Bob Fowler witnessed baseball history
Fowler, a witness to baseball history, died Thursday after a 2 1/2 -year battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 69.
Born in Detroit, Fowler graduated from Albion College and started his career at a small newspaper in Royal Oak, Mich. He later moved to Minnesota to cover the Twins and the Vikings. He was a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which elects players to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and took his voting privileges seriously.
"The debates we had around our house, some of them were legendary," said eldest son Rob Fowler of New Hartford, N.Y.
Al Kaline, Rod Carew, Cal Ripken Jr. -- "he saw them all," his son said.
Fowler especially loved the sports world of the 1960s and 1970s, before the wage gap developed between athletes and the writers who covered them. Players would eat dinner at his house, managers would invite reporters to grab a bite to eat after the game and teams would give him season tickets so he could bring his family to the games.
"We would just stay in the stands and wait for him to file his story," his son recalled. "Back in the day, everybody was sort of one big group that traveled together and did their job."
While Fowler was covering spring training in Florida -- and bemoaning the costs of heating his home in frigid Minnesota -- he was recruited by the Orlando Sentinel. Central Florida had no baseball team, so Fowler covered golf, and occasionally wrote profiles about famous baseball players who lived in the area.
"He was a veteran, respected writer before he came to Orlando," said Larry Guest, the former sports editor and columnist who recruited Fowler. "He certainly raised the legitimacy of our staff at the time."
After several years, Fowler pursued a baseball dream: He and a business partner headed a purchase of the Utica Blue Sox, a short-season A Team in the New York-Penn League. He put together a group of investors and became the team's owner and operator in time for the 1985 season.
When he saw the field, he later recalled, it looked like "the Dogpatch of baseball."
The endeavor evolved into a family business, and eventually gained an affiliation with major-league teams such as the Florida Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies. Fowler became president of the Chamber of Commerce in Utica, a small town in New York.
In 2001, the family sold the franchise to Ripken, who was building a baseball stadium in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., and needed a viable pro team to play there.
After he sold the franchise, Fowler returned to Clermont to enjoy retirement with his wife of 45 years, Patricia.
In addition to his wife and son Robert, Fowler is survived by son Peter Fowler of Orlando; brother, Tom Fowler of Tampa; and two grandchildren.
Becker Funeral Home, Clermont, is handling arrangements.