The Obit For Rex Bowen

Rex Bowen / Major League Baseball scout for Pirates, Reds

Saturday, January 01, 2005

By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a lifetime as a Major League Baseball scout for the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, Rex Bowen discovered countless talents on countless sandlots.

But none meant more to him than a raw 17-year-old infielder he signed to a contract after an eye-opening tryout in 1954.

A coal miner's son named Bill Mazeroski.

"For someone in our business, there is no better feeling than signing someone who gets to the big leagues," said grandson Jackie Bowen of Bethel Park, currently the scouting director for the New York Mets. "But to have it be someone who helps his team to the World Series ... and then wins the World Series with a home run ... my grandfather took a lot of pride in that."

Mr. Bowen died Thursday of natural causes in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. He was 93.

Mr. Bowen joined the Pirates as a scout in 1950 and was promoted to scouting director in 1959, a position he held until 1967. From 1968 to 1990, he was a special assistant to the general manager in Cincinnati.

In 2000, the weekly trade publication Baseball America named him one of the top 10 scouts of the previous century. Two years earlier, it named him one of its top three scouts of the year.

He also was inducted as a member of the All Sports Hall of Fame in Bridgeton, N.J., where he was born and raised.

For most of his career, he lived in Mt. Lebanon. He moved to Florida 25 years ago.

In addition to discovering Mazeroski, who won the 1960 World Series with a home run in Game 7, Mr. Bowen was responsible for signing two players who were named Most Valuable Player in the National League: Pirates shortstop Dick Groat in 1960 and Los Angeles Dodger Maury Wills in 1962. Among the other Pirates he signed were Gene Michael, and George and Gene Freese.

"He would start in New England and work his way across the country, just going out to neighborhood fields and watching players at tryouts," Jackie Bowen said. "That was how it was done in the '50s, before there was a draft."

Mr. Bowen had a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to evaluating talent.

"My grandfather was big on run-and-throw tools," Jackie Bowen said. "If you could run, especially, he would like you. If you couldn't run, he didn't. To him, it was that simple. He would bristle when I would bring up stuff like all the stats we have today. He found players like Maz because they could play the game."

Mazeroski had another connection to Mr. Bowen: The player met his wife, Milene, when she was Mr. Bowen's secretary. They were married in 1958.

The Bowen family will have a private service and burial in Bridgeton.