They ate lunch before every game. A discussion, naturally, about the day's pitcher arose. Later, when nine innings of work were complete, the two men traded together from Philadelphia to Chicago, shared a beer.
"He took me under his wing and taught me everything about the game," Ryne Sandberg said last month about Larry Bowa, and it is not difficult to understand why Sandberg wants Bowa by his side in the infancy of his major-league managing career just as he was there when the two played.
Bowa will be Sandberg's bench coach, the Phillies announced Tuesday. The hire is not a surprise; one team source said Bowa long jockeyed for the role. Sandberg considers Bowa one of his closest confidants in the game.
For the Phillies, the decision was not as simple. Bowa departed this organization on shaky terms when he was fired as manager at the end of the 2004 season. It is likely Sandberg convinced the front office that Bowa's combative personality will fit into his staff without issue.
Bowa, who turns 68 in December, is currently an MLB Network analyst. This would be Bowa's fourth stint with the Phillies. They signed him in 1965 and he played shortstop from 1970-81. He served as a coach from 1988-96. And he managed to a .522 winning percentage from 2001-04.
Sandberg has three openings on his staff __ pitching coach, bench coach and third-base coach. Mick Billmeyer, who was dismissed as catching coach, served as the Phillies' de facto bench coach in 2013.
One of Bowa's tasks will be motivating Jimmy Rollins in his twilight years. The two men have mutual respect for one another. Sandberg has stressed the need for improved pregame preparation by his players. He learned many of his tactics from Bowa. They were traded by the Phillies in 1982 to the Cubs for Ivan de Jesus.
"The four years that I was with him, I really learned a lot about the game," Sandberg said. "... How to play catch right, working hand-in-hand pregame at shortstop, double play combinations, all that. That went a long way."
Sandberg used one of Bowa's bats for the first of his 2,386 hits in a Hall of Fame career. Now, the two friends will come full circle.
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