Cowley says, "If I had to boil it down, I'd say not running had a lot to do with it. I got out of condition. Once that happens, everything else just snowballs."
Bosman says, "An awful lot of panic went on when Joe unraveled. He may have felt he had no one he could depend on. That can be difficult when you're not especially strong mentally. In these kinds of situations, the battle is within."
Cowley was sent to the Triple A Maine Guides in May '87. He went 3-9 in 13 starts. In 63 innings he allowed 63 hits and 76 walks, and he hit 16 batters—three of them in a row. Against Richmond one day he walked 11 batters in 2? innings. He threw balls over heads, in the dirt, even behind hitters. "Maybe I should have tried to throw at them," he cracks. Cowley makes a lot of mild jokes at his own expense, and you sense sadness and frustration beneath the ironic surface.
Finally, Giles sent him to an Arizona sports psychologist, whom Giles called for a progress report a few days later.
"How are things going?" Giles asked.
"Joe's a nice guy," said the shrink, "but I'm having a hard time communicating with him."
"What do you mean?"
"Every morning he shows up to borrow my Cadillac and my golf clubs. And every night he goes out on the town. He's enjoying life, but he's not taking the treatments too seriously."
Everybody agreed Cowley ought to just go home. Cowley described his predicament this way: "It gets to the point that after you get through the first inning, you come back to the bench and say to your-self, 'I really don't want to go back out there.' That's terrible."
The time off, from July to October 1987, didn't change his performance or his attitude. Cowley stopped playing ball in 1988, unhappily. "Every game I pitched in spring training was horrible," he says. "I didn't have any good games. Zero, zero, zero." The Phillies gave him his unconditional release at the end of March. Giles saw him shuffling through the parking lot at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, Fla. Cowley looked pale, discomfited. Giles took his hand and shook it.