become one of the great third base coaches in recent history as he would man the coach's box for the Phillies, Angels and Mariners.
In 2001, Bowa became the manager of the Phillies and that same year was named the 2001 National League Manager of the Year. Bowa and the Phillies would part ways in 2004 but his time off would be brief, he again found himself in the third base coach’s box, this time for the Yankees and Dodgers.
After departing the Dodgers in 2010, Bowa became an analyst with the MLB Network. Bowa draws from his years of experience as a player, coach and manager to provide viewers with in-depth analysis like only he can. I was fortunate enough to speak with Bowa recently to get his thoughts on his time with the Halos, their chances this season, and the changes that have occurred in baseball since his playing days.
Waller: Larry, On behalf of Angelswin.com I’d like to thank you for your time this afternoon; I know your schedule is very hectic with the 2012 season approaching. You’ve been associated with the game of baseball in numerous capacities throughout the years, Angel fans though will recall your time with the Halos as a third base coach from 1997-1999, can you talk briefly about your time with the Angels and speak of your fondest memory?
Bowa: I remember how enjoyable it was to go to the ballpark every day. The stadium is beautiful. I recall that at the time the crowds weren’t necessarily what they are today for the Angels (in terms of attendance) and when the Yankees came to town it almost seemed like it was an away game for us. The Angel fans were always great though. It was also great being there around the time that the young outfielders were coming into their own, Salmon, Edmonds and Anderson were outstanding young players and were a lot of fun to watch.
Waller: When you were a coach with the Angels, was there one player that you specifically took under your wing as a mentor? If so who, and what did you see in them that made you do so?
Bowa: Not so much as a mentor, but I really enjoyed Gary Disarcina. He was a terrific player, had a blue collar mentality and came to the ball park to play every single day. He was really the glue that held that infield together and he always seemed to fly under the radar. He was one of my favorite players to coach and watch play on a daily basis. He was a gamer.
Waller: We talked about your coaching days with the Angels, how about opposing the Angels? As a coach, who was the one player wearing a Halo’s uniform that you dreaded facing and why?
Bowa: (Laughs) that’s a good question; I have to think about that one. I do know this, the team we did not like facing when I was with the Angels was hands down the Yankees. It always seemed like we played them close but one thing or another would happen and we would end up losing the game. We always felt we played them close and had a chance to win but it didn’t always work out in our favor.
Waller: What one word would you use to describe yourself as a player? How about as a manager/coach?
Bowa: Intense. I was always intense, from the time I got to the ballpark to when I left, both as a player and coach.
Waller: Can you give us a little insight as to why you were so intense? Where does it stem from and when did it start?
Bowa: I’d say it started in high school. I was actually cut from my high school baseball team and I wasn’t drafted out of college either. I had to work twice as hard and when I played the game I never took anything for granted. I played every game; every out like it might be my last. I think that is where the intensity came from.
Waller: After years of playing, coaching and managing, how is it being away from the field and sitting in a studio commentating on the game? Has it been a big adjustment for you?
Bowa: It hasn’t been really. I get paid to come to work every day and watch baseball and talk baseball. The MLB Network treats us really good here.
Waller: Do you see yourself ever coaching or managing again?
Bowa: If the right situation came along yeah, I do. Like I said, I’m happy with where I am at now but if the right situation comes a long I would be interested.
Waller: You’ve been associated with this game for decades. As a player, coach, manager and now as a commentator, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
Bowa: A personal goal that I am very proud of is getting 2,000 hits. As it pertains to the team, it would be winning a world series in 1980. There is no feeling that tops winning a World Series, I don’t care if you hit .350 in ten straight seasons, it doesn’t compare to being a champion. That is what I am most proud of, being a part of that (Philadelphia) Phillies team and winning the World Series.
Waller: Has the game changed for the better since your playing days?
Bowa: I think so, yes. I am a fan of the playoff format change, it builds excitement in cities around the league and it gives teams incentive to win their division. I am a fan of instant replay as well, every other sport has it and I think baseball should have it too. It’s important to get the call right.
Waller: Some say there has been a power shift in the American League, from the East to the West. Do you agree with that?
Bowa: The AL West is definitely stronger than it’s been in a while. Those two teams (Angels and Rangers) are both very good and I think who goes to the World Series comes down to a battle between those two teams. From top to bottom though I think the AL East still has more depth and better quality teams. I don’t think a lot of people realize how good the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be this seasons. That gives the AL East 4 very good teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays).
Waller: The Angels and Rangers have developed quite a rivalry recently which has made for competitive and entertaining games. If you could pick one game to watch, either the Yankees vs Red Sox or the Angels vs Rangers, which game would you pick?
Bowa: I don’t think you could go wrong picking either of them. For me, it comes down to the (pitching) match-ups. The Angels rotation is very impressive and they have the ability to throw an ace out there on a nightly basis. Again, it’s hard to choose one game so I will base my decision off of the pitching match-ups between the two teams.
Waller: Who do you predict will meet in the 2012 World Series?
Bowa: That’s difficult to say right now, there are some very good teams right now. I see it coming down to the Rangers or Angels for the AL. The Angels rotation is just so strong. The one question mark I think the team has though is Jordan Walden. I think if he can improve on his control then he could easily roll of 45 saves. I also think Detroit (Tigers) are going to be a very good team this seasons as well. As far as the NL, I think it comes down to the (Philadelphia) Phillies and the (St. Louis) Cardinals with the (San Francisco) Giants not far behind.
Waller: Final question, I have got to know something. From a coach and player perspective, what did the team think of the late 1990’s Angels uniform? Were you guys a fan of the winged “A” and the periwinkle blue?
Bowa: (Laughs) You know, they weren’t that bad. I will say this though; they aren’t nearly as sharp as the Angels uniform today. The uniforms today are really nice.
Waller: Again, I just wanted to thank you for your time today Larry. You’ve provided us with some good insight on a lot of different topics. Angelswin.com really appreciates it.
Bowa: It was my pleasure. I hope you guys enjoy the season.
One thing became clear to me while I was speaking with Larry Bowa, the passion he has for the game of baseball hasn’t diminished since he became a commentator. When speaking about the game, Bowa is very sincere and the intensity that he displayed on the field for decades now manifests itself in the form of debating baseball topics. It wasn’t necessarily an interview but more two people just talking baseball. It was truly a pleasure speaking with a man that has accomplished so much in the game of baseball.
*Larry Bowa can be seen regularly on MLB Hot Stove, MLB Tonight and 30 Clubs in 30 Days on the MLB Network.