By Gary Kalahar (Photo by Ryan Kerwin, JTV Sports)
Larry Dailey was sitting in the bleachers watching his nieces play softball for Hanover-Horton High School when then-coach Bill Jones approached. It was a few games into the 2000 season, and Jones had noticed that having his players keep the scorebook left him puzzled over whether they were recording the action or doing artwork.
Jones asked Dailey if he would head to the dugout and keep the book.
“Of all the maneuvers I pulled as a coach,” said Jones, who coached softball and then baseball until 2015, “that might have been the best one.”
Getting Dailey involved brought tremendous benefit to Jones’ teams through the years – just like everything else Dailey has been involved with at Hanover-Horton. And that is a lot.
For 20 years in a variety of capacities, Dailey’s volunteer efforts have helped bolster a successful Hanover-Horton athletic program. Now that program is helping him with his battle against a cancerous brain tumor.
“He’s very dedicated and committed to Hanover-Horton,” boys basketball coach Chad Mortimer said. “He’s done so much for us, and now everybody’s trying to do what they can to support him.”
Dailey’s involvement with the Comets began in 1998, when a friend of his coached the girls junior varsity basketball team that was in need of an official scorer a few days before the season started. His niece volunteered him, and after one season he took over as the varsity scorer. At the same time, he became the official scorer for boys basketball. He’s been at the table for both boys and girls – which since the move of girls basketball to the winter season in 2007 means many four-night weeks – ever since.
It was around that time that Dailey was encouraged to attend a booster club meeting, so he checked it out.
“Lo and behold, it’s officer election night – and I was the vice president,” he recalled with a laugh.
Sensing a pattern here?
He was the vice president for a year and then the president for six years.
“He does things in a hundred different ways, little things behind the scenes, not expecting any recognition or accolades,” Jones said.
After five seasons on the softball scorebook, Dailey moved with Jones to the junior varsity baseball team for two seasons and then to the varsity. He remains a fixture in the dugout, contributing far more than just recording hits, errors and outs. His detail in charting what happens on every at-bat – from first-pitch swings to where balls are hit and how hard – is legendary among local coaches.
“He has four different colored pens going and doesn’t miss a beat,” Jones said. “He carries a bottle of whiteout, and I think he used it one time. And he said he swore the umpire said ball, not strike.”
Dailey prepares a summary of each hitter the Comets will face, information that Jones said becomes handy for more than just Hanover-Horton.
“I would get two or three calls every year during the tournament,” Jones said, “from coaches asking, ‘What did Larry put together on this team?’”
Dailey’s analysis of opponents has been beneficial to the success of the boys basketball program, which in the last 16 years has racked up 15 district titles and seven regional championships and gone to the state semifinals twice. Mortimer said Dailey prepares a pregame packet of information on the Comets’ next opponent, including statistical information on individual players.
“That’s especially good in the tournament, when we’re not as familiar with who we might be playing in a regional or quarterfinal game,” Mortimer said. “It amazes us as coaches how he’s able to come up with some of the stuff. I know he’s driven to different towns to look up newspaper articles to find things out about our opponents.”
Dailey’s number-crunching extends to Hanover-Horton’s cross country program, which has captured three state championships (two girls and one boys) since 2009. Before the big meets, he scours for times on teams throughout the state, giving the Comets a solid prediction of the runners they will be racing against. He even takes times from “faster” courses and converts them into what might be more reasonably expected.
“He’s a nut about statistics,” Hanover-Horton cross country coach Dean Blackledge said. “He’s very knowledgeable, and his memory is just fantastic. He keeps up with everything. I don’t know how he finds time to do that. He must not watch much TV.”
Cross country holds a special draw for Dailey. A member of the first class to go through Hanover-Horton from kindergarten after the merger of Hanover and Horton, Dailey became the school’s first runner to qualify for the state cross country meet as a senior in 1971. Blackledge is sure to point that out when he introduces Dailey to the freshmen every year.
Jones said Dailey doesn’t just show up to keep score, attending virtually every practice and doing whatever is needed to help the coaches. Among the extras Dailey provides is a trivia question posted daily in the dugout and noticed not only by players but by umpires. Thus every Hanover-Horton baseball player learns the name of the Major League Baseball player who wore his birthday on his back. Every year on May 17, that’s the question posed and answered with Carlos May, who wore No. 17 for the Chicago White Sox.
“He’s a great guy. You never have to worry about him,” Jones said. “Some people you worry about them saying things you don’t want said to your kids, or not behaving around the kids. I never had one complaint with Larry. He loves being around the kids, and he loves sports.”
Finding the record books scant when he became involved, Dailey set about to compile historical information on Hanover-Horton sports.
“You would ask people about stuff, and nobody knew anything,” Dailey said.
Untold hours of research have produced football, boys and girls basketball, and baseball record books that stretch to 80 and 100 pages and are a reliable reference for coaches and local media. He updates them every year.
His record keeping became well known enough that when former Vandercook Lake athletic director Chuck Miller retired as Cascades Conference historian in 2008, Dailey was recommended for the job.
“I said, ‘I’d like to talk to Chuck about it,’ ” Dailey said. “So I went over to talk to him, and he said, ‘Here’s everything, we’re going to dinner.’ ”
And it was Dailey who had something else added to his plate.
Dailey’s son Chris and daughter Kelly both live in Holt, and he has two granddaughters. It was Kelly who noticed around the holidays that something didn’t seem quite right with her dad.
“She just said, ‘It’s not you,’ ” Dailey said.
Dailey, who said his only indication of trouble was being distracted by the crowd and not able to focus on his scorekeeping duties as much as usual, agreed to be checked out Jan. 3. He was quickly diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain tumor on the frontal right lobe. It was removed Jan. 9, and he was back as the scorer at the Hanover-Horton girls basketball game Jan. 30. He will start radiation treatments to attack remaining cancer cells Feb. 8.
“Physically, I feel really good,” Dailey said. “The in-home physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, they’ve come out one time for 10-15 minutes and said they don’t need to come back. I need to understand, because everything that’s been said to me has been so positive, I want to move forward, but I have to slow down. I have to back off some.”
Dailey’s positive attitude is no surprise to Jones.
“That’s exactly the way he is in the dugout,” Jones said. “There is no time limit in baseball. That’s how he’s looking at this. He’s going to keep fighting, scrapping, until the last out. Nobody is going to put him on the clock.”
Hanover-Horton is hosting a spaghetti dinner fund-raiser for Dailey on Feb. 9 in conjunction with a boys basketball game that night. The dinner will be from 4-6 p.m. in the school cafeteria.
“Between my family and this community, it’s just amazing,” Dailey said. “I can’t begin to express how thankful and appreciative I am. All the support has been overwhelming.
“I just want to be inspirational and beat this thing.”