By the time Owens was 22, he had splashed ashore at Omaha Beach, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, married a Belgian woman (the former Marcelle Le-Clercq) and done some studying at St. Bonaventure University. The Cardinals signed him as a first baseman, and he batted .407 at Class D Olean, but by the time he'd advanced to Class A Omaha, he was 27. "That was awfully old in those days," he says, "and I didn't want to be a baseball bum." In 1951 he became a schoolteacher.
But he still had the baseball bug, and in 1956 the Phillies signed him to manage Olean—for $4,500. He has also served the franchise as a scout and chief of the farm system. "In 1961, when I was a West Coast scout, I checked into an L.A. hotel and told them I was with the Phillies," he says. "They thought I worked for the tobacco company." As farm director, Owens persuaded the Phillies to build a $400,000 minor league complex in Florida, join the winter instructional league and scout players in foreign countries; he also transformed a pathetic farm system into one of the best.
Along the way, Owens, a Catholic, acquired one of baseball's most unusual nicknames. He got it in 1963 when Cardinal Montini became Pope Paul VI. Does Owens like what he has seen since he put on his baseball shoes?
Is the Pope Catholic?