Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Navy 1
Birth:
10 Sep 1902 1
Death:
15 Jan 1986 1
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Personal Details

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Person:
James Crowley 1
Gender: Male 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-7364 1
Birth:
10 Sep 1902 1
Death:
15 Jan 1986 1
Cause: Unknown 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Navy 1
Enlistment Date:
16 Mar 1942 1
Organization:
Navy 1
Organization Code:
NAVY 1
Release Date:
13 Jun 1945 1
Release Date 2:
08 Aug 1945 1

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Stories

JIM CROWLEY, FINAL MEMBER OF FOUR HORSEMEN, IS DEAD

Jim Crowley, the small, swift halfback who galloped into sports lore as one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame and later coached the Seven Blocks of Granite at Fordham, died yesterday at a nursing home in Scranton, Pa., after a long illness.

He was 83 years old and was the last surviving member of the fabled backfield that led Notre Dame to a 19-1 record over two years and an undefeated season in 1924. Harry Stuhldreher, the quarterback, died in 1965; Elmer Layden, the fullback, died in 1973 and Don Miller, the right halfback, died in 1979. All four were elected to the National Football Hall of Fame.

James H. Crowley also was a college coach who never had a losing season, a respected sports official who served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission and a successful businessman.

But no matter how much he accomplished in later life, he could never match the fame he won as a college senior in 1924, when Notre Dame, two victories into the season, defeated Army, 13-7, at the Polo Grounds and stirred Grantland Rice of The New York Herald Tribune to compose perhaps the most memorable sports account ever written:

''Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horseman rode again. 'In dramatic lore, they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.''

Crowley said he never took the group's nickname seriously. ''I don't know if it was ever spelled out who was who,'' he once remarked, ''but you can put me down as Pestilence.'' Considered Best of Four

Although Stuhldreher was the acknowledged leader, Crowley, who had an outgoing personality and tongue-in-cheek humor, was generally considered the best player of the four. At 5 feet 11 inches and 160 pounds, he was the team's leading rusher in 1922, when he gained 566 yards on 75 carries, and its leading passer in 1922 and 1923. He finished his career with 1,841 yards (10th best on the Notre Dame rushing list) on 294 carries, for a 6.3-yard average.

Crowley's fame was aided by the nickname that was pinned on him by Notre Dame's coach, Knute Rockne. Surveying his freshman prospects in 1921, Rockne spied Crowley, a drowsy-eyed youth from Green Bay, Wis., and cracked: ''You look like a tester in an alarm clock factory.'' Crowley was ''Sleepy'' ever after.

After his graduation in 1925, Crowley played briefly for the Green Bay Packers and the Providence Steam Rollers of the National Football League, receiving $500 a game or $1,000 if he was joined by the other three Horsemen.

After a stint as an assistant coach at the University of Georgia, he took over as head coach at Michigan State in 1929 and compiled a 22-8-3 record in four seasons before moving to Fordham in 1933. There he coached the famous defensive line known as the Seven Blocks of Granite, which included Vince Lombardi and did not allow a touchdown in 1937. Crowley coached Fordham to its only two bowl appearances and compiled a 56-13-7 record over nine seasons. Naval Officer in World War II

Crowley, who left Fordham to serve as a commander in the Navy during World War II, later served as commissioner of the All-America Football Conference and then took over as coach-owner of the league's Chicago Rockets in 1947. He quit after one season with a 1-13 record.

He later went into business in Scranton, served as Industrial Commissioner of Lackawanna County and became chairman of the State Athletic Commission before retiring in 1972.

Mr. Crowley, whose wife, Helen, and son, Jim Jr., died earlier, is survived by a son, Patrick, of Teaneck, N.J., and three grandchildren who live in Scranton.

A funeral mass has been scheduled for 9:30 tomorrow morning at St. Clare's Roman Catholic Church in Scranton.

Famed football 'Horseman' a link to Notre Dame's past

Don Miller, Elmer Layden, Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley - famous football names. The others are gone now, but 81-year-old Jim Crowley, last of the fabled ''Four Horsemen'' of Notre Dame, carries on.

 

As a youth he gained All-American status as a running back in 1924. Today ''Sleepy Jim'' Crowley remains sharp, and his stories still carry the authentic wit they did when he first began telling them on the banquet circuit many years ago.

Crowley has been a resident of this central Pennsylvania town for the last 30 years. He spends much of his time now visiting with friends and attending an occasional sports function, recounting his career and a lifetime of football memories.

Crowley left Green Bay, Wis., as a youth to play for The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the backfield that eventually harnessed his name forever with those of the other Four Horsemen.

For those perhaps unfamiliar with the story, it unfolded in the third game of the 1924 season when Notre Dame defeated Army 13-7.

''Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again,'' typed Grantland Rice in what has become probably the most famous lead in sportswriting history. ''In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon.''

The next day, a national wire syndicate sent out a photo of the four uniformed players astride horses. The photo as well as Rice's lead have been reprinted regularly ever since, assuring the quartet of enduring fame.

Crowley has said that Rice took his idea from George Strickler, Notre Dame's student publicist, who had agreed with sportswriters during halftime that the Irish would destroy the Cadets. ''Just like the Four Horsemen,'' Strickler added , having recently seen the movie version of Blasco Ibanez's novel, ''The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,'' which starred Rudolph Valentino.

As for his own nickname, Crowley picked it up not because he liked to take naps but because he often seemed bored waiting for the ball to be snapped to the backfield men before they shifted into position. His body would kind of slump and his eyelids seemed to droop, writers explained.

Recruited by numerous other colleges, Crowley always has considered himself fortunate to have chosen Notre Dame, where he had the chance to play with such outstanding teammates under the famed Knute Rockne.

''They were tremendous individuals - Miller, Layden, Stuhldreher - with so much talent,'' he once said of his backfield colleagues. ''We had a bond of friendship that was just wonderful when we were young, and that grew and grew as we got older and would meet off and on through the years.''

As for Rockne, Crowley still considers him ''the most inspirational man I ever met.

''He had me for three years of varsity football and I can assure you there was nothing phony about the man. Stories that have been written about him have not been exaggerated through the years. He was inspirational and it is the key word to describe him. The man was a dynamic, well-rounded human being who would have been a big man in any business.''

Rockne once said of Crowley: ''Jimmy kept us from getting tense and taking ourselves too seriously. He was a reminder that college and even football can be fun. If anything, he was our team's unofficial spokesman.'' The coach had called his 1924 team his favorite.

After leaving Notre Dame, Crowley served as backfield coach at Georgia and later as head coach at Fordham and Michigan State. His squads never had a losing season, and his Fordham team averaged but a loss per season from 1935 to 1941 and went to two bowls.

Following a hitch with the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II, Crowley became commissioner of the All-American Football Conference, which eventually was absorbed by the NFL. Then, he moved to the insurance business in Pennsylvania, became a radio station manager and sports director, and eventually was named chairman of the state athletic commission.

He retired in 1971 and spent the next years traveling about the country as a goodwill ambassador and after-dinner speaker, a function he was busy at until a recent illness.

''You can't keep a good Irishman down,'' Sleepy Jim Crowley will tell you.

And so, 60 years later, the living legend is still a popular man, still sought after by the banquet circuit and still sought out by his horde of friends.

''It's strange that I'm the last one to stay around, but I feel fortunate,'' Crowley explains. ''That's life, I guess. Someone had to be the last on the field,'' said the last of the Four Horsemen.

 

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