Dick Fowler was a lanky, golden-armed 18-year-old when he dazzled the Toronto Maple Leafs brass at training camp in 1939. The local sensation debuted for his hometown squad in 1940, and Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics would purchase his contract later that same year.
The six-foot-five hurler recorded a complete-game victory in his big league debut on September 13, 1941 against the Chicago White Sox and he followed that up by pitching in 31 games for the Athletics the following year, including one start where he tossed 16 innings in a 1-0 loss.
After his first full season in the majors in 1942, he was called for military duty and served in the Canadian army with the 48th Light Highlanders for three years. In his fine book, Canada’s Baseball Legends, Jim Shearon reports that Fowler was in Nova Scotia, slated to head to Europe, when he was discharged because his son, Tom, who had been fighting cancer, had been given five months to live. Fortunately, his son would rally and survive, eventually getting married and raising three children of his own, before dying of cancer in his early ’40s.
In Fowler’s first start upon his return from military duty, the powerful right-hander no-hit the St. Louis Browns on September 9, 1945. He remains the only Canadian to throw a no-hitter in the big leagues.
On an A’s staff that also boasted fellow Canadian Phil Marchildon, Fowler hurled eight consecutive complete games between July 10 and August 27, 1947. Battling through bursitis so painful that he sometimes pitched with tears rolling down his cheeks, the workhorse hurler tossed at least 14 complete games in each season from 1946 to 1949. In all, during his 10-year big league career, he won 15 games twice (1948, 1949) and finished in the top 10 in the American League in shutouts three times (1947, 1948, 1949).
After a two-season comeback attempt with Charleston of the American Association, Fowler settled in Oneonta, N.Y. – the hometown of his wife, Joyce – where he worked in a department store and later as the night clerk at the Oneonta Community Hotel. He also coached one of the town’s first Little League teams.
Sadly, Fowler was diagnosed with both liver disease and kidney disease in 1972 and died when he was just 51.
“In later years, Dick had epileptic seizures,” his widow, Joyce, told Shearon. “I don’t know whether it was brought on by stress with our son’s cancer. It was an awful time for us, financially and otherwise.”
Fowler was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1985.
*Most of the information for this entry comes from the Dick Fowler bio that I wrote for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame website: www.baseballhalloffame.ca
**Thank you to Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for supplying the photos that accompany this entry.
***I would strongly recommend that you purchase copies of Jim Shearon’s two books – Canada’s Baseball Legends and Over the Fence is Out! You can purchase them through the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame: http://baseballhalloffame.ca/shop/clothing/books/