Boston writers dubbed him the “Penticton Peach.” Yet it’s safe to say few batters facing Ted Bowsfield’s 105mph fastball thought he was anything but sweet.

Born in Vernon and raised in Penticton, Bowsfield was the first BC born and raised ballplayer to stick in the major leagues for an extended period, playing seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, and Kansas City Athletics. He compiled a career win-loss record of 37-39 in 215 appearances with 326 strikeouts.

He first started to play catch on visits to his grandparents in Vernon, after his family had moved to Penticton. His mother and her two sisters all played on a girls baseball team during the war years.

“I think my athleticism comes from that side of the family,” he said.

Looking back on his rise to the big leagues, it’s a miracle he made it. There was no Little League in Penticton then, but Bowsfield’s father worked tirelessly setting up games with teams in surrounding towns like Hedley, Oliver, even Peachland. Bowsfield and his teammates all piled into his father’s old Hudson and off they’d go. The lefthander was lucky to play eight games a year for much of his youth, hardly enough for a pitcher to develop.

“I was very fortunate I made it as far as I did. The odds of it happening were not too great.”

Bowsfield had a number of things in his favour though. He was a fantastic all-round athlete who also excelled in basketball, hockey, and track and field. He later turned down basketball scholarships to Gonzaga and Seattle University. Penticton was also blessed with very good semi-pro baseball. By age 15, Bowsfield was playing against men, a tough training ground for a young pitcher learning his craft.

“I could throw hard and I was pretty wild, but my catcher Sam Drossos was just a wonderful athlete and a great person who could settle me down,” said Bowsfield. “To this day we’re still friends.”

By his last two years of high school in 1953-54, scouts were circling. His pitches left clouds of smoke and confounded hitters. Boston’s northwest scout Earl Johnson, who had earlier spotted fellow BC Sports Hall of Famers Sandy Robertson and Arnie Hallgren, signed Bowsfield for $4000. When he made his Red Sox debut in 1958, his first major league contract was for $8000. The most he ever received was $16,000, light years from the tens of millions thrown around today.

He reported to the Red Sox farm team in San Jose and in 1955 he recorded a 9-7 win-loss record while striking out 124 batters in 117 innings. He suffered a major setback the following season playing with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League, fracturing his leg while sliding into second base. He needed almost a year for his leg to heal.

After spending 1957 with Oklahoma, he played for Boston’s top farm team, the Triple-AAA Minneapolis Millers in 1958. The Red Sox called him up in July of that year and he made his MLB debut on July 20, 1958 versus the Detroit Tigers.

As the talented rookie found his feet on the 1958 Red Sox roster that boasted the legendary Ted Williams, it became clear Bowsfield had an uncanny skill that would keep any pitcher in the majors: he was a Yankee killer. When asked to list his career highlights, Bowsfield underlines one item with relish: “Beating the Yankees!” That first season three times he defeated a strong Bronx Bombers team featuring Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, among other notables. “This youth is slick,” said venerable Yankee manager Casey Stengel of Bowsfield at the time. At season’s end he was voted Red Sox Rookie of the Year.

Persistent ligament and shoulder problems gradually ate away at his shotgun arm over the next six years though. The smoking heater soon faded and Bowsfield learned to rely on a curve and screwball to get by. He was traded to Cleveland in 1960 and selected in the expansion draft by the fledgling Angels. His best overall season came in 1961 going 11-8 with LA, the only Angels starter to post a winning record that year. After another winning record with the Angels in 1962 (9-8), Bowsfield pitched two final seasons with Kansas City. He finished his pitching career close to home with the PCL’s Vancouver Mounties in 1965. By age 30 the pain in his pitching arm was so bad he hung up his glove for good with no regrets.

“I always felt fortunate that every day in the major leagues was a dream come true. Every day was a blessing.”

After retiring, he managed Anaheim Stadium, the Kingdome in Seattle, and the Tacoma Dome. While running a consulting business he worked on BC Place Stadium and Toronto’s SkyDome. He was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. More recently Bowsfield worked part-time as a marshall and junior coordinator at Cypress Ridge Golf Course near his home in Nipomo, California.

Since the 1990s, a steady stream of BC ball players have flowed to the majors. When asked how it feels to know he played some small role in blazing the trail, Bowsfield remained humble.

“They’re good ballplayers and they’ve earned their stripes. I give them a lot of credit for making it there.”

No one knows better than The Penticton Peach how tough that road can be.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.