A look back at Crook



I couldn't help but follow up on a local article that appeared in the paper a few weeks ago.
It was about a benefit show for ailing singer Joel "Odie" Crook.
The Youngstowner who now lives in Girard was diagnosed with cancer. His condition is considered terminal.
Crook appeared at the B & amp;B Backstage in Boardman recently and sang a set of six songs. Fatigue, however, kept him from returning later.
The benefit for Crook's 14-year-old son, Adam, drew about 1,200 to 1,500 people throughout the day.
The sports spinoff, however, is Crook's days as an East Sider.
Teammates
Donnie Jones of Austintown was an East High School classmate of Crook's. They were also football and baseball teammates their sophomore, junior and senior years. Their baseball coach from 1966-68 was the late Chip Flauto.
Crook's sandlot experience goes back to summers as third baseman and pitcher with Century Foods and Excel Auto Glass in the Uptown Kiwanis Little League.
John "Peepers" Chianese has known Crook since they were 10-year-olds.
"We were never on the same team in little league at Gibson Field, but we played against each other," Chianese said of his days with the Commercial Piping team. "He never struck me out and I never hit a home run off of him, so we always harassed each other when we saw each other."
As a 13- and 14-year-old, Crook played Pony League for the East Side Merchants, again as third base and pitcher.
While Crook and Chianese were on opposite sides in the summer, later, they were on the same side during the school year at East, a building which housed students in grades 7-12.
"Odie's best year in baseball was 11th grade when he started maybe a third of our 15 games, hit .280 and was 3-0-1 or 3-1-1 pitching," Chianese said.
Left End
After lettering in football as a 10th grader, Crook missed the first four games of his junior year due to a broken wrist. He returned and finished the season, playing left defensive end and left end on offense.
As seniors, Crook and Peepers alternated at defensive end until Chianese was moved to nose tackle/linebacker. Then Crook was a two-way end who caught four passes.
In a season-ending game against then-ranked Ursuline, Crook had a career-best seven solo tackles. He also had two sacks of Ursuline quarterback Dan Durkin.
"He got to the QB twice," Chianese said, "I think a 12-yarder and a 6- or 7-yard loss."
The game ended in an 8-8 tie and knocked the Irish out of the state's top 10 for the 1967 season.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Crook was also a lifeguard at Lincoln Park before his junior year and at North Side pool prior to his senior year.
At the same time, Crook's vocal ability was developing.
"Odie would sing anywhere, whether it was at practice, on the sidelines, in the huddle or with the East High choir," Chianese said. "He knew every word to every song."
Replacement
After graduation, "Peepers" steered Crook to a group when the lead singer of the band, Dante's, was looking for someone to replace an Army-bound Bobby Delflore.
"I knew five guys from North High who played sock hops," Chianese said. "Bobby was leaving and asked me if I knew anyone who could sing. Odie auditioned and sang with Dante's two or three times. Then we had a beer blast at the German Mannerchor. That's when they changed their name to the Soulsations."
After three years, Crook went on to sing with Left End, then Brainchild, Talisman, Lawrence Brothers, MOJO and You and I.
While he sang at night, Crook held a garbageman's job by day for seven or eight years. He also worked in sales.
Crook, 54, got his nickname when his younger sister, Susie, couldn't pronounce Joel.
"It came out Oh-E, Oh-E, then Odie finally came out and it stuck," Chianese said.
Crook's three brothers and two sisters continue to help him.
"They keep an eye on him," Chianese said. "They'll make sure Adam is taken care of."
Could that be why Left End was named for Crook's old football position?
XJohn Bassetti is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at bassetti@vindy.com.

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