The 'Cats came back

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

The stuck-up suits versus the grimy work boots.

White collar aloofness versus blue collar grit.

The Big Smoke versus The Big Smoke Stacks.

For decades, these were the kinds of stereotypes that surfaced whenever the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats clashed helmets in the Canadian Football League playoffs, propaganda churned out by fans and magnified by the media.

Well, this just in:

Just like Toronto, there are a number of fancy glass towers in Hamilton.

Just like Hamilton, there are heavily industrialized factories in Toronto.

Of course, those things rarely are mentioned in any debate between Argos and Ticats supporters.

It's more fun for Hamilton fans to consider their enemies from the east a bunch of wimps in Gucci shoes.

It's more fun for the Argo-nuts to peer to the west and perceive Hamiltonians as a bunch of hard hats living hard lives.

This schtick has been going on ever since the Argos-Ticats rivalry first heated up, and it won't be any different tonight when the two teams meet in a CFL Eastern Conference semi-final at the SkyDome.

If the game itself has as much spice as many of the previous Hamilton-Toronto playoff tilts, there should be plenty of name-calling between the sides by the time the final gun sounds. Such passion makes for a great rivalry, one that has had more than its share of heroes and heartbreaks in post-seasons past.

Without further ado, here is a look at some of the greatest playoff moments between the Argos and Ticats:

BIG CHOKE

Nov. 25, 1961

Eastern Conference final, Hamilton

Ticats 55, Argos 27 (Two-game, total-points)

- One lousy rouge.

That's all the Argos needed from punter Dave Mann to break a 27-27 tie as he dropped back to punt with 28 seconds left and the ball on the Hamilton 31-yard-line.

Mann's punt went to the Ticats' Don Sutherin, who booted it out of the Hamilton end zone. Mann fielded the ball and kicked it back only to watch Hamilton's Bernie Faloney return it the length of the field for a touchdown.

Even though Faloney's score was wiped out by a penalty, the Argos had blown their chance to win. The Ticats went on to shred the visitors for three touchdowns in the 30-minute overtime to clinch a Grey Cup berth against Winnipeg.

The most embarrassing aspect for the Argos? They had carried an 18-point lead into the game, having won the opening leg in Toronto, 25-7.

Twenty-five years later, they would once again be humiliated in similar fashion.

BIG CHOKE II

November 23, 1986

Eastern Conference final, Toronto

Ticats 59, Argos 56 (Two-game, total-points)

- "This was more than a loss ... it was mind-numbing."

Placekicker Lance Chomyc echoed the feeling of every Double Blue player and fan when he uttered those words moments after one of the biggest collapses in pro sports history.

The Argos, after all, had won the first leg of the series 31-17 at Ivor Wynne Stadium, then outscored Hamilton 15-3 in the first 15 minutes of the rematch in Toronto. All the Scullers needed to do was nurse that 26-point lead (46-20) for the final three quarters on home turf and victory was theirs.

Instead, they imploded. And when Ticats QB Mike Kerrigan hit Ron Ingram for the winning score with just 42 seconds remaining, the Choke in the Big Smoke was complete.

THE CALL

November 20, 1983

Eastern Conference final, Toronto

Argos 41, Ticats 36.

- Cedric Minter's one-yard touchdown plunge with 27 seconds remaining put the Argos ahead for good, sending the record Exhibition Stadium crowd of 54,530 into a tizzy.

But the bitter Ticats cried foul, claiming Toronto's final drive would have stalled if not for a controversial pass interference call against Hamilton defensive back Gerald Bess that netted the Argos 34 yards.

"I feel like I was raped," 'Cats kicker Bernie Ruoff, obviously still seething at the officials, said.

The dramatic win propelled Toronto into the Grey Cup, where they defeated B.C. 18-17 for the title.

SHANKS A LOT

November 11, 1984

Eastern Conference semi-final, Toronto

Ticats 14, Argos 13 (Overtime)

- One of the greatest kickers in CFL history, Hank Ilesic, was very undeserving of the Hank The Shank nickname thrust upon him by bitter Argos fans.

Yet cries of "Hank the Shank" echoed through Exhibition Stadium on this night when his attempt to punt the ball from the Hamilton 41-yard line out of the end zone for the winning single did not pan out. Only four seconds remained on the clock when Ilesic failed to break the 8-8 tie.

Why didn't the Argos attempt a 48-yard field goal instead? More than a few second-guessers wanted to know, especially when the Ticats outscored their hosts 6-5 in overtime to claim the win.

"We've got no excuses," Argos quarterback Joe Barnes said.

TURNOVER TIME

Nov. 14, 1999

Eastern Conference semi-final, Hamilton

Ticats 27, Argos 6

- Nothing tastes sweeter to a Ticats supporter than a Double Blue turnover.

So imagine the euphoria at Ivor Wynne when the Argos committed eight of them in this one-sided spanking.

With Doug Flutie having bolted for the NFL's Buffalo Bills, the stumbling Argos offence kept coughing up the ball, a trend which the Ticats converted into 24 points.

"We didn't show up," Argos defensive lineman Demetrious Maxie said of the sloppy performance.


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