Did the Ti­cats beat the Eski­mos?

BE­ING THERE: AUG. 28, 1958

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MILTON smil­ton@thes­pec.com 905-526-3268 | @mil­to­natthes­pec Veteran Spec­ta­tor colum­nist Steve Milton has pretty much seen it all in his 40 years cov­er­ing sports around the world and, in Be­ing There, he re­lives spe­cial mo­ments of those sto­ries, from

When the long­est re­turn, of any kind, in CFL his­tory oc­curred — it’s a record which can never be bro­ken — I didn’t have a chance to write about it. I was only nine, and we didn’t have a Grade 4 news­pa­per. But I was there, and the “there” part is half of the name of this weekly col­umn. It was the first pro foot­ball game I ever at­tended, and it was the first play I ever re­mem­ber see­ing live, in any sport. I’d been to some Leaf games, but who can re­mem­ber spe­cific hockey plays? Es­pe­cially with the mid-’50s Leafs, who were pretty well aw­ful. The Ar­gos weren’t too good, ei­ther, and were in the midst of a four-year play­off-less pe­riod which was a hard feat to ac­com­plish in the four-team Big Four, and with no west­ern play­off cross­over at the time. My par­ents were big sports fans and knew the re­cently-re­tired Joe Krol, the Hamilton lad who’d starred for the old Fly­ing Wild­cats but was most fa­mous for his bril­liant years as an Argo. My dad and Joe Krol had been two of the top three or four se­nior bas­ket­ball play­ers in Toronto in the late ’40s, when the se­nior league was con­sid­ered news­wor­thy in Toronto pa­pers. My mom, who’d glommed onto the Goldust Twins (Krol and Royal Copeland), when she ar­rived from England as a war bride, lis­tened to all the Argo games on ra­dio. Look­ing back, I’m think­ing she might have heard “foot­ball” and as­sumed that was some sort of colo­nial footy. My dad, my mom, and I, and Jan, the el­der of my two younger sis­ters, were late get­ting to the game and only reached our seats — great ones, about mid­field three or four rows up, owned by my dad’s em­ploy­ers — af­ter the first half had been played. I re­mem­ber we couldn’t find park­ing around Var­sity Sta­dium (it was the Ar­gos’ last year there be­fore mov­ing into Ex­hi­bi­tion Sta­dium) and I had al­ways won­dered why my dad would wait so long to get us there. Then I was look­ing up that game in The Spec­ta­tor mi­cro­films this week (would you com­pletely trust

your mem­ory from five-plus decades ago?) and found out it was played on a Fri­day night, not a Satur­day as I al­ways as­sumed. So my dad couldn’t have picked us up (one car) un­til he fin­ished work, and it was a long drive down­town. I re­call that the Ar­gos were trail­ing the Mon­treal Alou­ettes 14-1 when we got there, and the Als were about to kick a field goal. It went wide but very deep, and the Argo re­turner — a cou­ple of days later I found out it was Boyd Carter — took the ball on the far side of the end zone and started to run. He was soon sur­rounded but sud­denly tossed the ball across the end zone to Dave Mann, an NFL star who also kicked, ran the ball and caught passes bril­liantly. Mann took off down the west side­line, the side­line we were sit­ting just above. He was al­most tack­led, but sidestepped the Alou­ette, ran right in front of us in a dou­ble blue blur, cut into the mid­dle of the field and went all the way to the house. The place went nuts. The re­turn had cov­ered 131 yards — 15 by Carter, 116 by Mann — which the league couldn’t ac­cu­rately re­port un­til the next day when they had seen the films, be­cause there were no yardage mark­ers in the end zone. This record can never be bro­ken, be­cause the end zones were 25 yards deep then, and for the past four decades or so have been only 20 yards deep, mak­ing the max­i­mum pos­si­ble re­turn to­day 130 yards. And this is the most amaz­ing part. Un­til 1971 — and 1958 came long be­fore that — in Canadian foot­ball rules there was no block­ing al­lowed on ei­ther a punt re­turn or a missed field goal re­turn. That’s why we have the five-yard no-yards halo. Can you imag­ine? One re­turner against a dozen big, padded, an­gry men with no head-hit­ting re­stric­tions? The sec­ond long­est missed field goal re­turn on the books is 130 yards, the max­i­mum to­day, car­ried by the Eski­mos’ Ed Hin­ton in 1977. (Cur­rent Ti­cats run­ning back coach and for­mer player Corey Grant sits eighth at 127 yards, against the Ar­gos, in 1999.) The long­est kick­off re­turn in CFL his­tory is 120 yards, as is the long­est in­ter­cep­tion re­turn, and the long­est punt re­turn was 113 yards by Hamilton’s Sam Rogers in 1995. So I re­ally did see some­thing spe­cial that day, and it made me an in­stant fan: of the Ar­gos (no longer, of course); Dave Mann (he also kicked the third-long­est punt of all time) and, most of all, Canadian foot­ball. Since that im­prob­a­ble touch­down, I have never stopped be­ing a lover — as well as a con­struc­tive, I think, critic — of our unique game. There are lots of ways to be­come a fan, and ev­ery­one has their own story. But this was mine, and it had a lot of ex­cla­ma­tion points.

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