EDMONTON - The only local product who made it to the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Fame from the original glory gang which won three Grey Cups in a row in 1954-55-56, has died.
Oscar Kruger, who has his name and number on the facade at Commonwealth Stadium with Jackie Parker, Normie Kwong, Johnny Bright, Rollie Miles, Don Getty, Frank Morris, Frank Anderson and Roger Nelson, died Sunday evening after a lengthy illness.
He was 77.
Kruger played 12 seasons with the Eskimos after playing only one year with the Edmonton Wildcats junior team in 1953 and went on to have a long and successful career as an Edmonton lawyer, something that didn’t surprise Al Anderson, the GM of the day, in the least.
Anderson called Kruger the toughest player he ever had to negotiate a contract with in that era.
“Normie Kwong was always tough,” Anderson told this columnist back in the ’70s. “It was always a contest between Normie and myself. But Oscar ... Oscar was first.
“He was the toughest to negotiate with because he didn’t negotiate. He’d just sit there and stare at you and say ‘Wait ’til I’m a lawyer.’
“Most of the time he wouldn’t say anything. He’d just sit there and stare. He wouldn’t blink no matter how much you talked. You didn’t know where to stop. So Oscar did pretty well.”
Kruger was inducted by Getty, who at the time was the premier of the province of Alberta.
Getty was his old roommate on the road.
A four-time Western All-star — in 1953, 1958, 1961 and 1962 — Kruger was nominated as top Canadian in the Schenley Awards balloting in 1963.
When Edmonton’s longest serving sports media were asked to vote on the Top 40 Eskimos of all time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team, Kruger was voted No. 22.
A safety, Kruger ended his career with 46 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries.
On a team with a lot of characters who through all the years would kid each other mercilessly, they always used to contend that Kruger was hard of hearing because he made so many late hits.
He actually started out hitting in the boxing ring where he won a provincial championship. He’d later go on to be the chairman of the Edmonton Boxing and Wrestling Commission.
“Oscar was as tough as they come, a cool customer who was very quiet and extremely intelligent,” said former Eskimos play-by-play man Bryan Hall Monday morning after being informed by his family of his passing.
“As a player, Oscar inspired respect from teammates and opponents. As a person he was a true gentleman and friend.”