Paul Owens (baseball)
|First baseman / general manager / manager|
February 7, 1924|
Salamanca, New York
|Died: December 26, 2003
Woodbury, New Jersey
|Minor League Baseball debut|
|1951, for the Olean Oilers|
|1959, for the Bakersfield Bears|
As general manager
Owens' entire Major League career was spent with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the general manager and principal architect of the 1980 Phillies, the third Philadelphia club to win a National League pennant and the first Phillies team to win a World Series—breaking a 97-year streak of futility dating to the team's founding in 1883. He was general manager of the Phillies from June 3, 1972, through the end of 1984, and twice (1972; 1983–84) added the title of field manager to his job description. In 1983 he took the managerial reins of the Phillies in midyear and led them to their fourth pennant, but lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the 1983 World Series.
Nicknamed "The Pope" because of his resemblance to Pope Paul VI,  Owens was born in Salamanca, New York, and attended St. Bonaventure University. Owens' professional playing career began in 1951 at the relatively advanced age of 27. Prior to 1951, Owens had spent the first several years of his baseball career with the Salamanca Merchants (a still extant team) in what was then the Suburban League, the local Town Team Baseball circuit.
Owens played exclusively at the lower ends of the minor leagues, with his active career largely centered in his native upstate New York. A first baseman who batted and threw right-handed, he twice (1951, 1957) batted .407 with the Olean Oilers of the Class D PONY League (now the New York–Penn League) and set a league record by hitting safely in 38 consecutive games in 1951. During his relatively brief playing career, Owens compiled a lifetime average of .374.
Managerial and front office career
In 1955, Owens was named Olean's playing manager; the following year, the Oilers became a Phillies' affiliate and Owens moved into their organization. In 1958–59, he managed Class C Bakersfield of the California League. He then became a scout, and, in 1966, director of the entire Philadelphia farm system. On June 3, 1972, he replaced John Quinn as the Phillies' general manager. Then, five weeks later, on July 10, Owens fired manager Frank Lucchesi and assumed that job as well, to get a closer (if temporary) look at the last-place Phillies' on-field struggles.
He then returned to the front office and proceeded to turn the Phils into pennant contenders within three seasons. His farm system, one of the most productive in the game at the time, bore fruit—yielding players such as Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa and Dick Ruthven. In addition, Owens aggressively swung trades to add missing pieces such as relief pitcher Tug McGraw and outfielders Garry Maddox and Bake McBride. The Phils won the NL East in 1976–1977–1978—each time falling short in the National League Championship Series.
Two NL pennants and the Phils' first world championship (1979–84)
Owens thought he added the final piece in 1979 when he signed free agent Pete Rose, but the Phils stumbled and finished fourth. Finally, in 1980, under manager Dallas Green, the Phillies beat Houston in an intense NLCS and then defeated the Kansas City Royals for the team's first world championship.
On July 18, 1983, Owens again decided to don a uniform and run the Phillies from the dugout as well as from the front office. He fired manager Pat Corrales—even though Philadelphia was in first place at the time, albeit just one game over .500—and led the club to 47 wins in 77 games. They then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the NLCS to win the Phillies' fourth pennant. During the World Series, the Phils lost to Baltimore in five games.
Owens was relieved of both his GM and managing jobs during the off-season, but remained with the Phillies as a senior advisor and special scout until his death, in 2003, at age 79 in Woodbury, New Jersey. For the 2004 season, the Phillies wore a patch on their right shoulder featuring a banner reading "Pope" in honor of Owens, and a shamrock in honor of former relief pitcher Tug McGraw, who had also died that winter. His career managing record was 161–158 (.505).
- Starting in 1986, the Phillies established the annual Paul Owens Award. This award is given each season to both the top top pitcher and the top position player within the Phillies' minor-league system. In 1988, Owens was elected to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame (the first non-Phillies player elected and enshrined). A plaque bearing his likeness is displayed in Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.
- Johnson, Lloyd, ed., The Minor League Register. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 1994.
- "Paul Owens, 79; Shaped Champion Phillies", The New York Times, December 28, 2003.
- Baseball-Reference.com – career managing record
|Philadelphia Phillies General Manager