SABR

Chick Bowen

This article was written by Stanley Dziurgot.

There are many players in baseball history that had a proverbial cup of coffee before going on to success in other fields. This was the case with Emmons J. Bowen. His entire major-league career consisted of a two-week period from September 15, 1919 to September 28, 1919.

Emmons Bowen was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 26, 1897. His father Andrew worked for the Postal Service as a letter carrier and his mother Margaret was a housewife. A relative surmised that he got the nickname "Chick" because of his size. He stood 5' 7" tall and weighed 165 lbs. He was educated in the New Haven public school system and graduated from New Haven High School (now called Hillhouse High School) in 1915 where he was an outstanding athlete. In his youth he played on local baseball teams such as the Colonials who were managed by George Weiss, who went on to be the general manager of both the Yankees and Mets. After high school he attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He played football, basketball, and baseball in college and when he captained the baseball team he was the first to do so who wasn't from Massachusetts. Following his graduation from Holy Cross in 1919, he went on to New York University where he received a Master of Arts degree.   He then signed a professional baseball contract with the New York Giants.

The Giants had been to the World Series in 1917, losing to the Chicago White Sox. The 1919 team finished in second place, nine games behind the Cincinnati.

Reds. Some of the notable players on the team were Hal Chase, Larry Doyle, Heinie Zimmerman, Art Fletcher, George Burns, Benny Kauff (the Ty Cobb of the Federal League), and future Hall of Famers Ross Youngs and Frank Frisch. Jim Thorpe, the 1912 Olympian, was also a member of the team but was traded before Chick was added to the roster. 

The leading pitchers were Jess Barnes, who won 25 games, and Rube Benton, who won 17. Fred Toney won 13 games; two years previously, he was in the famous double no-hit game as a member of the Reds against James “Hippo” Vaughn of the Cubs. Another pitcher on the roster was Joe Oeschger who would later, as a member of the Braves, be involved in a 26-inning game against Leon Cadore and the Brooklyn Robins. Both pitchers pitched all 26 innings with the game ending in a 1-1 tie. Oeschger was one of four players traded to the Braves on August 1, 1919 for Art Nehf, who would be a mainstay of the Giant pennant-winning teams of 1921-1924.   The 1924 Giants won the last pennant for legendary manager John McGraw. 

A right-handed batter who also threw right, Bowen played in three games with six plate appearances (five official at-bats plus a walk) with one hit, one RBI, and two strikeouts. In two games in the outfield, he handled four chances flawlessly.  His major-league debut came on September 15 at Cincinnati as a pinch runner for Lew McCarty. His second game was the first game of a double header on September 25 at Braves Field in Boston. He pinch ran in this game and stayed in the game to play center field. On the final day of the 1919 regular season (September 28) the Giants played a double header at home against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the first game Jess Barnes won his 25th game in a game that took only 51 minutes to play. The second game, the last game of the regular season, Bowen recorded his only major-league base hit. Chick’s one hit came against Philadelphia pitcher George Smith in a 7-1 Giants victory. This was the only game Chick would play for the Giants at their home park, the Polo Grounds.

The Giants led the National League in attendance that year, drawing over 708,000 fans. 

Bowen was sent by McGraw to Toledo of the American Association, and then to Rochester of the International League.  He spent 1921 playing for San Antonio.  The Boston Red Sox had shown interest in him after his graduation from Holy Cross, but when his contract was sold to the Red Sox, he left professional baseball.  

Bowen returned to New Haven in 1922 and taught physics and science at New Haven High School. He coached the school baseball team starting in 1923 and later added the football and basketball coaching duties. He coached future major leaguers Eddie Wilson and Jimmy Sheehan and soon added the job of athletic director to his duties. His football teams won four state championships and his basketball teams won three state titles and the first New England championship in the history of the school. His baseball teams also did extremely well but there was no basis for championship in baseball. He coached these sports until 1938 when he gave up all his coaching duties to become assistant principal at the school. He then joined the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials and became a head linesman for many eastern college football games.

Bowen was a member of many organizations committed to education plus the Knights of St Patrick Club, the Lions Club and was a trustee of Arnold College. In 1942 he was one of three recipients of the Gold Key Award of the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance for his contribution to sports in Connecticut.

On August 3, 1948 he was at the school preparing records for students seeking admission to college. While opening a first-floor window, he fell 15 feet into a basement passageway that connected the school to the Boardman Trade School. Chick suffered a broken neck, multiple fractures of the skull, a chest injury, a broken leg, and a severe scalp laceration. He was taken to St Raphael's Hospital in New Haven where he died on August 9, 1948 - exactly a week before the death of Babe Ruth on August 16.

There were reports that Chick was ill with a nervous condition and under a doctor’s care. Also, a study led by the president of the Board of Education, Harold V. Krick, uncovered that he had allegedly been subjected to “negative abuse at the school” which he never complained about to anyone there. If he did voice anything about the situation he may have only confided in his closest acquaintances outside of school.More than likely the nervous condition was the cause of his death because it was learned that at times he would run to a window at home in search of air. Based on these findings as well as other evidence the medical examiner, Dr. Marvin M. Scarborough ruled his death accidental. The multiple injuries from the fall as well as a case of traumatic pneumonia were the primary causes of his death. 

Bowen was buried at St. Lawrence Cemetery in West Haven, Connecticut. He was survived by his wife Mae McGowan Bowen as well as a sister and a brother. Chick and Mae had no children.

In 1949 the baseball and football athletic fields were named Bowen Field to honor Chick. A monument at the field on 175 Crescent St. honors his memory. It reads:

In memory of Emmons Joseph Bowen New Haven High School 1915 Athletic Director 1922-1938  Assistant Principal 1938-1948 Prudent Advisor Kind Instructor Efficient-Loyal-Capable  A Christian Gentleman An Inspiration to youth Erected by Class of 1949 New Haven High School.  

Sources

New Haven Register, August 10 and 13, 1948

Thanks to attorney Dennis Gillooly for talking to his mother, who is the wife of the son of Mrs. Dennis Gillooly (sister of Chick Bowen)

Thanks to the librarians at the Hew Haven Public Library

Baseballreference.com

Retrosheet.org

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