FROM A PHONE TIPSTER: PRO BOWLER EARL ANTHONY WAS IN TOWN

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

It was a mid-afternoon call. Mid-summer. Very little was taking place around Redlands.

Hardly anyone was in the newspaper office. In those days, the telephone was the lifeblood at any newspaper. Most of the time, when callers weren’t complaining or spouting off, good calls often proved exotic and helpful. One afternoon in early 1982, a very quiet voice who was at Empire Bowl, the local bowling alley, had an alert.

“Earl Anthony,” she said, “is here right now … bowling.”

Anthony was a legendary figure on the Professional Bowling Association tour.

Though I doubted the caller’s accuracy – what would a guy like Earl Anthony be doing in Redlands, of all places, right? – it wouldn’t take a whole lot of effort to drive a few miles from the office to verify this report.

Earl Anthony? In Redlands? No way!

Earl_Anthony
Earl Anthony, who missed the cut at a PBA tournament in Torrance, was on his way to another tournament in Tucson, Ariz. when he stopped off, at all places, Empire Bowl in Redlands (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Empire Bowl, located right next to a portion of Interstate 10, was in a fairly prominent spot along Colton Ave. It bordered along the North Side neighborhoods. A couple blocks west sat Bob’s Big Boy, a popular little restaurant. A little east was historic downtown Redlands.

I parked, got out, walked into the House. A crowd of people had converged to the far right portion.

Empire Bowl
This was the view from the corner of Redlands’ Empire Bowl, where PBA star Earl Anthony stopped by for practice (photo by Empire Bowl).

Sure enough, there he was, rolling a ball. Alone. A lefty, to be sure. Smooth. Effortless. Confident. He knocked down pins the way Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino landed golf shots on the green.

That phone tip turned out to be true. Suddenly, I became a bowling writer. I hadn’t written much on bowling. Our newspaper relied on people turning in results.

“Earl, do you have a minute?”

The bespectacled gentleman motioned me over. We chatted for awhile.

First question: What in the heck was he doing here?

Earl Anthony laughed.

Just passing through, he said. Thought he’d stop and roll a few just to get some exercise. We became quick friends. He ordered us a couple Cokes.

It was small talk, mostly. Lots of PBA titles. Some major championships. Anthony shared the news that he, at one time, had been a left-handed pitching hopeful with the Baltimore Orioles, along with a few other insights about his life.

“My pitching helped my bowling, though. It helped my rhythm and concentration.”

PRO BOWLING IS ROUGH

We chatted a little about those local showboats. They have them in every city. They’re the dominant bowlers at their “House.” Pro bowling stars roll into town and have to take them on. You know, kind of like gunslingers taking on the city’s fastest gun.

Anthony, who was 43 at the time, laughed. “Yeah. Yeah. Sure, I’ve faced those kind of guys. A lot of times. Didn’t always win.”

He’d just missed the cut at a tournament in Torrance, “so I figured I’d better get out here and practice a little.”

Each week, the PBA’s top bowlers were in contention.

“Mark Roth, Mal Acosta and guys like that,” he said. “I don’t mean to put down any town’s best bowlers, but usually the difference between them and us is the same difference as a high school player coming up to the big leagues.”

Referring to the rabbit squad, a rabid group of bowlers trying to qualify for one of those 144 tournaments spots, he noted there were 200 to 300 guys trying to qualify for 60 or 70 spots.

“When they qualify, they’ve made no money – just the right to play in the tournament.”

Pro bowling is tough, he said.

At that time, he told me, “pro bowling was at an all-time high in popularity. There is more television coverage than ever.”

In the early 1980s, ABC was televising 16 straight weeks of events.

At that very moment we were talking, the Pennzoil Open in Torrance – the tournament at which he’d failed to qualify – was set to televise on ESPN.

His home “House” was in the Northern California city of Dublin, bordering the Bay Area. Acosta and Rich Carrubba, current PBA members, were connected.

He spoke of a new PBA rule which required its members to take on a 2 ½ -day course – things like how to handle money, talk to the press and public, plus learning PBA history.

“I’m insulted by it,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea for guys coming out. But they want me and everybody else to go back and I think it’s ridiculous.”

Sarcastically, he added, “I’ve only been on the tour for about 13 years.”

In other words, he was history.

I’d reminded him that professional golfers, upon inception in the 1960s, did not require its current membership to qualify.

Said Anthony: “I used that same analogy with the PBA. They’re not listening to any of that. They still want us to attend.”

We sipped our Cokes. In between questions and answers, he’d effortlessly roll his ball down the lane. Here was a guy that made his living by rolling a ball better than most.

ANTHONY CLOSING IN ON HIS GOALS

Anthony’s goal, he told me, was “to win 40 tournaments and a million dollars before I quit.”

At that moment, Anthony had compiled 36 pro titles to his credit, plus over $900,000 in total purse winnings.

Before leaving, I said, “You know, I’ve never taken a photo before. Would you mind?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Tell me what you need.”

The photo came out a little dark. It was publishable. I think I was more excited about the photo than I was the article I’d written. Redlands’ bowling public would discover that a PBA star had stopped briefly in their community, en route to Tucson, his next tournament stop.

Two years earlier, Anthony suffered a heart attack.

“I’m fine now. I just want to start winning.”

I was done.

On my way out, I stopped at the front desk. Spotted an older woman.

