INSTANT REPLAY: ‘Hall-of-flame’ thrower
Buster Moberg… meet Karen Magnussen, Harry Jerome, Grant Connell, Bill Parnell, Norm Fieldgate, Elaine Tanner, Bob Lenarduzzi and all the rest of the great athletes, dedicated builders and masters of the media who have been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Yes, sir, Bus Moberg – the most intimidating hurler in B.C. softball history – is being enshrined in the hallowed B.C. hall. The announcement was made at a Tuesday press conference at the spanking-new hall of fame and museum which re-opened Jan. 6 at BC Place Stadium.
Not bad for a North Shore lad who was written up in the paper early-on in his softball career as that outstanding pitcher by the name of… err… Buzz Noeberg.
That would actually be our Buster, or Bernard Moberg if you want to get technical. It seems his granny called him Buster as a youngster to differentiate him from his grandpa of the same name and everyone totally forgot his Bernard handle.
But if you ever saw him pitch, you would not have forgotten his rising fastball busting across the plate and into the catcher’s mitt with a resounding thwack. After the umpire bellowed, “Strike three,” I’m sure more than a few dumbfounded batters must have looked back and mumbled, “Are you sure, ump? That pitch sure sounded a bit high.”
Moberg had a superb changeup too, making him doubly difficult to hit, even though Bill Gurvich, the first of his two long-time catchers (Ron Pettovello was the other), sometimes would tell the batter what pitch was coming. “That’s a true story,” Bus confirmed when I congratulated him on his induction, noting that Gurvich even did it when playing Federal Old Line from Seattle, the best team in the Pacific Northwest at the time. “You wouldn’t believe the shenanigans he pulled, but it worked. I knew he was doing it but he was the one who called every pitch. There were signals and I just followed his wishes.”
Born in Cranbrook on March 30, 1939, Buster moved to North Van at just six months. He lived with his grandparents for about five years from the age of five, while his mother was in hospital with tuberculosis, and attended Westview Elementary, Sutherland and North Van High.
A strapping 6’2”, 215-pounds in his prime, the southpaw slinger first attracted notice on the diamond at Norgate Park at 16 with Northwest United juniors coached by Bob Sarginson. After he twirled a couple of outstanding games, that’s when the daily papers got his name all mixed up. Some reporter obviously missed more than just a great pitching performance.
Another time, he was described in the paper as “big right-handed Buster Moberg.” Okay, he was good alright, but did he ever pitch with his right hand? “Never,” he emphasizes now, recalling the faux pas.
But he did just about everything else from the pitcher’s rubber. He was good enough to begin his storied 1958-71 career in B.C.’s top-flight South Hill Major Men’s League at 19 and racked up numerous league records: 111 wins, 1,099 innings pitched, l,598 strikeouts (averaging close to 1½ an inning), 11 no-hitters, 14 one-hitters and 33 shutouts.
He once pitched 16 1/3 straight hitless innings. Another time, he struck out 10 consecutive batters, the first 10 in the game. In one nine-inning contest he whiffed 20; in a 13-inning game he had 22. Over a four-year stretch, he won 28 league games in a row.
Between 1958 and 1965, he got his team to five world tournaments (four as Canadian champions) in softball meccas from California to Minnesota to Florida. Another time he was picked up by the Canadian champs from Trail to play for them in the worlds in New York.
When Moberg wasn’t dousing the hopes of opposing batters, he was doing the same as a 35-year Vancouver City firefighter from 1964 to 1999. So I guess you might say that makes him a “hall-of-flame” thrower.
This year’s official induction ceremony takes place at a banquet in September. Two other 2011 inductees also live on the North Shore, though they are recent arrivals compared to Moberg. Ernie Dougherty, 87, a hockey player from the 1940s and a Canucks alumni player/referee and treasurer of the BC Hockey Benevolent Association for 50 years, has lived in West Van since 1987.
Hoop star Howard Kelsey, who played on Canadian rep teams for 11 years (including a gold medal at the 1983 World University Games when they beat a U.S. squad that included several future NBAers; and a fourth place at the 1984 Olympics), hasn’t actually arrived yet. He’s moving to West Van next week.
Magnussen, Jerome, Connell, Parnell, Fieldgate, Tanner and Lenarduzzi aren’t the only North Shore luminaries they’ll join in the hall.
More than 50 athletes, coaches, referees, administrators and media have solid North or West Van connections, either growing up here, venturing across Burrard Inlet to play for teams here or residing here for a good chunk of their life while building their sport.
There are team sport players like the curling rink of Linda Moore, Lindsay Sparkes, Debbie Jones, Laurie Carney and coach Rae Moir; hockey’s Cesare Maniago, Joe Sakic and Stan Smyl; softball/basketball/field hockey stars Shirley Topley and Faye Burnham Eccleston, ice dance team Barry and Louise Soper, the entire 1936 North Shore Indians lacrosse team, footballers (English variety) Jim Spencer and Trev Harvey and footballers (the gridiron kind) Al Wilson, By Bailey and Sean Millington. Even Joe Kapp, Tom Brown and Tom Hinton lived here.
North Shore athletes from individual sports include jockey Chris Loseth (okay, okay, I know there’s always a horse involved too), golfer Ken Black, badminton’s Claire Backhouse Sharpe, archer Dorothy Lidstone, runners Stephanie Berto and Charmaine Crooks, skier Lauren Woolstencroft, trapshooter Frank Opsal, snowboarder Maëlle Ricker and mountain biker Alison Sydor.
Here are more: soccer goalie and founder of B.C. wheelchair sports Stan Stronge, horse racing announcer Jack Short, figure skating coach Linda Brauckmann, rugby referee and administrator Bob Spray, gymnastics coach Gladys Hartley, hockey referee Lloyd Gilmour, columnists/broadcasters Jim Kearney, Greg Douglas, Jim Taylor, Ted Reynolds, Bill Good Sr. and Tom Larscheid; UBC sports administrator Buzz Moore and tennis promoter E.J.H. “Cardy” Cardinall.
Then we have figure skating coach and administrator Ted Barton, lacrosse and hockey team owner Fred Hume, football and soccer GM Herb Capozzi, hockey administrator Fred Page, swim coach Howard Firby, triathlon guru Les McDonald, photographer Bill Cunningham, Olympic official Jack Poole and possibly some I’ve missed.
Whether you are familiar with most of these names or not, a visit to the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum would be well worth the trip. Just don’t expect to find Buzz Noeberg in there.
This is episode 448 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.