Hurler headed to Hall of Fame

Moberg's windmill baffled hitters around the world

NORTH Vancouver softball pitcher Bernard 'Buster' Moberg knew he had a rocket for an arm when he went out for a game of catch in his parents' backyard but his wife Pat may not have realized just how fast he could throw when she got down in the catcher's stance to accept a pitch.

She was, after all, eight month's pregnant with their first child. Moberg, six-foot-two and 225 pounds, wound up in his whirling windmill style and let one fly. It missed his wife, thank God, and blasted a hole clean through his parents' basement door.

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"She didn't get hurt but that ended her catching career," Moberg says with a laugh as he recalls the story some 54 years later. "And she's still with me, believe it or not. She's a good one, I'm so lucky."

Moberg's good fortune continues this week as he will be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Vancouver Convention Centre Thursday night.

Moberg, born in Cranbrook but a North Vancouver resident since he was six months old, will become the first individual male softball player in the B.C. Hall of Fame. A baseball player as a child, he switched to softball when he ran out of Little League age groups, starring for teams in North Vancouver and Vancouver.

Starting with a blazing fastball - "speed was what I was able to rely on," he says - Moberg added a changeup taught to him by Northwest United's Bob Sarginson.

"I'm not bragging but I don't think anybody else knows how to throw a changeup that way," Moberg says.

He picked up more tricks watching North Vancouver star pitcher Don Danbert, adding a rise ball and a wicked drop ball that would come in at 100 miles per hour before nose-diving at the plate.

According to his Hall of Fame bio, Moberg pitched for 14 years with the South Hill Senior A men's team in Vancouver and rewrote the record book, recording 111 wins, 1,598 strikeouts in 1,099 innings, 11 no-hitters, 14 one-hitters and 33 shutouts. His teams won four Canadian titles and he played in six world championships, leading the B.C. team to an eighth place finish - out of 21 teams - as a 19-year-old in 1958. In his first game at the worlds Moberg pitched all 16 innings of an extra-innings classic against a team from Georgia but still lost 1-0 despite striking out 18 batters. He recorded two wins later in the tournament.

All told, Moberg guesses he won between 250 and 300 games in his career, a total that includes one four-year stretch in which he won 28 consecutive league games without a loss.

The win total also includes one perfect game thrown in an international tournament in Edmonton. It was all smooth sailing, he says, after a loud first out.

"The first guy up lined a shot to the shortstop - I thought it was going to take him out into left field," he says. The shortstop made the play and Moberg learned his lesson. "It woke me up."

Moberg quit playing Senior A ball in 1973 but came back for one big game in the early 1980s, pitching in an exhibition game against Eddie Feigner's famous King and His Court four-man team. Moberg had an ace up his sleeve - his former catcher Bill Gurvich was doing promotional work for the King's tour and Gurvich wouldn't stop telling the visitors about how great Moberg was.

"Bill Gurvich did such a job on them," says Moberg. "He had those guys so shit-scared of me - and I'd been out of senior A for several years - but they were so scared I got 10 strikeouts in three innings. One guy got on on a passed ball. And that's true."

Moberg's team went on to beat the King 7-3.

"We were very lucky," he says. "They didn't get beat very often."

Moberg's call from the Hall of Fame came out of the blue earlier this year.

"We were away in Hawaii and came back in January and there was a message on our phone," he says. "It brought tears to my eyes."

Moberg, now 73, gets emotional again as he talks about all of the teammates who helped him along the way. Two men, Gurvich and Ron Pettovello, caught nearly all of his games throughout his dominant career.

"I had two of the greatest catchers you could ever want," he says, adding that he wished he could thank every single player who took the field beside him.

"I'm thankful to everyone I played with," he says, his voice catching. "I wouldn't be going where I'm going if it wasn't for them."

. . .

The Hall of Fame 2012 Banquet of Champions will be held Sept. 20 starting with a reception at 5 p.m. followed by dinner and ceremony at 6: 45 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building. For more information visit www.bcssportshalloffame.com

aprest@nsnews.com

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