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Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Casual Critic — Barry M. Bloom's Larry Bowa: I Still Hate to Lose

Barry M. Bloom's Larry Bowa: I Still Hate to Lose may offer Philadelphia Phillies' fans their only glimpse of a fiery, passionate player (or manager) that actually cares about winning games this year. Written in cooperation with Bowa, the book offers a look at the career of the guy who was the Phils' last on-field link to the one championship in their 100-plus year history.

The cliche'd "overachiever" come to life, Bowa carved out a career in Major League Baseball that has now touched four decades despite being doubted every step of the way. His drive to win comes right through the pages, which offers plenty of the behind-the-scenes stuff you'd expect from such a book.

Appropriate for a guy known as the quintessential "baseball guy," the book focuses entirely on Bowa's career offering almost nothing about his personal life. It starts with the signing of his first pro contract for $2,000 after he went undrafted, and you actually believe him when he says, "I didn't care about the money."

The most interesting aspect of the book was Bowa's relationships with players he played with and managed. He's very honest (though I suspect pulls some punches) about his relationship with Mike Schmidt, who was originally brought in to supplant Bowa at shortstop. He's equally honest about dealing with Phils management as a player and, later, a manager.

Bloom gets a bit bogged town tying up loose ends of the careers of seemingly every guy Bowa ever dealt with. For me, some of the details of a particular season got a bit dull, but that's probably more about me than a flaw in the book. In fact, having wavered in my fandom of the Phils and baseball in general over the years, the baseball details about the Phils were actually enjoyable to me.

A twist that neither Bowa nor Bloom could have perceived was that the book ends just before the 2004 season — after which Bowa was fired as manager of the Phils. Reading Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade talk about how Bowa was just the guy they needed offered plenty of irony and, I guess, things to ponder about how people really work.

This is worth the read, but, I suspect, mostly for the true fan.

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