The little man in the tan overcoat stood quietly on the sideline, swaying gently in the cold wind. Standing around him but paying him no attention were members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They were watching sadly and helplessly as Ray (Bibbles) Bawel, a Hamilton Tiger-Cat defensive halfback, thundered down the sideline toward them. Bawel, who formerly played with the Philadelphia Eagles, had intercepted a Winnipeg pass and had a clear field ahead when the little man in the tan overcoat reached out a foot and, yes, tripped him as he went by.
The little man was immediately surrounded by Hamilton players; he put both hands over his face, hunched deeper into the overcoat and peered out between his fingers at the husky football players. The officials grouped momentarily to decide what to do and the Hamilton players left the little man to argue their case. The little man backed away from the sideline unnoticed, walked behind the Winnipeg and Hamilton benches down to the end of the field. As he walked, he began to smile happily. By the time he had reached the end zone he was laughing out loud, and as he disappeared he was howling with laughter.
The officials meanwhile had decided to give Bawel another 15 yards on his rudely interrupted run and Hamilton, deep in Winnipeg territory, went on to score. By now, early in the final quarter, they had the game well won and the 27,000 fans jamming Varsity Stadium in Toronto were waiting to see whether the Blue Bombers could score on the tough, active Hamilton defense. The game ended 32-7 for Hamilton.
Canadian football is a much more informal affair than the American variety. The little man in the tan overcoat would never have been in a position to trip an American player; the sidelines would have been cleared of spectators. But in Varsity Stadium, during the half-time intermission, the spectators wandered at will around the edges of the field and, when the second half began, not all had been chased back into the stands by the 100 police on hand.
The Tiger-Cats, banging away with an Oklahoma-style ground game which opened running room for a pair of big, strong backs, dominated most of the game. Cookie Gilchrist, a 21-year-old 215-pounder who never played American college football, scored two touchdowns, set up another with some battering running. Bernie Faloney, the ex-Maryland quarterback, operated the Hamilton attack neatly, and Cam Fraser, a Canadian, kicked spectacularly, one punt sailing 80 yards in the air.
Since in Canada's 12-man version of football the punt returner is left almost entirely to his own devices, these tremendous punts, as much as any one thing, contributed to Winnipeg's downfall. No blocking is allowed on punt returns; the punt receiver's only protection is a five-yard zone which must be left him until he fields the punt. So, as the lofty punts dropped out of the gray, snowy-looking Canadian sky, the Winnipeg safety waited hopelessly, surrounded by a ring of Hamilton tacklers pawing the ground five yards away. The young man whose specialty is returning punts for Winnipeg is Ron Latourelle, a small (5 feet 8 inches, 175 pounds) halfback with an indefatigable optimism and a dim future. Immediately after catching the punt (and in Canada, the safety has no such easy out as the fair catch), Latourelle would duck his head and plow upfield until he disappeared under a pile of gold jerseys. Since this always happened within two steps, Latourelle spent a somewhat wearing afternoon.
The Grey Cup represents the Canadian professional football championship and the champions of the East and West meet for it annually. It is, to Canadian sports, a combination of the World Series, the Kentucky Derby and the Rose Bowl game. Annually, it touches off Canada's most exciting weekend. Parties in the Royal York Hotel lasted until 6 Saturday morning; big-hatted, booted Winnipeg rooters clattered down the halls yipping like Texas cowboys; a policeman (one of a special force delegated to protecting life, limb and property in the Royal York) watched complacently as the evening went on.
"A bit quiet, this," he said, as a group of westerners tacked by, yelling "Osky wow wow!" at the top of their voices. "A dozen chaps had black eyes by this time last year, y' know."
The relative quiet is explained by the fact that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats come from a community only 45 miles from Toronto. Most of the Hamilton fans came to Toronto the morning of the game, leaving the field of battle in possession of the West during the pre-game festivities.
Winnipeg, the representative of the West, reached the Grey Cup thanks to an upset of roughly Notre-Dame-Oklahoma proportions. The Blue Bombers eliminated the Edmonton Eskimos, for the last three years the Grey Cup champions, but, in doing so, they lost the services of four of their 12 American "imports." Since the Canadian clubs are limited to 12 American players, the loss of four cut down Winnipeg's strength considerably. Ken Ploen, Iowa's Rose Bowl hero of last January, performed nobly, passing well and running with speed and authority, but the Hamilton defense contained him until late in the game, when he completed a pass to Michigan State's Dennis Mendyk for the lone Winnipeg touchdown. Bud Grant, Winnipeg's young coach, who played at Minnesota, had to depend on the pass for his attack. Jim Trimble, ex-Philadelphia Eagle coach who runs the Tiger-Cats, built his championship team on defense. One American coach, when asked what he intended to do with the 12th man in Canadian football (a fifth back): "I'll send him up into the stands. They'll have to send somebody with him to cover—then we can play football." Trimble and Grant have worked the fifth back into their offenses very well, using him as an additional receiver, faker or blocker. And, as is so often the case when a fifth is added to the picture, it makes for a more exciting and relaxed get-together.
If, as happened last week, still another fellow turns up along the sidelines to play a part, the Canadian game can absorb that, too.