Paul Owens had a .374 batting average in his seven-year minor league career. However, the first baseman never played in the major leagues. Instead the “Pope” went on to become one of the most beloved front office figures in Philadelphia Phillies‘ history.
Today’s news from the Vatican in Rome evoked fond memories of Owens, whose resemblance to Pope Paul VI led to his famous nickname being placed on his head. This former Phillies’ scout, farm system director, general manager and two-time manager’s spirit is in the air this spring as he watches over this red pinstriped squad.
Owens, along with Dallas Green, developed what became known as the Phillies’ first “Golden Era” (1976-1983). Their efforts created the indelible 1980 World Series Championship season and set the bar that the current era has nearly rivaled.
It’s fair to debate if current Phillies’ teams (2007-present) have equaled, or surpassed what Owens, Green, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox, Pete Rose, Manny Trillo, Bake McBride and every other member of those late 1970s and early 1980s groups accomplished.
The core of those fabulous teams included a blend of veterans and younger baseball men, just as these strong Phillies’ years have seen. In my digital score book, we need to watch the remaining years of this era play out before a final judgement can potentially be made.
In 1986, the Phillies established the “Paul Owens Award”, which honors the best position player and pitcher in the farm system. Last year’s winners (Darin Ruf and Tyler Cloyd) generated fantastic minor league statistics. With whatever their future careers may hold, they will always retain the honor of being associated with one of the greatest baseball men in franchise history.
The collective efforts of the front office, the players and the coaching staff will help to determine the fate of this year’s team. As long as a large majority of those individuals work as smartly as the “Pope” did during his reign, their future path to diamond holiness will be secured.