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Rowe, pitching coach of '04 champion Bisons, dead at 78

Rowe
Ken Rowe was the pitching coach when the Bisons won the Governors' Cup in 2004. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News file photo)

The Cleveland Indians have announced the death of Ken Rowe, a longtime minor-league pitching instructor who was the pitching coach of the Bisons for parts of four seasons that included the team's 2004 Governors' Cup championship run.

Rowe, 78, died on Thanksgiving in his hometown of Dallas, Ga., after a bout with pneumonia.

Rowe had spent the last two years as the Tribe's advisor in player development after working for 20 years in the Cleveland chain as an on-field instructor.

Rowe was the pitching coach for the Bisons in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2004-2005. The Bisons won IL North Division titles in 2000 and '05 and won the Governors' Cup in '04, a season that saw Rowe take over in  early June after the firing of Terry Clark.

Tweeted Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski:  "Saddened by the loss of former Bisons pitching coach Ken Rowe. One of the nicest men I've ever met in baseball."

Rowe was a baseball lifer who had been a pitching, minor-league manager, coach or instructor for 52 of the last 56 years. He pitched professionally from 15 seasons from 1953-68 (taking time to serve in the US Army in 1957). He made 26 relief appearances for the Dodgers and Baltimore from 1963-65,  posting a 2-1 record and 3.57 ERA in those games and earning a World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1963. He was the major-league pitching coach for Baltimore in 1985-86.

The '99 Bisons finished second in the IL in team ERA under Rowe (4.34) while the 2000 team improved its win total from 72 to 86 and improved the ERA to 4.29 although it finished eighth.

In 2004, the Bisons won the title despite finishing last in the league in ERA at 4.71 but Rowe had a huge impact: Buffalo's ERA before he came on board on June 2 of that season was a bloated 5.62 but for the rest of the season, it was just 4.23. The '05 Herd, which went 82-62 and stands as Buffalo's last playoff team, had an ERA of 4.48 that was eighth in the IL.

Rowe was a quiet, unassuming guy. He had that folksy Southern drawl and he loved to talk pitching. And the players loved him. Along with the acquisition of Raul Gonzalez and the return of Russell Branyan, the return of Rowe was one of the main keys to the Herd's second-half success in '04.

Rowe is survived by two daughters (Kimberly and Kristina) and three grandchildren (Jeremy, Jake, and Zachary).  The Indians said the family will be holding a private service at a later date.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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