By 2003, there were plenty of players in the Phillies’ clubhouse who wanted to take a poke at their manager and the pitching coach. Eventually, one pitcher is said to have cold-cocked the pitching coach, but the manager only ever (publicly) started fracases with the opposition.
That manager, of course, was Larry Bowa whose house-divided style of skippering never really caught on. And certainly we’ve seen enough of his act to know how it works. It’s just like clockwork:
• Something happens in the game that wrankles Larry’s delicate sensibilities.
• Larry starts talking trash.
• Benches clear.
• Larry gets behind two or three players/coaches in uniform who, “hold him back.”
• Rinse and repeat.
It was something that was put on display a few times during Bowa’s stint as manager of the Phillies and then, famously, during the 2008 NLCS where as a coach for the Dodgers, Bowa was reported to have been chirping, “You started it!” toward Brett Myers.
Cooler heads prevailed before Davey Lopes could put Bowa over his knee.
Nevertheless, one of Bowa’s better known bench-clearing incidents with the Phillies happened in a spring training game during 2003 at Jack Russell Stadium against the Blue Jays. That was the one where Roy Halladay plunked Jim Thome with a pitch and immediately got an earful from Bowa. By the time Halladay took his turn at the plate, he had heard all he could handle from Bowa and did what most sane people do in those situations…
Try to stick a foot down his throat.
Before he could dig in, Rheal Cormier missed twice while attempting to plunk Halladay. Still that wasn’t enough to stop Bowa from running his mouth. By the sixth inning of the game, Halladay had heard enough and went after the Phillies’ skipper only to be intercepted before he could shove his foot down Bowa’s throat. Bowa, meanwhile, fell back into his old tricks… he talked, postured and talked some more.
Take a look:
After the game Bowa claimed Halladay intentionally tried to hit Thome—in a Grapefruit League game—and based it on the fact that the Jays’ pitcher has really good control. Ultimately, Bowa was suspended for a game. He later had his revenge, too, when he had rookie Ryan Madson drill a Blue Jays hitter in a Grapefruit League game in 2004.
Halladay, meanwhile, was a bit stunned by the whole thing. He said he told Bowa that he didn't try to hit Thome, but just got cursed at.
"He said a lot of things," Halladay said back in 2003. "But when he finally came close, I said, 'I didn't mean to hit the guy.' And he said, '[bleep!]' and a few other four-letter words."
All that yelling by Bowa was a bit confusing to Halladay.
"I don't understand why anybody would think I'd intentionally hit Jim Thome in that situation," Halladay said. "After all the times I faced him in the American League and never hit him, I can't imagine why they thought I'd intentionally hit him here."
"I didn't mean to hit the guy, but I understood why they were upset," Halladay said. "So you take your shots at me. Then it's over and done with. That should have been the end of it. … If he hits me, fine. He tried twice, and he didn't get me. But to come out there screaming and yelling … that was ridiculous."
Bowa was a bit more, um, curt.
"I don't know what he said, to be honest with you, and I really don't give a damn," Bowa relayed from his on-the-field "conversation" with Halladay.
So not only was Halladay a next-door neighbor to the Phillies during spring training at the Jays’ base in Dunedin, but like a lot of the old-time Phillies he also wanted to fight Larry Bowa.
Welcome aboard, Roy!