Earl Anthony grew up in Tacoma, Washington and entered the U.S. Air Force just before he was due to graduate from high school. His first sport was baseball, and he was a good enough pitcher to be offered a $35,000 signing bonus by the Baltimore Orioles. The deal fell through, however, on the very next day at an Orioles training camp when Anthony tore the rotator cuff muscle in his throwing arm. His baseball career was over and it was a year before he could raise his arm above his shoulder. The injury apparently did not affect his bowling prospects. "I'm not sure bowling and pitching have a lot in common. It's two different deliveries," Anthony told the Toronto Star's Jim Proudfoot. "But you're talking hand-and-eye co-ordination and making a ball do certain precise things. Those are similarities."
Returning to Tacoma, a 21-year-old Anthony took a job as a forklift driver for a grocery store chain. Encouraged by co-workers, he joined the company bowling team. Ironically, although Anthony had, as a boy, worked as a pinsetter at a local bowling alley, he had never bowled. He was very good, however. By the season's end his average was 217, up at the rarefied level of professional bowlers. In 1963 he turned pro. He joined the PBA Tour long enough to bowl in seven events without winning a cent in any of them. For the next seven years he satisfied himself bowling at local tournaments in Tacoma, winning about $8,000 in the process.