At age 67, Larry Bowa has learned a lot in the 10 years since he managed the Phillies. Most of those things he picked up from working under Joe Torre as a coach for the Yankees and Dodgers.
Torre, Bowa said, was always under control. Not only did Torre delegate responsibility well, but he also never wavered with his outward demeanor. For players, a manager who kept cool and consistent was reassuring. And it worked that way for a coach, too, says Bowa.
“Joe was the type of manager who wanted his coaches to be coaches. In other words, he gave us responsibilities in certain areas and that was how he ran his situation,” Bowa said during a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. “I guess the one thing you learn from Joe Torre was that in pressure situations, his patience never wavered. If it was a playoff situation or the first game of the season he had the same mannerisms and that was how he was in the clubhouse. He was always under control. As a coach that was very big.”
Bowa, who managed the Padres for two seasons and the Phillies for four, as well as coached for the Phils, Angels, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers, sees a lot of Torre in his new boss Ryne Sandberg. Already, Bowa has been told he was in charge of the infield and, as the new bench coach, Bowa will help strategize with the manager.
Now the plan is for Bowa to practice some of the coolness and calmness he picked up from Torre and Sandberg. When Bowa was the manager of the Phillies, there were times when his emotions rose to the forefront. In fact, the thought was that in order to return for a fourth go-around with the Phillies, Bowa would have to mend some fences with the front office.
According to Bowa, however, nothing of the sort had to be done. As Bowa said, the only time he left the Phillies on poor terms was when he asked to be traded as a player. Bowa says that was because of a contract dispute and it got pretty bad. But as a result of that trade to the Cubs, Bowa and Sandberg became friends. Thirty years later, the two are on the same team again.
“Ryne has a personality that’s very similar to Joe,” Bowa said. “Ryno is very knowledgeable so I see this as a very good situation.”
In other words, don’t expect Bowa to impose his managerial acumen on Sandberg. That’s not going to happen.
“We work for Ryno and we’ll do whatever he wants us to do,” Bowa said.
It’s a wonder Bowa wasn’t working for Sandberg sooner. A Hall of Fame player and a living legend in Chicago, where he played 16 seasons for the Cubs, Sandberg got into managing in the minors for the Cubs' organization. He was passed over as a managerial candidate in favor of Mike Quade, and when the Cubs needed another manager a year later, Sandberg wasn’t even granted an interview before Dale Sveum was hired.
Now Sveum is gone, the Cubs need another new manager and Sandberg is locked up with the Phillies. Looks like the Cubs blew it again.
Nevertheless, to some in baseball it’s a bit of a head-scratcher why Sandberg waited so long before getting a chance to be a big league manager.
“That’s a great question,” Bowa said. “He’s a great baseball man and obviously his credentials as a player speak for themselves. The fact that he went down to the minors and rode the buses tells you a lot about the individual. In interviews sometimes you think it went good but on the other side of the table they didn’t think it went so good. It’s all in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Again, I was shocked it didn’t happen faster because of his knowledge and his demeanor and the way he handled kids in the minors and his teaching ability. But I guess sometimes all great things are worth waiting for.
“This looks like it’s a great situation for Ryno.”