It is with much sadness we advise the passing of Arnie Hall. Arnie was a Canterbury softball personality admired by many. A player, a Coach and recipient of SNZ Distinguished Service Award.
Tony Smith has penned the following...
Arnie Hall – the first Canterbury men’s player named in a New Zealand team – was one of the great achievers, contributors and personalities of Christchurch softball.
It’s fair to say everyone involved in Canterbury softball from the 1940s to 90s – and many further afield - would have a fond memory and a tale to tell of Arnie, who died in Christchurch this week in his late 80s.
Arnie was centre stage in an era when softball personalities abounded - wisecracking Richmond catcher Greg Panagiotidis (dubbed Packet of Tea Leaves), genial Papanui slugger Brian (Tubby) Waine and “Braddy’’- United pitcher Dave Bradbury – to name but a few.
The on-diamond banter between players – and sometimes umpires – flowed as freely as the beer in the clubrooms.
Arnie’s passion for the game and his gentlemanly qualities were always uppermost throughout four-plus decades of devoted softball service.
But Arnie couldn’t have done all he achieved without the unwavering support of his wife, Shirley, who passed away in December.
Arnold Hall began playing softball for the Richmond club, but he and a group of ballplaying buddies left to start their own club, Ohio, in 1950.
“The players I came up the grades with all wanted to play senior softball together,’’ Arnie explained to The Press in 1974. “But we all couldn’t make the top Richmond team, so we formed our own club ... Ohio. We found the name in an atlas.’’
Arnie was joined at Ohio by Alan Ballantyne – Canterbury’s star pitcher of the 1950s to early 60s – Jim Quickenden, Basil Lapthorne, Neville Trueman, and, for a season, Don Lew (another leading Canterbury player of the era).
They won the Canterbury championship in their second season season, and all up, took four provincial titles.
A left-handed top order batter and athletic shortstop, Arnie was one of Canterbury’s best players in the 1950s.
His career highlight came in 1953 when he was named in the New Zealand team to play The Rest after the Beatty Cup interprovincial tournament in Lower Hutt. That earned him the honour of being the first Canterbury man to be selected for New Zealand.
Arnie would almost certainly have been in the New Zealand squad for a proposed tour to the United States, but negotiations broke down and the team never travelled.
The annual interisland game was a major highlight on the post-World War II domestic calendar, and Arnie was selected for the South Island from 1954 to 1956.
He told The Press in 1974 – the year he retired after 24 seasons of softball – that he vividly remembered his first interisland game in Wellington in ’54.
“My first throw in the match landed in the stands behind the diamond. The first baseman was the 6ft 2in (1.89m) Jim Quickenden and my throw was above his outstretched arm. It went straight over his head into the stands, and I really got the raspberry [from the crowd], but I settled down quickly.’’
Arnie captained Ohio to the South Island championship title at a tournament in Invercargill in 1956 in conjunction with centennial celebrations to mark 100 years of Southland’s settlement.
He led his team through the series unbeaten, recording wins over Dunedin’s Technical Old Boys (15-5), Southland’s Blue Sox (9-5) and Panthers (20-9) and Canterbury rivals Christchurch (12-4). Ohio -coached by three-time South Island rep Geoff Griffin – racked up 56 runs -and it’s a fair bet Arnie was responsible for many of them – and conceded 18, with Arnie almost certainly doing his best to keep down the score line with his deft infield skills.
Arnie was also likely part of the Canterbury team that beat Southland 5-3 in 1956 to bring the Jefferies Cup South Island title back home for the first time in 10 years.
Ohio disbanded in 1957 and Arnie returned to Richmond, who won six Canterbury titles between 1958 and 1965.
Richmond finished fourth at the 1959 John Lennon national interclub tournament in Greymouth where Arnie was named at third base and his brother Bob at second in the tournament allstar team. The Halls’ form helped enable Richmond to be competitive against a Broadway team led by Bill Henderson and Colin Ward and the great pitcher Bill Massey’s Hutt Valley Railways.
