With World War II ever present in the background, left hander Roger Clinton Bowman was the star pitcher on the Amsterdam High School baseball team in the 1940s. The team, coached by John Tracy, had a five-year, 47-game winning streak that ended in 1945.
According to an article by Tom Hawthorn on the website of the Society for American Baseball Research, Bowman was the only child of Burdette and Rebecca (Hinkle) Bowman. His father was a one-time semi-pro baseball player who worked as a bookkeeper in Amsterdam.
Young Bowman, born August 18, 1927, had two no-hitters in six games of the 1944 high school season, giving up one run while pitching 91 strikeouts.
After graduation in 1945 he became a part-time student at Colgate University. Mike Cinquanti in his Amsterdam Birthday Book reported that Bowman slipped while running for a bus at college and hurt his pitching arm.
Bowman was called up for the U.S. Navy. In 1946 he signed with the New York Giants organization and was awarded a reported bonus of $15,000, the equivalent of about $200,000 today.
After some work in the minor leagues Bowman went to the New York Giants near the end of the 1949 season in September. He appeared in 50 games, 13 with the Giants and 37 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, before his major league career ended in 1955. He was credited with two wins and had 13 losses. Both wins were with the Giants in 1951.
Cinquanti noted that without Bowman’s two wins, the New York Giants would not have caught up with the Brooklyn Dodgers for first place on the last day of that season. The Giants won the playoff with the Dodgers but lost the World Series in 1951 to the New York Yankees.
Most of Bowman’s career was in the minor leagues where he had 131 wins and 119 losses.
He was known for having a non-traditional windup, which he said helped him win games. From 1951 through 1955 he was often sent down to the minors then called back to the majors. He pitched a seven-inning perfect game for Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League in 1954. He was involved in one on-field brawl while pitching for Pittsburgh and was ejected from the game.
The website Baseball Library.com stated that an arm injury in 1952 ruined Bowman’s chances for greatness. In 1953 he accidentally shot himself in his pitching arm during a hunting trip in the Adirondacks and was treated at an Albany hospital.
His last major league game was for Pittsburgh on May 22, 1955, a contest he lost to his former team, the Giants.
After leaving the major leagues, he pitched for various minor league teams around the country, even in Hawaii, during the last six years of his professional baseball career. He returned to Amsterdam in the summer of 1961 to pitch for the Amsterdam carpet workers’ union, the Textilers, against Schenectady in the Twilight League. Teamed with his former high school catcher Costa Lazarou, Bowman and the Textilers won the game 3-2.
He finished his Colgate University art degree while playing baseball. He was an accomplished saxophone player. In later years he operated a custom upholstery business in California. He was a pilot and worked part time as an aviation instructor.
Bowman’s father died in 1982 and his mother passed in 1997. Later that year Bowman died at age 69 in Los Angeles and was buried at the Pawling Street cemetery in Hagaman.
He had married Nancy Watson in 1985. Survivors also included a son, two daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected]