Cahill toasted by football friends

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Leo Cahill's capacity to shock an audience remained intact when he said he didn't know what to say.

But only briefly. His audience knew it was like Tiger Woods saying he doesn't know what a golf ball is.

The legendary former coach and general manager of the Toronto Argonauts then rolled out a half-hour's worth of thank-you's, remembrances and gentle ripostes Wednesday at an event named The Coach, The Roast, The Ring at a North York hotel.

As much as anything, it was a confirmation of sport's most enduring values. More than 150 guests paid $125 a head to be part of it. Former Argo Dick Thornton flew 27 hours from Southeast Asia. Even longtime Hamilton Tiger-Cat enemy Angelo Mosca was there as a roaster.

It's obvious the game is never over, even for a guy three decades removed from his glory days. Enduring and endearing, this familial part of sports is even more pronounced when it's at the professional level, where warmth is obliterated by what counts most, the scoreboard and the bottom line.

Cahill was more toasted than roasted by Mosca, Thornton, broadcasters Pat Marsden, Leif Pettersen and Gord Stellick and Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae.

Cahill, now living in Sarnia, was easily the most dominating figure in the history of Toronto sports in three separate terms as coach or GM.

There's no doubt his spectacular recruiting, his bombastic quotes and creative inspirational work with his teams made him the most identifiable one, even though he came up empty in two Grey Cups as coach. Argo ownership brought him back last season for a role in community affairs and they won.

Winner of a Rose Bowl ring and a World Football League ring, Cahill finally got his Argo ring.

And he rang some zingers off.

"John Bassett," he said of the owner who fired him, "thought an offensive line was one asking for a raise."

When Bassett Sr. fired him, John Bassett Jr. hired him to coach the Memphis Southmen right afterward. "Getting paid by both father and son wasn't bad."

Defensive back Thornton spoke of betting Cahill $100 he would get into the end zone during a game against Montreal if he had a chance at wide receiver. He said he never got the dough, and Cahill now owed him $7,040 after interest was factored in.

Cahill, who charged that Thornton had wives on five continents, obfuscated his way out of it.

Somebody said during a tense sleep before a game that lightning flashed through the window and Cahill jumped up shouting, "I'll pay for the negatives." It was said Cahill got a veterinary degree followed by one in taxidermy because "either way, you get your dog back."

McRae said he became a believer in the Cahill mystique when he went to Memphis to do a story on Cahill. Into the office strolled Elvis Presley to say hello and challenge the coach to a racquetball game.

Shots rang around the room, including Marsden for being "a test pilot for Bacardi" and Mosca "for getting kicked out of Notre Dame for beating up a priest." The most-telling commentary, though, was unspoken. It was Cahill flashing his fist with the flashy Grey Cup ring at the end of the evening to cheers he hasn't heard in a long time.

Kernels

Former Argo and Western Mustang Pete Martin was highly appreciative of Knights owners Mark and Dale Hunter, along with Corey Perry and other players, attending his Port Credit hockey team's awards banquet. . . . Ex-Argo trainer Fred Dunbar says he was offered the trainer's job with the Knights back in 1968 but instead took a job with the Hamilton Red Wings.


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