FORMER SUBWAY ALUMNI LEADER REFLECTS ON HIS "NOTRE DAME ODYSSEY"


Herb Juliano
(1922-1998)

Herb's Archive will feature a story on Horseman Jim Crowley, one of the heroes of the '25 Rose Bowl.

The incomparable Sleepy Jim Crowley

The incomparable Sleepy Jim Crowley.

 

This edition of Herb's Archive will feature an article on Jim Crowley from the March 14,1983 edition of The Times Leader. It's written by Dave Cater.

WlLKES-BARRE -They have withstood the sands of time. Almost 60 years of football have come and gone, but The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame live on.

Stuhldreher was the quarterback. a pint-size kid out of Massillon, Ohio, who had prepped a year in Pennsylvania.

Miller was the fullback whose family tradition made it impossible to go anywhere else. He was preceded at the Golden Dome by brothers Red, a former Irish football player in 1909, Ray and Walter .

Layden, a fullback. was considered the best athlete of the quartet. Out of Davenport, Iowa, he had been pushed by his Notre Dame-biased father to skip Iowa and head for South Bend, lnd.

And then there was Crowley, one of the best high school players ever to come out of Green Bay, Wis. He was the lone member to come to the Fighting Irish on a recommendation, getting his at the urging of Curley Lambeau, who later became a coaching legend with the Green Bay Packers.

Together, this 1921 freshmen crop was green behind the ears and were given little chance of playing.

Especially since they were playing for the master of them all, the man some suggested invented the word charisma - Knute Kenneth Rockne.

Coming into the 1922 season, Rockne made these notes on the future Four Horsemen, according to the book "Rockne" by Jerry Brondfield.

Stuhldreher: Probably has most promise ...sounds like leader ...fearless blocker ... quick and brilliant thinker in emergency.

Layden: 10-second speed ... but punting ability seems best asset.

Miller: Not bad blocker ... could be outstanding ball carrier.

Crowley: Shows little except for his wit and occasional Dash of open field running.

But four years and a Notre Dame dynasty later, they were members of still the most famous backfield of the century.

And the subject of sports writer Grantland Rice's immortal words after a game with Army:

Polo Grounds, New York, Oct. 18 -"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they were known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden."

The next day, they were mounted on horses and then mounted on every front page of every major newspaper in the country. The moniker had come from the film version of a Blasco Ibanez novel. .'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." ,

As freshmen, Rockne knew them not. By the time. they were juniors, Rockne called his offensive line, termed the "Seven Mules" by their last names. But it always was Harry, Don, Jimmy and Elmer.

Crowley once said Rockne was a Grade A example of a college coach who used football as an instrument of human relationship, as a furnace of team combat for forging the indissoluable bond of comradeship and tolerance and understanding.

Crowley, now 81 [in 1983] and recovering from a heart attack at his Scranton home, is the lone remaIning member of The Four Horsemen.

He still is regarded as the most colorful bareback of the bunch.

Old-timers still refer to Crowley as "Sleepy Jim, but it had nothing to do with his penchant for unscheduled naps.

Just before the snap of the ball, as the Notre Dame backfield went into a shift, Crowley would slump and appear bored. His elyelids seemed like they were drooping.

One of the most remembered Crowley stories concerns him getting tossed from Notre Dame in 1921 for being involved in a 10 cent dormitory crap game.

Fearing family punishment, Crowley got a job in Indianapolis as a soda jerk, wrote letters to his mother and then had a friend send them from the Notre Dame campus to his mother in Green Bay.

He rejoined the team the following fall but didn't becomee a starter until much later in the season. He was a cut above the rest, both on and off the field as evidence by his All-American selection as a senior in 1924 and kind words from "Rock."

"Jimmy kept us from getting tense and taking ourselves too seriously " Rockne was quoted as saying. "He was a reminder that college and even football can be fun. If anything. he was our team's unofficial spokesman."

After the days of Rockne, Crowley spent time as backfield coach at the University of Georgia and head coach at both Michigan State and Fordham University. From 1935-41, his Rams' team averaged one loss per season and twice gained bowl berths.

After a stint in the U.S. Naval Reserve, he accepted a post as commissioner of the All-America Football Conference that later merged with the National Football League.

He came to Wyoming Valley in 1951 and started in the insurance business. Two years later, he moved to Scranton where he became station manager and sports director of WTVU. He later served as chairman of the state Athletic Commission.

In the past three decades, the name Jim Crowley on a sports banquet dais has signified instant acclaim. He is a frequent and welcome guest of the Wilkes-Barre Fightin' Irish Club that meets at the Peking Chef on Public Square.

"He's a legend that's still living," maintains Ron Ley, president of the local group. "He has an ability to talk to any audience and put an audience at ease. He has an amazing memory and recall. He can quote stories as if they were yesterday."

What makes Crowley magic is that yesterday still is here today.

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