The years from 1957 to 1966 will always be remembered as the golden era of Winnipeg Blue Bomber football. Those were the years when the legendary Bud Grant was the head coach, and all the Blue Bombers did was win. That 10-year span produced 6 Grey Cup appearances and 4 Grey Cup victories for the Blue Bombers, making it one of the most successful periods in the long and storied history of the Canadian Football League.
Picking the best team from the Grant decade is very difficult and is sure to cause great debate. But the 1961 team the Blue Bombers put on the field did not have to take a back seat to any of the others. Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Ploen says the 1961 Bombers were highly motivated after posting a 14-2 record in 1960, only to be upset by Edmonton in a 3-game western final. Ploen says the bitter memory of that setback carried through the off-season and created a mind-set among the players on the 1961 team that they were not going to be denied.
The 1961 Bomber team put 8 players on the CFL All-Star team - Farrell Funston, Herb Gray, Leo Lewis, Cornell Piper, Norm Rauhaus, Frank Rigney, Gord Rowland and Mike Wright. It also included other outstanding players. This collection of stars finished first in the west with a 13-3 record, beat Calgary 2 straight in the west final, 14-1 and 43-14, and then scored a thrilling 21-14 overtime victory in the Grey Cup game in Toronto as Ploen ran for the winning touchdown late in the game. It was the only overtime game to ever be played in Grey Cup history to date.
With their collection of star players, their overall 16-3 record, and their Grey Cup victory, there is no doubt the 1961 Winnipeg Blue Bombers were one of the great teams in the history of Canadian football.
Team Roster: Frank Fraser, Henry Janzen, Ron Meadmore, Jack Bruzell, Rick Potter, Hal Ledyard, Ken Ploen, Roger Hagberg, Baz Nagle, Rod Homeniuk, Jim Thoroski, Roger Savoie, Gord Rowland, Gerry James, Frank Rigney, Dave Burkholder, Gar Warren, Charley Shepard, Farrel Funston, Ernie Pitts, Ray Jauch, Gord Mackie, Ed Kotowich, Ray Ash, Roger Hamelin, George Druxman, Ted Mikliechuk, Dick Thornton, Jack Delveaux, Steve Patrick, Herb Gray, Ron Latourelle, Bob Jones, Cornel Piper, Mike Wright, Leo Lewis, Joe Zaleski, Bud Grant, John Michels, Nick Miller, Cec Luining, Norm Rauhaus, Jim Ausley, Gordon Lawson, Barry Manning.