By JOE McFARLAND
445 feet, 10 inches.
It works out to just under 150 yards for football fans. It’s about 2.5-times the length of a regulation NHL ice rink. And when we’re talking about MLB fields, it’s still further than the biggest outfield, which belongs to Comerica Park in Detroit, where the centre field fence is 420 feet away from home plate.
445 feet, 10 inches is how far an Alberta boy tossed a baseball to gain infamy in the Guinness Book of World Records – a feat that stands to this day. His name was Glen Gorbous.
In the April 9, 1958 edition of the Drumheller Mail, Glen Gorbous was described as “the native of the Drumheller Valley and adopted son of Vulcan” by legendary sports broadcaster Henry Viney. Gorbous was born in Rosedale on July 8, 1930. As a boy, he became known for his ability to throw the baseball.
“He used to throw water-logged baseballs across the Red Deer River,” his son Kris told Alberta Dugout Stories.
After playing for several teams in the province, like the Rosedale Midways and Calgary Purity 99, Gorbous was noticed by the Brooklyn Dodgers during one of their scouting camps that were frequently held across the country. He went on to make a few stops during his minor league days.
Finally in 1955, Gorbous made his professional debut as a member of the Cincinnati Redlegs. He wouldn’t last long there, as he was sent to Philadelphia along with Andy Seminick and Jim Greengrass for Smoky Burgess, Steve Ridzik and Stan Palys. According to his son, Gorbous and Seminick became friends in their time together with the two teams, recalling stories the two would share about how hard his father threw the ball.
Gorbous would go on to play 109 games with the Phillies between 1955 and 1957.
“His downfall was his hitting,” Kris recalled, as his dad was a lefty so would only face southpaws. His average in the majors was .238, slugging four home runs, all in 1955 with the Phillies.
“When I finally made the big time with the Phillies, I hit my first major league home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers – the first team to sign me,” Gorbous said in an Alberta government advertisement that was put in several newspapers in 1988.
“That was sweet.”
After his last game in Philadelphia, Gorbous was sent down to the Omaha Cardinals.
According to the Atlas Coal Mine, Hall of Fame managers Tommy Lasorda and Sparky Anderson called Gorbous “The Canadian Kid with the American Arm.” Base runners always thought twice about testing that reputation. Kris Gorbous remembered hearing stories about speedsters like Pee Wee Reese getting picked off by his dad’s cannon.
“They call him ‘Gorgeous Gorbous,'” Tom Morris told the Drumheller Mail on July 24, 1957 about seeing Gorbous play for the Omaha Cardinals. “I saw him hit a homer and also send over a perfect peg to home plate from centre field to nip a runner.”
“He sure looked good to me.”
One week later, Gorbous was in Omaha for a promotional exhibition.
“He crammed the hot dog into his mouth, put his glove on, and slammed back his root beer,” the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame said, setting the stage for the record-setting feat.
The rest was summed up in this short article, found in the Waterloo Daily Courier two days later.
After The Throw
Gorbous returned home to Alberta during every off-season to work at his father’s furniture store in Vulcan. Coming home also meant spending time with his son, Kris. But baseball wasn’t his forte.
“I was more into hockey,” Kris said in our chat, adding he never felt any pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He remembers throwing the ball around and the neighbour kids wanting to play, but it wasn’t a big deal.
“He was just dad to me.”
Glen Gorbous was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. The following year, he passed away shortly before his 60th birthday.
Kris, who went on to play with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks from 1977 to 1979, says he is still asked once in a while about his father’s legacy, like he did when approached by Alberta Dugout Stories.
When we met, he brought out a small booklet, with copies of old newspaper articles and other mementos. A friend put it together as part of a nomination package for the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
All these years later, with names like Clemente, Barfield, Jackson and Guerrero having patrolled the outfield in that time, it is surprising to some that a Guinness World Record for longest baseball throw still holds true, 60 years later, by an Alberta kid with an American arm.