by Frank Hyde
Col. Lou DeSantis Proves Specialist of Specialists
He was a specialist of specialists, reaching the peak of his athletic prowess in World War II years. The native of Jamestown not only participated in seven sports - football, baseball, track, basketball, softball, bowling and golf - but he starred in them all.
Because of the changes in the athletic mode wrought by time's marching, productive of this era's trend of mastering one or maybe two sports, it may be that Lou's all-around ableness eventually may stand alone in local athletic circles.
The saga of the DeSantis career, starting in the fading years of the commonly called "golden age of sports" of the 20's, embellished by the exploits of Dempsey, Tilden, Ruth, and Jones, and ending with his eighth Army assignment as recreation officer of the islands of Korea and Japan, the responsibility of setting up the entire program being his.
"My biggest thrill of this time came when the Falstaff Bowling team, including Buzz Fazio and Billy Welu, put on a series of exhibition and I was the escorting officer."
One of the details of the DeSantis job was the installation of 97 bowling lanes, eight of them one mile from the 38th Parallel, with the Russians right on the other side.
DeSantis answered the call to the colors early in 1942, right after Pearl Harbor, and was commissioned a second lieutenant January 1, 1943. He was promoted to first lieutenant while serving at Fort McCall, Alabama. From there, it was the European Theater where he was made captain and received the Purple Heart decoration, being wounded during the American Forces' drive across the Rhine.
After the War, Lou was assigned as athletic officer of the European Command. He was quarterback of the service football team while stationed at Frankfurt, and was a member of the All-Army track and field team, running the 220 and competing in the broad jump event, a performance that won him the Participation Award presented by General Eisenhower.
Lou returned for a brief Jamestown visit with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nunzio DeSantis, and his brothers, Phil, Patsy and Jimmy, in July 1946, before shipping to Okinawa, accompanied by his wife, Alma, and son, Brian.
His assignment was that of recreation and sports officer for the island and his first task, accomplished with a detachment of 10 men, was the construction of baseball and football fields, tennis and basketball courts, plus a golf course.
The DeSantis family returned to the States in 1950 and Lou was stationed at the Boston Army base until 1953 when he was called into action in the Korean War, during which he was promoted to major.
After the termination of the police action, he was transferred to Tokyo, again being assigned recreation and sports officer for Japan.
Lou returned to the States in 1956, serving at the Army Intelligence center at Fort Holabird near Baltimore, before his second transfer to Korea mentioned above. He finished his military career as troop commander at The Presidio, San Francisco, retiring August 31, 1962, after being made lieutenant colonel and initiating a blood donor program that netted 15,000 pints in three years.
DeSantis was a standout in basketball, softball, track and cross-country under the coaching of Harold Rubens at Washington School and won the first all-around athletic medal awarded for competition between the city's three junior high schools.
As a sophomore at Jamestown High, Lou played football and basketball for the teams coached by Al Ayers and was a letterman on Dent Moon's track team.
He transferred to Falconer High School for the next two years, was quarterback on Ken Anderson's football team and a guard on the basketball combine. Teammates included Orville Chandler, Billy Haskins, Rabbit Peterson and Les James, all of whom were outstanding athletes in their adult years.
DeSantis received his semi-pro football baptism as quarterback for the Ariel Athletic Club, the roster of which included Gene Mahoney, Phil DeSantis, his brother, the late Monte Paterniti, Watson, Fran Carlson, Frank Martines, Shushy Raffa, Phil Mula, Rog Guichard, Ted Barry and Cliff Carlson.
Later, he was quarterback for the Warren Red Jackets, one of whose stars was Marshall Goldberg, an All-American while at Pitt.
DeSantis, a .300 hitter, was an infielder the O'Neill and Shartran Muny League nine, when Walt Brown, later with the St. Louis Browns, was doing the bulk of the pitching, and Jimmy Rodgers and Johnny Carlson were standouts.
Lou pitched for the Metropolitan Life Insurance nine of the Old Night Softball League when games were played at Celoron Park. Stars were Maurice Paterniti, Art Bullock, Early Bradish, Morrie Mistretta, Rudy Carlson, Ford Hagberg and Sam "Ice Box" Forscey.
His bowling experience, wide and varied, included a stint as assistant to Greg Mulleavy, who retired as coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers only this fall, and whom he succeeded as manager of the Playdium when Greg became manager of the Buffalo Bisons prior to World War II.
Now 48, DeSantis is a salesman for McFadden Ford, resides in Lakewood, bowls and plays golf occasionally.
Just to keep the record straight, Lou belted a hole-in-one last year, and for god measure, rolled two 700 series. You know, merely keeping in shape.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.