NEW CASTLE —
Although he was an outstanding receiver and cornerback for the ’Canes football team, Aven’s sport was baseball.
“There was never a fence I saw that would stop Anthony Aven,” Joseph said. “He dove into concrete walls, chain-link fences. He got hurt so many times because of diving after balls on the fences.”
Aven was a premier shortstop and outfielder for New Castle. He was known for his slick fielding, effort and his ability to come through in the clutch.
“My team was playing against his one time,” friend Larry Kelly said. “They had runners on first and second with two outs in the last inning. Our pitcher walked him on purpose to get to the next batter. We didn’t want to face Anthony Aven in the clutch. He was the epitome of a New Castle athlete. He was what we all strive to be — tough and good.”
Aven's baseball career included all-section honors in 1968 and personal awards from tournaments and leagues that are too numerous for his friends to recall. His skills eventually would land him a spot on the Youngstown State baseball team.
Not the tallest or biggest guy on the football field or the baseball diamond at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, Aven used his competitive nature and willingness to do whatever it took to win to his advantage.
“He had a cannon,” Kelly said. “He had a tremendous throwing arm and tremendous power for as small as he was. The same thing in his football career, he was a tremendous football player and a defensive back. He was the toughest.”
Aven would play softball after his college days in the New Castle area, including a stint with the famous Iron Dukes team that was inducted into the Pennsylvania Softball Hall of Fame.
“We traveled all over the place,” Joseph said. “That’s what our team was known for. We all lived within a three-mile radius of each other, playing teams from Florida, Virginia and New York. We were little guys, but we hit the ball as hard as those big guys.”
Aven played softball into his 30s and was a hot ticket for teams around western Pennsylvania looking to fill a shortstop void in their leagues. He became just the second player in Lawrence County history — joining Fred Ryan — to play softball professionally.
“He was always in demand because of his defensive ability. Teams from the Pittsburgh area like the Brookline Young Men’s Club were interested in him,” Joseph said. “The owner of that team loved Anthony because he was so tough. He loved Anthony for his toughness and called Anthony to come play for him.”