“Are you the one who called me?”

She nodded.

“I owe you dinner for that. Appreciate what you did.”

“I get off at 6.”

“Bob’s?”

“Should I meet you there?”

It was, it turned out, the first and last time I’d ever see her.

Because of her, though, I’d met – and interviewed – Earl Anthony.

 

 

 

DAUER HELPED BAPTIZE SPIRIT IN REDLANDS, 1987

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Rich Dauer sat beside me on the first base bench just after the San Bernardino Spirit finished playing under the dimly-lit field at Redlands Community Field.

It was April 1987. Thirty-one years later, he would be taking part in a pre-game ceremony at the newly-crowned world champion Houston Astros. Back then, they were playing in the Astrodome.

But on this date in 1987, something new was taking place. The California League had just expanded to, of all places, San Bernardino.

Less than two decades earlier, his high school team came to play at Redlands.

“I remember playing here,” he said, referring to Community Field, “in high school.”

Here was Dauer who, only a few years earlier, had played second base on the 1983 Baltimore Orioles’ World Series championship.

He was homegrown.

Colton High School, a 1970 graduate.

San Bernardino Valley College, then known as the Indians.

Then it was onto USC, where he was a two-time All-American third baseman, helping lead the Trojans to win the College World Series in both 1973 and 1974. He’s now a Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Famer, having been the team’s No. 1 draft pick (1974), playing in two World Series.

Chris Tillman, Rich Dauer
Colton’s Rich Dauer, inducted into the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame in 2012, brought the San Bernardino Spirit to Redlands’ Community Field in 1987 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The Spirit knew where many of their fans might show up at Fiscalini Field – located on Highland Ave. in San Bernardino – and that was Redlands.

Showing up at Community Field was the perfect public relations move. The Spirit could sell a lot of tickets to these folks.

With his hitting coach, Jay Johnstone, sitting nearby, Dauer reflected on minor league ball players.

“These guys,” he said, motioning out to those Class A players, “aren’t that far away from the major leagues.”

It was quite a proclamation. These were minor leaguers, Rich, I’d told him.

He shook his head in disagreement.

“All these guys are,” he said, “just young. They need experience. They can throw just as hard, hit it just as far … as any major leaguers. They just need to get consistent.

“That’s what will keep them out of the majors,” he said. “If they’re not consistent.”

There were some future major leaguers on that Spirit roster.

Todd Cruz and Rudy Law, plus Terry Whitfield, pitchers Andy Rincon and Craig Chamberlain – all of whom showed up

Cruz, in fact, was an infield teammate of Dauer’s on that 1983 Orioles team.

Law played against the O’s in the 1983 American League playoffs when Baltimore knocked off the Chicago White Sox.

All those ex-MLB players were playing out the string.

Another Spirit, infielder Mike Brocki, had torn apart Redlands High in a CIF soccer playoff a few years earlier – scoring three times in a 6-0 win. For the Spirit in 1987, he hit two HRs and batted .233.

Let’s not forget another Spirit infielder, Leon Baham, who would eventually become one of Redlands’ top youth baseball coaches in years ahead. Baham hit .279 with 8 HRs that season.

And Ronnie Carter, a Fontana product who was an NCAA Division 3 All-American at the University of Redlands a couple years earlier, got 164 at-bats (4 HRs, .213) for a squad that was filled by plenty of guys that had no shot at a major league career.

Dauer sat over all of them, perhaps lining himself up for a lengthy future in MLB. Curiously, he never drew a manager’s assignment at the MLB level, coaching at Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Colorado and, finally, Houston.

Dauer spent as much time as I needed on that Community Field bench that night. Plenty of local youths showed up to watch this split-squad game.

Pitchers fired seeds.

Hitters took big cuts.

Baserunners seemed quick, fast.

Fielders made it look easy.

Dauer, working for the Seattle Mariners, had the task of sitting over these guys.

Three decades later, Dauer was pulling himself to the mound at Minute Maid Park. It was April 2, 2018 – today’s date, in fact.  He threw out the first pitch.

For the previous three seasons, he had coached first base as the Astros made a dramatic move toward becoming contenders. When Houston beat the Dodgers in a thrilling 7-game series the previous fall, Dauer was back in familiar territory.

Tragedy struck at the World Series parade. Dauer suffered a head injury, resulting in emergency brain surgery. It brought his coaching career – 19 years strong – to a pre-mature conclusion.

He was the perfect selection to throw out the first pitch.

That 1987 season in San Bernardino was his first as a coach. His playing career concluded in 1985. He had been teammates with the likes of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer.

None of that trio ever played California League ball. Dauer cut his teeth as a coach in that historical assemblage of minor league cities.

It no way resembled the California League that would eventually surface in various Southern California cities.

San Bernardino had joined the Bakersfield Dodgers, Fresno Giants, Modesto A’s, Palm Springs Angels, Reno Padres, Salinas Spurs, San Jose Bees, Stockton Ports and the Visalia Oaks. Truth is, the Salinas Spurs had moved to San Bernardino, adopting the Spirit name.

Here he was, back in Redlands after a well-traveled baseball career. Only a few hundred had bothered to show.

Dauer seemed to be the perfect pick to lead the Spirit.

After all, he had been a local product.

“It never occurred to me,” said Dauer on that April 1987 night, “that there’d ever be a minor league team in San Bernardino.”