Marc Martone, former football coach at H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, said he saw the legendary NFL player Jim Brown play in high school. But, he said Saturday, his former teammate at Glen Cove High School, George Fowler, was "just as good all around."
"I've never seen a better natural athlete," Martone said of Fowler, who died at age 86 on May 21. Fowler died of renal failure at the Broadlawn Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Amityville, said his daughter, Gloria (Fowler) Jones Jr. of Bay Shore.
Later an amateur softball star after a World War II stint in the Navy, Fowler was a smooth-fielding second baseman "with a tremendous throwing arm," wrote Jim Carman, the Long Island chapter president of the Amateur Softball Association of America in nominating him for the national association's Hall of Fame in 1983.
"George was an excellent hitter," Carman wrote. "He not only hit for high average, but he was a powerful slugger who pounded out extra base hits."
Fowler "must be regarded as one of the finest all-around athletes ever to come from Long Island," wrote Newsday reporter Bob Zellner in an article on Fowler's retirement from competitive softball in 1964.
Martone also recalled Fowler as an "easygoing kind of guy. I never heard him use foul language or get fired up about something."
Fowler was born in Glen Cove, where he starred as a running back on the high school football team that went undefeated in 1943. He also played basketball and baseball. In 1944, he entered the Navy, serving as an aviation metalsmith at a San Diego naval base.
Returning to Long Island in 1946, he began working as a mechanic for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and joined its softball team.
In 1951, Newsday reported that Fowler, then 25, was attracting interest from the Cleveland Indians and the Brooklyn Dodgers. He said at the time that he preferred softball because, "It's a faster game and more interesting to play."
Though Fowler was never inducted in the national Hall of Fame, he was honored with a George Fowler Night by the Atlantic Seaboard Softball League upon his retirement from the game in 1964.
Fowler lived in the Amityville area after he married Gloria Nash, his childhood sweetheart who lived next door in Glen Cove when they were children. His daughter said he continued visiting friends in Glen Cove to play cards.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by brothers Larry, of Wichita, Kan., and Craig, of Queens; 10 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Sherrie.