Bob Zalewski wrote us recently after reading a reference of Salamanca native Paul Owens, who played baseball in Olean and went on to serve as general manager — and field manager — of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“As a personal friend of his since he came back from World War II in 1945, until his passing, I would like to add a couple of additional bits of information.
“My father, Stanley, started baseball after the war and enlisted many veterans to play on his team, the Salamanca Moose and then the Merchants, and yours truly was the 10-year-old batboy. After a couple of years, Dad told Paul he was just too good to waste his talents in the then Suburban League and he would try to get him a tryout with the Olean team, the Oilers. “Needless to say, Paul did play and was rookie of the year and batting champ a couple of times, playing manager, etc. He then hooked on with the Phillies and became a scout in California, and manager.
“Now, just to let you know the type of great person Paul was, my father died on a sudden heart attack in January 1958. We had at least 2 feet of snow, and at the viewing at our home, lo and
behold, here came Paul up the sidewalk to pay his respects. And respect it was: He flew across country from California as quickly as he could!
“Paul was promoted to director of the Phillies scouting system and made many great improvements in the players.”
In 1972, Owens was named general manager of the Phillies — he then fired the manager, serving in the dugout as manager himself on an interim basis. In a few short years, the Phillies were contenders, winning the National League East three straight years (1976-78). Finally, in 1980, the Phillies won the World Series, managed on the field by Dallas Green.
Owens returned to the bench to manage again in 1983, when the Phillies lost in the World Series to the Baltimore Orioles. His career at the helm of the Phillies ended in 1984, but he remained as a consultant and attended spring training every year. He died in 2003 at the age of 79.
“Quite an accomplishment for a local Salamanca boy!” Bob writes.