Alfred Edward Cowens, Jr. (October 25, 1951 – March 11, 2002) was a right fielder in Major League Baseball. From 1974 through 1986, Cowens played for the Kansas City Royals (1974–79), California Angels (1980), Detroit Tigers (1980–81) and Seattle Mariners (1982–86). He batted and threw right-handed.
|Born: October 25, 1951|
Los Angeles, California
|Died: March 11, 2002 (aged 50)|
|April 6, 1974, for the Kansas City Royals|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 8, 1986, for the Seattle Mariners|
|Runs batted in||717|
|Career highlights and awards|
A native of Los Angeles, California, Cowens was a product of the Kansas City Royals farm system, having been selected by the team in the 1969 MLB draft. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 1974 and played for them through 1979. His most productive season came in 1977, when he batted .312 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI, earned a Gold Glove, and finished second to Rod Carew in balloting for the American League MVP Award.
In December 1979, the Royals traded Cowens to the California Angels. Early in the 1980 season, the Angels traded him to the Detroit Tigers, where he played through the end of the 1981 season. In March 1982, the Tigers sold his contract the Seattle Mariners, where he played until the team released him in June 1986.
Overall in 13 MLB seasons, Cowens appeared in 1584 MLB games, batting .270 with 108 home runs and 717 RBIs. He played in three postseason series, appearing in 14 total games with the Royals in the American League Championship Series of 1976 through 1978, each of which the team lost to the New York Yankees.
Early in the 1979 season, a notable feud started between Cowens, then with the Royals, and pitcher Ed Farmer, then with the Texas Rangers. On May 8, a Farmer pitch thrown in the top of the fifth inning fractured Cowens' jaw and broke several teeth, causing him to miss 21 games. Farmer later said that Cowens had attempted to steal signs from the catcher and thought the pitch would be a breaking ball away, but it was actually an inside fastball. At the start of the same game, Farmer had also hit Royals second baseman Frank White and broke his wrist, which kept him sidelined for a month.
The next season, on June 20‚ 1980, Farmer and Cowens faced each other again; Farmer now with the Chicago White Sox and Cowens now with the Tigers. In a game at Comiskey Park, with Farmer pitching, Cowens hit a ground ball to shortstop. While Farmer watched his infielders make the play, Cowens ran to the mound rather than first base, and tackled the pitcher from behind, landing several punches before the benches cleared and the two were separated. American League president Lee MacPhail suspended Cowens for seven games, and Farmer filed a criminal complaint, resulting in a warrant being issued for Cowens in Illinois. Later, Farmer agreed to drop the charges in exchange for a handshake‚ and the two players brought out the lineup cards before a game in Detroit on September 1, and shook hands. A later appearance by Cowens at Comiskey Park was greeted by fans with a "Coward Cowens" banner.
Cowens died in Downey, California, on March 11, 2002, at the age of 50 from a heart attack. At the time of his death, Cowens had been scouting players for the Kansas City Royals. He is buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
- "Al Cowens". Retrosheet. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- "1977 Awards Voting". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- "Texas Rangers 8, Kansas City Royals 7". Retrosheet. May 8, 1979. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- McDaniel, Rachael (2012-03-23). "Cooperstown Confidential: Thinking of Al Cowens". The Hardball Times. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
- Gammons, Peter (April 15, 1991). "Sign Language: Is Giving Signs a Higher Art Form Than Stealing Them? One Finger Says Yes, Two Say No, Three Say Pitchout". Sports Illustrated – via si.com/vault.
- "The 1979 KC A Regular Season Batting Log for Frank White". Retrosheet. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- "Detroit Tigers 5, Chicago White Sox 3". Retrosheet. June 20, 1980. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- "Farmer files complaint after Cowens' attack". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. AP. June 22, 1980. p. 41. Retrieved April 5, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
- "Cowens-Farmer resolve their long-standing feud". The Des Moines Register. AP. September 2, 1980. p. 19. Retrieved April 5, 2020 – via newspapers.com.
- "Chicago White Sox 11, Detroit Tigers 3". Retrosheet. September 1, 1980. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Markusen, Bruce (June 25, 2016). "Fro and Big Glasses: The Baseball Career of Al Cowens". vintagedetroit.com. Retrieved April 5, 2020.