ONE ON ONE | Paul Crowley A veteran of two services: the military and baseball
You are a decorated veteran. When did you join the service?
In 1943, a law was passed for all 18-year-olds to enter the service. I turned 18, and I was one of the first ones to be drafted out of East High School. As a matter of fact, it was my junior year -- I still had another year to graduate.
What happened after you were drafted?
I took my basic training in Mississippi with special forces. When they were planning D-Day, I was shipped out of there to Scotland on the Queen Mary. In England, I joined the Ninth Division. About two weeks after D-Day, we entered Normandy coast.
What is the most unusual thing you remember about being in battle?
One night, we were crossing a river and the Germans opened up on us, and we all had to scurry back to where we came from. So I dove in, and the funny part of it was, the first thing I thought about was taking my watch off and putting it in my mouth so it wouldn't get damaged. I made it back to the other side, and I can still remember the hail of fire was tremendous; I don't know how I ever survived it. I wound up in a French farm hotbed -- where they plant tomatoes. I dove in there, and I could hear the bullets over my head.
Were you ever wounded?
After four months of steady combat -- and believe me, it was steady combat -- I was wounded Oct. 10, 1944. I got three pieces of shrapnel in my back. I was injured pretty badly. They got two pieces out, and the third piece I'm still carrying after all these years as a souvenir in my chest wall.
What medals were you awarded?
I've got four stars on my ATO ribbon -- four major battles. I got the Purple Heart, president's citation. I got a certificate that I just got a couple years ago from the people of Normandy.
How long were you in the service?
About 2 1/2 years. January 1946, I got discharged from the service, and I came home and I married my neighborhood sweetheart. I was still young. I was only 21 years old.
How did you get interested in coaching baseball?
A friend of mine had a chance to go into Little League in 1952 or 1953. So, we spent about three years in Little League in the 1950s. Then we went into a different class of baseball called Pony League. That was in 1957. Fourteen years we were in Pony League. That age group is 13 and 14. Pony League is short bases and short pitching mounds. Then we decided in 1970 to go into Babe Ruth baseball, which is the greatest thing in the world for kids.
Who was involved in bringing the Babe Ruth League to Youngstown?
The people who were there was me, Ted Rorick, Virginia Nard -- we didn't leave women out -- and Roy Nard. We designated Virginia to get all of the entry forms and stuff for Babe Ruth League, which covers ages 13, 14 and 15.
Babe Ruth is regular baseball. The only restriction in Babe Ruth is they limit pitching per week to save young arms.
Are you still active in the league?
We got other people in there now because a lot of us are getting old. I probably would have been around a little bit more, but I broke my leg playing basketball at 68 years old and I tried to, but I'm not the kind of person who can sit and coach in a chair. I got to show the kid what to do, not holler at him what to do.
What was your last official position in the Babe Ruth League?
I was the manager of the East Side Kiwanis team. When I broke my leg, I turned it over. I did do a lot of coaching in a chair and limped along with a cane.
I was also the commissioner for Northeast Ohio, and I turned that over to a very good friend of mine, and he's very conscientious, John Steeves. He's doing a good job.
Did you play baseball when you were in high school?
There was no baseball when I went to high school.
Then how did you get interested in baseball?
When I went in the service, that's where I learned about football, basketball and baseball. Most of it was baseball. We had a coach there, he used to yell at us, "You Yankees are the dumbest people in the world the way you stand in the batter's box at the same place and don't move with the pitch."
That's how I taught my players. My players, when I coached them, I moved them in the box.
Why did you coach so long?
Love of the game. It's something I was deprived of when I was wounded in the service.