By the dawn of the 1960s, Arnie was a family man – he and Shirley, herself a former softballer – had three children, sons Alan and Jimmy and daughter Kerry. That must have limited his availability for representative softball despite remaining one of the best players in Canterbury.
Arnie did return to rep ball after several seasons’ absence to help Canterbury beat the West Coast in 1962. He joined a Canterbury squad for games against Hutt Valley and Wellington in the capital in 1964 and played for an invitation team against Canterbury in 1966.
A total enthusiast, Arnie was always keen to see softball develop and that desire prompted another change of clubs in the late 1960s when he left Richmond to coach United.
“Richmond was so strong there wasn’t much competition for the club at that time,’’ he told The Press in ’74. “United was a bunch of triers but did not enjoy much success. But the changes seemed to uplift the club and it has never looked back.’’
Arnie was joined at United by Richmond clubmates Mike Nalepa (a Canterbury catcher), big-hitting Bryan Mountford, who became a gold medalist at the 1976 World Series, and pitcher Dave Bradbury, who should have won the silver fern too in his prime. That gave them a great foundation from which to challenge Richmond and the fast-rising Papanui. Expectations were high with The Press’ season preview noting Arnie was “one of Canterbury’s foremost tacticians’’.
After a season in the coach’s box, Arnie’s teammates persuaded him to pull on his cleats again. He suited up for the start of the 1970-71 aged in his late 30s, but and showed no signs of rustiness. In his first at-bat he cracked a first inning safe hit off Papanui’s Canterbury rep pitcher Murray Reid, and also made a bunch of slick plays at shortstop.
Arnie became a leading contributor to United winning their first senior title that season.
He went out a winner at his final big tournament, helping United win the Webb Shield New Zealand United Clubs tournament at Naenae in March 1974 – only the second time they had taken home the trophy.
That’s when he gave his career-ending interview to Press sports reporter Graham Skellern. Arnie told him he had “always been a believer in the fundamentals of the game’’ and “don’t like to see the basics forgotten’’.
He admitted he had had “a fair innings, and it’s time to step down. I regret having to finish but I have to give way to the youth’’.
By then, Arnie’s shortstop role was being filled by a teenage Paul McFarlane, who went on to tour America with the New Zealand team in 1975.
While still playing senior ball, Arnie had become a Canterbury selector (a role formerly held by brother Bob) in the early 1970s.
He’d been coaching schoolchildren teams for years and became Canterbury B men’s team coach in 1975 for a series against Combined Services, guiding a team that included his 16-year-old son Alan on the pitching mound.
Arnie was always an advocate of blooding young players and he had a bunch in his Canterbury team he guided to fifth-equal place at the 1976-77 national tournament in Wellington. While he had some experience in captain Greg Panagiotidis, Bryan Mountford and Leon Fife, Arnie gave plenty of opportunities to the likes of Paul McFarlane, Tiny Lawrence, Hadyn Smith, Douglas Honey and son Alan.
The United club had so much talent in the mid to late 70s that it eventually persuaded the CSA to allow it a second premier grade team.
Arnie and Mike Nalepa coached the young Jaks United City team, which gradually started to rattle the cages of the more established clubs.
Alan Hall was joined in the Jaks City ranks by brother Jimmy, who was equally handy on the pitching mound and in the batter’s box, with their cousin Murray Lanini at second base.
Sometimes the side was short so Arnie and his brother-in-law Don Lanini (another Canterbury rep from the 50s) would fill in. Arnie was in his mid-40s by that stage, but still regularly frustrated batter-baserunners by swiftly throwing them out at first base.
By this stage, Arnie -who had Shirley as a his team scorer - had a taste for coaching and a passion for talent development.
