Softball New Brunswick

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90 Years of Softball NB

History of Softball New Brunswick Inc.

Softball, a most popular sport, had its origins in the mid 1920’s in New Brunswick. At the time it was commonly known as “mushball”.

Teams were made up of older men considered too slow afoot for baseball or younger players waiting for their opportunity to break into the lineups of the older game.

Organized softball started in 1926 with the formation of the New Brunswick Softball Association, later changed to Softball New Brunswick Inc. in 1984.

The early years saw the majority of teams come from the Fredericton – Moncton – Saint John triangle with the Annual Meeting usually held in Sussex.

In the beginning there was only one category, that being senior. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Intermediate Division was introduced with a Senior “B” Division. In the 30’s softball began its phenomenal climb in popularity as leagues sprang up all over the province, which led to great rivalries. It was during this early era that each team had one bat, a new ball costing $1.00, the catcher and first baseman were the only players who wore gloves. Spectators for playoff games averaged between 1,500 and 2,000 per game. “Passing the hat” helped pay the plate Umpire $2.00 per game and the base Umpire $1.00. If there was any money left over it went to purchase a new ball for the next game.

It wasn’t until 1955, with the introduction of the whip pitch that ball gloves were used by all players. Up until this time the traditional figure eight windup was used by softball heavers and it wasn’t until 1971 that softball teams played on lighted fields for the first time.

The New Brunswick Ladies Softball Association was formed in 1943 with Mrs. Eva Steeves being elected President. In later years they joined with the Men to form one Provincial Association, with one of the Board Members being a ladies' delegate.

In the early 50’s the New Brunswick Softball Umpires Association was formed out of the Baseball Umpires Association headed by Doug Foster of Saint John.

In the late 1920’s and early 30’s, umpiring softball games was on a volunteer basis. It was an honor to be asked to officiate a game whether at the plate or bases. The officiating program took off in the seventies as Softball Canada initiated numerous Canadian Championships, International assignments and as these opportunities blossomed, a National Certification Program, Mechanics School and Blue Convention paved the way for an elite Officials Program.

New Brunswick leaders in the development of these programs were Wayne Brown (1994-2004), Bob Stanton (2004-2008) and presently Jeff Whipple (2013), all three National Director of Umpires and major decision makers with their International Softball Federation leadership positions. The quality and quantity per capita of New Brunswick officials who have attained their Level V status and have officiated at National Competitions, highlighted by Nancy Morrison at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China has been second to none.

Liaison between Softball New Brunswick and Softball Canada through the early years of their relationship was through “Commissioners”. Softball New Brunswick Commissioners were Henry Kelly (1968-1977) and Doug Foster (1977-1988). Paul Dawson (1980-1982) served on Softball Canada’s Board of Directors as Vice-President and presently Larry Gould (2005) is serving his fifth two-year term with the Board.

Softball New Brunswick Inc. recognizes and honors deserving athletes, teams, officials and builders in their own Softball New Brunswick Inc. Hall of Fame that was started in 1994 and is presently housed at the Fredericton Inn in Fredericton, NB.

New Brunswick softballers who have gained entrance into the Softball Canada Hall of Fame in the Builder’s category include Charlie O’Brien (1995), Henry Kelly (1996), Paul Dawson (2002) and Bob Stanton (2011). In the Official’s Category, Doug Foster (2002), Wayne Brown (2006), Walter “Butch” Ryan (2008), Nancy Morrison (2014),  Ron Cooke (2014) and in the Player’s Category Sonny Phillips (1999), Wendy Dealy (2008) and Kris Gillis (2008).

Softball New Brunswick players who have performed on the International softball diamond include Sonny Phillips (catcher) – Pan Am Games, San Juan, Peurto Rico (1979), Vicky LeBlanc (pitcher) – 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia, Janiva Willis (center fielder) – Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand (2007).

The following teams have won Gold Medals at Canadian Championships:

  • Memramcook Rookies – Canadian Junior Ladies 1984
  • Moncton Goguen Brothers Cobras – Canadian Senior Men’s SloPitch 1987
  • Les Athletiques Seaside Chev-Olds de Notre Dame et Memramcook – Canadian Junior Ladies 1991
  • West Kent Rovers – Canadian Midget Boys 1994

Other major accomplishments of note:

  • Louis Henri (1994) and Ray Gillis (1999) were named Softball Canada’s 3M Coach of the Year
  • Frank Cox, pitching for the Miramichi Schooners struck out all 21 batters that he faced in a Provincial Senior “A” Men’s playoff fast pitch game in 1993.
  • Bev Adams of Rusagonis was the recipient of the Softball Canada Rose Hodgson Memorial Award in 2014.
  • Sandra Allan of Fredericton was chosen Softball Canada Umpire of the Year in 2014
  • Kristen Byrne of Saint John and Alex Harding of Wood Lands were the co-recipients of the Softball Canada Claude Des Champs Memorial Bursaries. 

Softball New Brunswick Inc., over the years, has been blessed with excellent host committees from communities such as Nelson-Miramichi, Notre Dame, St. Antoine, Memramcook, Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John when Softball Canada Canadian Championships have been hosted in the Picture Province.

Join us in 2016 as we celebrate 90 years of softball in New Brunswick.