Paul Owens dies at age 79
Built the 1980 world championship team
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Paul Owens, architect of the 1980 World Series champion Phillies and manager of the 1983 NL champion Phillies, died Friday morning at Underwood Hospital in Woodbury, N.J., following a long illness. He was 79.
During a 48-year Phillies career, Owens served in every level of player development -- minor league player, manager, scout, director of the farm system, Major League GM and manager.
Nicknamed "The Pope" in the 1960s because of his resemblance to Pope Paul VI, Owens is responsible for the greatest era in Phillies history. As GM, his teams won East Division titles in 1976-78 and 1980. The 1981 Phillies reached the postseason as the first-half division champs during a split season caused by a players' strike.
"Pope was one of my dearest friends and my mentor," said Dallas Green, the manager of the 1980 Phillies. "He was one of the best baseball men I've been around. He taught me so much about baseball and life. He had great judgment, tremendous patience and a love and feel for this game."
Owens also had a sense of timing. During the 1980 season, the Pope accompanied the team on their final West Coast trip of the season. Unhappy with his talented team, Owens lashed into the players before a Sept. 1 game in San Francisco.
No detail was left out during the 30-minute tirade.
"As he started out he was somewhat calm," said role player John Vukovich, on a video recalling that season. "As he got into it, his right leg was bouncing so much. He was getting so mad."
"He took no prisoners," added Larry Bowa, the starting shortstop on that team.
The Phillies responded with 23 wins in September, 16 by one run. The momentum continued in October, when the they downed Houston in the NL playoffs, then beat Kansas City for the franchise's only World Series title.
Owens began his professional baseball career as a first baseman in the St. Louis Cardinals system in 1951. During his minor league career (1951-53, 1955-57), he won three batting titles and compiled a .374 average.
He joined the Phillies as a player-manager in Olean, N.Y., in 1955. He won the Pony League batting title there in 1957 with a .407 average. After three years at Olean, Owens was promoted to manager of the Bakersfield, Calif., club in the California League for 1958 and 1959.
After the 1959 season, Owens became a scout, covering Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Western Colorado and Southern Nevada. He was promoted to director of the farm system on May 22, 1965, overseeing the scouting and minor league player development phases. He was instrumental in the building of Carpenter Field, a Spring Training complex in Clearwater, Fla., in 1967. The clubhouse there is named in his honor.
Owens became vice president, director of player development on June 3, 1972, when he succeeded John Quinn. Under his watch, the Phillies signed and developed players such as Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson -- a group of players that formed the nucleus of the championship teams of the 1970s. He swung deals that added key players such as Tug McGraw, Bake McBride, Manny Trillo, Garry Maddox, Ron Reed and Gene Garber.
But it was his staunch belief in building a championship through the minor leagues that defined him.
"His philosophy of developing your own talent is a pattern many teams have followed," said team president David Montgomery. "He had tremendous love for his own family and the Phillies family as well. He possessed a special quality of carying for everyone in the organization from the players to the front office."
Owens took the managerial reigns midway through the 1983 season, replacing Pat Corrales, and guided the Wheeze Kids -- nicknamed such because of its many veteran players -- to the NL Pennant. The Phillies fell to the Orioles in the World Series. That club included four future Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez.
He remained the skipper through the 1984 season and was the winning manager at that summer's All-Star Game.
Owens was named assistant to the president in 1985 and senior advisor to the general Manager in 1998.
He was a yearly fixture at Spring Training until health issues kept him away in 2003. As recently as two years ago, Owens spent time in Clearwater with the Major League and minor league Phillies. During the season, he often watched home games at Veterans Stadium from the private box of GM Ed Wade.
Illness kept him away from the Vet in 2003 until Sept. 28, when he participated in the closing ceremonies after the final game at the stadium. As the players took their final victory lap around the outfield warning track, Owens, Wade and Green rode in a golf cart.
With the help of Wade and Green, Owens recieved a standing ovation with his final public gesture.
"I thought the defining moment during the closing ceremonies was when Pope stepped on home plate," said Wade. "Without Paul Owens, there wouldn't be great moments in Vet history. He had a dramatic impact on hundreds of players and millions of fans."
In his honor, the Phillies instituted the Paul Owens Award in 1986, annually honoring the best player and best pitcher in the Phillies minor league system.
Owens graduated from Salamanca (N.Y.) High School in 1942 and earned a degree in Physical Education from St. Bonaventure University in 1951. He was inducted into the St. Bonaventure Hall of Fame in February of 1977. Mr. Owens was in the U.S. Army, spending two years in Europe during World War II as a sergeant in an engineering company.
Born on Feb. 7, 1924, in Salamanca, Owens is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marcelle; two sons, Danny and Pat, and five grandchildren.
A public viewing and funeral will be held toward the end of next week with details forthcoming on Monday.