Franklin County Sheriff-elect Dane Anthony strolled onto Henninger Field with his friend Everett Rey last week as the mid-summer sun beat down on the historic ball field.
Everett — outfitted with the same catcher’s mitt he used the day Anthony pitched a no-hitter that helped the Cleveland Indians win a minor league championship in 1980 — positioned himself behind the home plate while Dane walked to the pitcher’s mound.
They were about to demonstrate Dane’s slider-in-the-dirt pitch that struck out White Sox power hitter Ron Kittle on June 7, 1980 to secure a win for their Cleveland Indians.
For a moment, they were back in Waterloo, Iowa, in a packed stadium reliving a game that would lead to a championship for their minor league baseball team.
Everett gave the signal. Dane was in his wind up. The ball came in low in the strike zone.
Cameras clicked. One of the two lone spectators tried to capture the moment on video. The moment was not as historic as that day in 1980, but it was history being relived.
It was a symbol of a friendship that has flourished for four decades, in spite of time and distance that can often make such friendship just a vague memory.
It marked the first time in 38 years that the two friends had been in the same place at the same time.
How the Story Began
Back in 1980, both men had been drafted by the Cleveland Indians and were on the same minor league team. They had already formed a close friendship.
That friendship would continue after both players left pro baseball, even though they lived a continent apart.
But in 1980 their friendship was being cemented by their love of baseball and shared experiences in the minor leagues. Both had high hopes of making it into the majors as they honed their skills — Everett as a catcher and Dane as a pitcher.
They had already become fast friends both on and off the field. The bonding as especially evident when they were paired as a battery during games such as the 1980 division playoffs.
No doubt there was excitement. The crowd that packed the stadium that June day was the largest turn out at that Midwest conference ballpark up to that time.
Dane and Everett were so in tune with each other that Dane — standing on the mound — could almost sense the signal Rey was about to give him.
“As I gave the signal, he would be winding up for the pitch… exactly what I had asked for,” Everett recalls.
Dane had pitched a no-hitter up to that point in the first game. White Sox left fielder Ron Kittle, who was becoming known for his home run hitting power, was up to bat.
Everett signaled low in the strike zone. Dane sent the ball toward the plate. It came in low, but still in the strike zone. A slider in the dirt, just what Everett asked for and Dane delivered.
Kittle swung. And missed. It was his third strike, and the last out of the game. Dane had thrown a no-hitter. The Indians took the league championship that year. Dane and Everett still have their championship rings and were wearing them last week during their reunion practice at Henninger.
A Lifetime Friendship, Renewed in a Historic Ballpark
Standing in the ballpark reenacting Dane’s slider-in-the-dirt pitch gives rise to a question, given the historic local ball field where Babe Ruth once hit a home run out of the park during an exhibition game.
If the now 61year-old Kittle — who was named the 1983 AL Rookie of the Year and hit 176 home runs in his career — had been at the plate at last week’s Anthony-Rey reunion, would he have remembered Dane’s slider in the dirt pitch and still missed it?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course, not meant to be answered.
It was enough for Dane and Everett to be back together in a ballpark, spending time together reminiscing and attempting to reenact a moment in their personal histories together.
Their stories are similar and run a close parallel. They both grew up playing ball from an early age. They were both drafted by professional ball clubs right out of school — high school graduation for Dane, college graduation for Everett.
They both played profession ball but didn’t quite make it to the majors. Both still consider those days to be among the best years, even though they have no regrets when considering their lives in the decades since.
“Without a doubt, Everett was the best catcher I ever played with,” Dane says.
Everett says he as no doubts Dane could have pitched in the Big Leagues.
Everett was first drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1977. He had just finished junior college and turned the opportunity down so he could get his four-year degree.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1979 and met Dane while they were both playing winter ball for the Indians in Clearwater, Florida.
Dane was drafted by the Indians right out of high school in 1978.
Those drafts were something both young ballplayers had been working toward from an early age.
The Importance of Baseball in Young Lives
“From about six or seven years of age, it was all I wanted to do,” Everett said. “I only played baseball, no other sport.”
Baseball had been a part of Dane’s life since early childhood also. His parents, the late Ron and May Anthony, introduced Dane and his sisters Tonya and Debbie to baseball early in life. Ron spent his evenings playing ball with his children, often joined by May.
His dad coached Dane from farm team through American Legion ball. The family lived in Edenville and Dane and his sisters went to school in the Tuscarora School District.
Dane played varsity baseball at James Buchanan High School from 1975-78, where he was coached by Jim Swailes.
“He was not only a great coach but more importantly, he cared about his players,” Dane said. “He prepared us to not only excellent in baseball, but in life.”
In addition to his father and Swailes, his Legion coach Bob Carter was also a big influence in his life.
“He worked a lot at getting me exposed to Major League scouts,” Dane said. Dane was drafted by the Cleveland Indians right out of high school and played pro ball for the next eight years.
He played with and against Cal Ripken Jr., Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry.
“In fact, I struck Cal out three times in one game, but he did hit a home run off of me once too,” Dane remembers.
Great Experiences, No Regrets
Today he calls his minor league baseball experience “a lot of fun” with seemingly no real regrets for not playing in the majors.
“The greatest part of it all was the relationships you made with teammates,” he said. “I got to travel all across the country met some wonderful people and even spent an evening once with Johnny Cash and June Carter.”
During his pro career, Dane’s record was 66-40. His career ERA was 3.29. He started 106 games and had 41 complete games with 11 saves.
He was on three championship teams and has three championship rings. He made the All-Star team four years and made MVP in 1979.
Dane played pro ball through the 1985 season when he was released by the Blue Jays, with whom he played during the final two years of his career.
Everett left pro ball a year earlier when he suffered a torn rotator cuff.
Both went home, Dane to Pennsylvania and Everett to California. Neither knew what they were going to do.
“I thought I would be in a baseball uniform for the rest of my life,” Dane said.
Everett had similar thoughts.
“At the time baseball was the most important thing in my life,” he said.
Back Home, Mentoring Young Ball Players
But both found another niche in life. Both found other jobs, married and kept a hand in baseball by mentoring young ball players.
Both agree that any difference they can make in a young person’s life brings its own reward.
Today Everett is a senior manager with Fed Express in Oakland, California. He and his wife Stacey live in Stockton, CA.
Back home, Dane went in law enforcement, working as a deputy for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. He also served eight years as county sheriff from 2007 through 2015.
This year he ran for County sheriff again in the May primary. He won both the Republican nomination by a large margin and the Democratic nomination with write-in votes.
As for baseball, the memories from his minor league days are wonderful, but Dane says he is also happy with the rest of his life.
“I have been truly blessed in my life,” he said.