In his book “A History of the Blue Bombers”, author Vince Leah writes “there are veteran football observers who say the 1958 Grey Cup game was the most thrilling ever played.” On November 29, the 1958 Winnipeg Blue Bombers not only ended a 17-year drought that included 8 Grey Cup defeats, they roared back from behind to defeat Hamilton Tiger Cats 35-28 in one of the most exciting games in history.
Sporting a 13-3 record, Winnipeg finished first in the CFL’s Western Conference and defeated their arch-rival Edmonton Eskimos in the Western Final. The 1958 Grey Cup in Vancouver’s Empire stadium was a rematch of the 1957 final, where rookie coach Bud Grant saw his charges lose to Hamilton. History seemed destined to repeat itself as the Tiger Cats struck early to lead 14-0. When Ken Ploen injured his shoulder, the Bombers called in Jim Van Pelt to quarterback the team. After a shaky start, including a fumble that led to an opposition touchdown, Van Pelt settled and went on to set an individual Grey Cup scoring record with 22 points (2 touchdowns, 2 field goals and 4 converts).
A strong passing game (187 yards) and an impressive rushing attack (247 yards) featured Van Pelt, Ploen, running back Leo “the Lincoln Locomotive” Lewis and full back Charlie Sheppard. A blocked punt by Norm Rauhaus, which he recovered in the end zone, closed out the first half with Winnipeg ahead 20-14. After Hamilton tied the score, Gord Rowland recovered a Ti-Cat fumble that led to a Sheppard touchdown. The see-saw battle saw Hamilton take a 28-26 lead before Ploen’s 24 yard run to the one-yard line. Van Pelt’s QB sneak and a punt single by Sheppard closed at the score at 35-28 for the victorious Bombers.
A pair of interceptions snuffed out Hamilton’s comeback bid and Winnipeg collected their first of 4 Grey Cup titles, in five years, before Grant headed back home to coach the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
ROSTER PLAYERS: Walter Bilicki, Dave Burkholder, George Druxman, Frank Gilliam, Herb Gray, Bob Hobert, Tony Kehrer, Ed Kotowich, Ron Latourelle, Leo Lewis, Cec Luining, Ron Meadmore, Ted Mikliechuk, Nick Miller, Steve Patrick, Keith Pearce, Cornel Piper, Ernie Pitts, Ken Ploen, Rick Potter, Non Rauhaus, Frank Rigney, Barry Roseborough, Gord Rowland, Roger Savoie, Charlie Sheppard, Buddy Tinsley, Jim Tonn, Jim Van Pelt, John Varone, Gerry Vincent, Garland Warren, Eugene Wlasiuk STAFF: Harry “Bud” Grant (Head Coach), Joe Zaleski (Coach), Wayne Robinson (Coach), Ralph Parliament (President), James Ausley (Manager), Harry “Pop” Varnes (Equipment), Bob Jones (Equipment), Ken Kovacs (Equipment), Russ Lacomy (Equipment)