Bob Owens

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Bob Owens
Baseball • West Chester

To get an accurate idea of the kind of athlete and leader Bob Owens was, take a look at the positions he played: catcher, quarterback and point guard.

Possessing terrific athleticism, Owens was also a tough-as-nails competitor. But perhaps most significantly, he was an inspirational leader. And it's doubtful that anybody who saw Owens in action is the least bit surprised to see that he is being inducted posthumously into the Chester County Sports Hall of Famer.

Owens was a captain and a star in baseball, football and basketball at West Chester High School (now Henderson) during the mid-1960s. All of the teams during that era were outstanding, and Owens was the common thread.

"In high school, he was part of a very special group of guys," said his son, Dean, who is currently the head baseball coach at West Chester East. "He played with Jon Matlack on the baseball team, plus they were dominant in football and basketball as well."

Unquestionably one of the school's most outstanding athletes, Owens was the heart and soul of teams that captured six Ches-Mont League titles from 1964-66, including a football- basketball- baseball trifecta in 1965. In baseball, he was the catcher for Matlack, a future major leaguer and an inaugural member of the CCSHOF. The Warriors grabbed three league crowns and won 40 consecutive games during his tenure.

"We have a photograph of him on the mound with Matlack, and he's looking all the way up at Jon and you can see he is chewing him out," Dean Owens laughed. "He had a type-A personality that you often see with great leaders."

Running the offense for coach Jack McClellan's team, Owens helped the basketball squad win two league championships. And he also orchestrated the football title in 1965.

"My Uncle Jack was two years ahead of my dad and is still around," Dean Owens said. "I always laugh when he mentions that his teams at Henderson were always horrible until my dad showed up.

"But the group of guys that he played with ended up being friends throughout his life. It was a special time, for sure. A lot of those guys grew up together and played together, which doesn't happen that often anymore." Just 5-foot-9, 160-pounds, Owens received a scholarship offer to play college football at Wake Forest, but decided to give professional baseball a try. Taken in the third round of the 1966 Major League Draft by the Chicago Cubs, Owens hit .331 with the Caldwell (Idaho) Cubs in the Pioneer League as a rookie. He went on the bat .291 in two more seasons in the minors, but an injury cut short his career.

"He came home in the off-season and was working toward a degree at West Chester," Dean explained. "One year he hurt his arm on the pommel horse and that ultimately ended his pro career. He had trouble with his arm after that and was unable to put up the same numbers.

"Times were different back then. I don't think guys in the minors would be jumping on the pommel horse these days."

Owens was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and the baseball field at Henderson is named him his honor. He passed away in 1987.

He was a fierce competitor," Dean Owens said. "That was the trait you heard about most often. "We've had so many great athletes come out of this area, and unfortunately if they've passed away years ago, they tend to be forgotten. It's a huge honor for my family that he hasn't been forgotten."

In his later years, Owens was a longtime baseball coach at the American Legion level, had a stint as the football coach at Abington High School and coached on the baseball staff at Temple under Skip Wilson. And in the mid-1980's, Owens was an assistant football coach on the staff of Jack Bryne (a fellow 2012 inductee). "He was a tough guy," Dean Owens said of his father. "I have a memory of him that I cherish now, but didn't really at the time. I don't even know how old I was but was pitching in a championship game and I gave up a game-winning home run. Tears started rolling down my face and my dad pulled me aside and gave me the speech that there is no crying in baseball."
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