Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Dick Fowler


Date and Place of Birth: March 30, 1921 Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Died: May 22, 1972 Oneonta, New York

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
Royal Canadian Infantry

Area Served: Canada

Major League Stats: Dick Fowler on Baseball-Almanac

Richard J “Dick” Fowler was born on March 30, 1921 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The son of a sawmill operator, he began pitching for Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams in Toronto.

The 6-foot-4-and-a-half right-hander signed with Batavia of the PONY League in 1939, and was 9-11 with a 4.38 ERA. In 1940, he joined Oneonta of the Canadian-American League where he began to draw attention with a 16-10 record and 3.57 ERA. Fowler joined Toronto of the International League in 1941, where his 10-10 record, 3.30 ERA and near no-hitter (he had a no-hitter for eight innings before giving up two singles in the ninth) was good enough to earn a call up to the Philadelphia Athletics in September. The 20-year-old made his major league debut on September 13, 1941, and pitched four games before the year was out. 

Fowler was a regular with the Athletics in 1942, making 31 appearances for a 6-11 record and 4.95 ERA. With the end of the 1942 season came military service for Fowler. He returned to Canada to serve with the Royal Canadian Infantry but was hurt while on maneuvers and assigned to a military post office job. He played ball with pick-up teams during 1943 and 1944, then pitched for the Hamilton Thurstons in the Victory Baseball League during 1945. On June 7, 1945, Fowler struck out 12 in an 8-1 win over Mahers.

On August 15, 1945, Fowler was discharged from military service. He returned home to his family in Oneonta, New York, before joining the Athletics at the end of the month. Beginning September 1, he appeared in three unexceptional relief chores against Boston, New York and Chicago, allowing 20 hits in 11-and-two-thirds innings. He made his first post-war start on September 9, 1945, and responded with the American League’s first no-hitter since Bob Feller stopped the White Sox on opening day, 1940. Defeating the Browns, 1 to 0, Fowler walked four of the 29 batters he faced. “I felt I was going to pitch a no-hitter,” he said after the game. “But I was worried after Lou Finney hit a long foul down the right field line in the ninth.”

At that point, Milt Byrnes was on first after drawing a walk, but Fowler got Finney to ground into a double play to end the threat.

“My curve and my change-up were working perfectly,” Fowler said. “And I’m certainly glad this game came against the Browns. They beat me 1 to 0 in a 16-inning game here in 1942.”

Fowler’s no-hitter proved to be his only win of 1945. He made another two starts and finished the season with a 1-2 record and 4.82 ERA. In 1946, Fowler was 9-16 for a team that lost 105 games, but as the Athletics improved in 1947, he had one of his best seasons. Fowler won 12 games that year (second best on the Athletics behind fellow Canadian, Phil Marchildon, who won 19), and his 2.81 ERA was third best in the American League. He led the Athletics with 15 wins in 1948 and repeated that win total in 1949, the year he became an American citizen. It was also his last good season in the majors. Fowler continued to pitch with the Athletics until 1952, but he never won more than five games in a season and was back in the minors pitching for Charleston of the American Association in 1953.

After retiring from baseball, Fowler worked as a night deskman at the Oneonta Hotel. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Dick Fowler passed away at the A O Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta on May 22, 1972. He was 51 years old.

Created March 2, 2008.


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