He remained a Canterbury selector with coach Dennis Rea in the late 1970s, but really made his mark on the national scene after he took his United City team across town to join Burnside, formed initially as a women’s club by NZSA councilor Lyndsey Leask.
Arnie’s Burnside boys became the first Canterbury club for many years capable of challenging the North Island elite.
Arnie had said publicly as a Canterbury selector that improving batting was the key to closing the gap. He lived up to his name by using speed and a short game, allied with power hitting, to pour pressure on Burnside’s rivals.
He still had his useful United City nucleus, but top signings from out of town flocked to Burnside, with the likes of Otago brothers Lindsay and Graeme Anderson, Horowhena products Chubb Tangaroa and Dave Workman attracted to Arnie’s ambition, positivity and rigorous training methods. Canterbury catcher John Daly was another top-class addition.
While Arnie had his share of stars, he was also noted for his ability to get the best out of all his charges, with the likes of the popular policeman Roger Hutton, Paul Emms, Wayne Poore, Keith Pullar and Glynn Eades all benefiting from his mentorship.
Burnside took over from Arnie’s old United club as Canterbury’s entry for the John Lennon interclub championships in 1981 in Dunedin, where they finished fourth. They could have ended up even higher after upsetting Auckland United 3-1, but lost the game on appeal for illegally re-entering their designated hitter – a relatively new rule change at the time.
Tangaroa’s pitching gave Burnside the dimension they were lacking to close the gap on the top northern sides. In 1982, they won the Qantel Cup national knockout competition southern zone finals and finished runner-up in a televised national grand final against Auckland United.
By now, “Arnie’s boys’’ were starting to catch the national selectors’ eye.
Lindsay Anderson was the first Burnside player to represent New Zealand. The speedy third baseman made his name by scoring the only run of the inter-island game when the South Island – captained by Roger Keith (later a Burnside pitcher and coach) upset the North Island in Lower Hutt.
Anderson was named by new national coach Mike Walsh for a series against the touring American champions Peterbilt Western in 1981. He made his debut at English Park in Christchurch and batted three-from-three and , watched proudly by Arnie, scored the winning run in the ninth inning in a 4-3 victory.
When Anderson left for a new life in Perth, his New Zealand team place was taken by Arnie’s younger son, Jimmy, who clouted a two-run homer over the fence off two-time world championship winning pitcher Owen Walford in his first series against the Lancaster Chamelons in 1982.
In 1982-83, Jimmy made the New Zealand A team and Burnside clubmates Chubb Tangaroa and Graeme Anderson were named in New Zealand B.
Burnside and United went on to develop one of Canterbury softball’s most intense rivalries for much of the 1980s even after the likes of Tangaroa, Workman and Jimmy Hall were lured to better-resourced North Island clubs.
The United v Richmond top-of-the-table Sunday clashes on the skin diamond at Mairehau’s Western Park were compulsive watching in the mid-80s. Roger Keith and Graeme Anderson took over Burnside’s coaching, but Arnie had definitely laid the platform.
Arnie could take great satisfaction from seeing son Jimmy win a world series with the Black Sox in 1984. Jimmy and Dave Workman were in the silver medal side in 1988 at Saskatoon, where Lindsay Anderson captained Australia. (Lyndsay later coached Australia in an eight-test series against the Black Sox in 1991 and to fifth place at the 1992 World Series).
Arnie returned to coaching with Cardinals in the late 80s-early 90s, but in latter years was more content to watch from the sidelines and debate the game’s intricacies over a convivial ale in the beer tent.
While Arnie was best known as an elite player and coach, he did also serve on the CSA competitions committee and in 1970 helped form the Canterbury Evergreens Club, serving as inaugural secretary alongside other great identities such as Alan Ballantyne, Geoff Griffin, Keith Bingley and Ian Pollock.
Highly respected too on the national scene, Arnie was a proud recipient of a Softball New Zealand Distinguished Service Award for his unstinting efforts to develop softball in Canterbury and the South Island.