Ernie BowmanI picked up a 1966 Topps Ernie Bowman baseball card last week. This is an interesting card in its own right because Bowman never actually played a game for the New York Mets. In 1966, Bowman played for their minor league affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns.

What also makes Bowman particularly interesting is because of how he fits into the team’s history. What makes the Jacksonville Suns particularly interesting is the list of recognizable names from the early history of the Mets appearing on its roster including:

Larry Bearnarth
Ken Boswell
Duke Carmel
Galen Cisco
Choo-Choo Coleman
Greg Goossen
Bud Harrelson
Lou Klimchock
Johnny Lewis
Ron Locke
Tug McGraw
Danny Napoleon
Tom Seaver
Dick Selma
Hawk Taylor

Bowman (along with Cisco) were the old men on the squad. Each of these players were 30 years old. Bowman was on the downside of his career; he played parts of three seasons with the San Francisco Giants (1961-1963). In his major league career, Bowman only amassed 217 plate appearances.

However, what makes Bowman of vital importance to the Mets is what Tom Seaver credits him with doing. Seaver said it was Bowman who gave him a key piece of advise. In Seaver’s book, The Art of Pitching (co-written with Lee Lowenfish) , he writes that the veteran infielder approached him on the mound one day while they were teammates and said to him, “Kid, you got a good fastball, but to keep it, you gotta throw it. Don’t save it for Christmas.”

This statement, this tidbit, this motto, stayed with Seaver throughout his Hall-of-Fame career and became a central piece of his personal philosophy and helped to shape his pitching strategy. Seaver went on to write, “Sure, batters will occasionally hit your hard one a long way, and sure, you need breaking and off-speed pitches to break a hitter’s timing. But the old number one, the fastball, remains the best way to establish your domination of the hitters.”

So, in this one brief moment, Ernie Bowman, without ever picking up a bat or putting on a glove cemented his place in New York Mets’ history.

7 comments on “What Ernie Bowman taught Tom Seaver

  • Scott Ferguson

    These kinds of stories are great. Bowman was barely a utility infielder, yet a comment he makes on the mound to a young stud righthander may have helped mold an HOF career.
    Baseball is full of such stories and they shouldn’t be forgotten. Awesome job bringing it up!

  • Patrick Albanesius

    Couldn’t agree more with Scott. Love this story and this card. Great job!

  • Paul (Shelburne) Ferguson

    Ernie Bowman was one of my coaches in 1950 when I played in the old Mason Dixon League in Johnson City, TN. We knew him by his other name of Ferrell. His younger brother Charley played on our all star team that went all the way to York, PA to the final four. We beat Brooklyn, NY but lost to York in the championship game.He is a legend in Johnson City. He was one cool customer and really great with the younger players like me. Along with Steve Spurrier, he is one of the all time great high school athletes in TN sports history.

  • Peter Hyatt

    Paul, what a fascinating anecdote! Thanks for sharing….more stories?

    • Paul (Shelburne) Ferguson

      Hey Peter, thanks for the kudo (sic). One thing in particular that I remember is how Ernie(Ferrell) really helped the kids on the team deal with the loss of our coach Ed “Bulldog” Laws shortly before we went into tournament play. Man, hard to believe I was only 10 and playing with those older guys (I wore the pines out). Like they say, you don’t miss it until it is gone. The week long trip was sorta sponsored by Phillies (Whiz Kids) catcher Andy Seminick (from Elizabethon, TN..15 miles from Johnson City). We did the Washington DC and Philadelphia tour, caught a Boston Braves/Phillies game at Shibe Park (Curt Simmons for the Phillies…don’t remeber who pitched for the Braves) and then to York for the heartbreak I als remember how everyone was talking about Braves rookie Sam Jethroe being the future of the Braves. We had no idea then that in a couple of years someone named Henry Aaron would come onto the scene. Who woulda thunk it!

  • Peter Hyatt

    I once read that Aaron, not particularly a big guy, had tremendously wide (and strong) wrists which, along with bat speed, brought the home run power that was not readily recognized when he was coming up.

    • Paul (Shelburne) Ferguson

      Peter, I have read/heard the same. I am currently reading “Wille Mays, The Life, The Legend” by James S. Hirsch. There are great comments in there about Aaron. But I think the best concern the Mays, Mantle and Snider era. As a kid fascinated with the game, I now know that we were especially privileged to get to live and play our game in that era – plenty of heroes to argue over. I was a Yankee fan because my father had told me “Boy, not liking the Yankees is akin to not liking money”. Dad was lucky enough to see some of the Yankee powerhouse teams of the “20’s. As I remember, I was the only Yankee fan in the neighborhood. Most kids went with the Cardinals or Reds since they were the two closest teams at that time. A great thing about being the only Yankee fan was that I could easily trade my Topps bubble gum cards and amass Yankee cards. No, I don’t have them anymore. Gave tham away when I left Jonesboro (seven miles from Johnson City) for the Army in 1961. Nobody ever accused me of being wise and foreseeing. Have no idea of how many Mantle rookie cards I had, but there were several. Had several complete sets of the late 40’s and early ’50’s Yankees teams…some of the best ever. Imagine winning four or five World Series in a row. Reminds me somewhat of the 14 consecutive Division titles by my beloved Braves (alas only one title).

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