Walk into just about any CFL stadium in this country and you are instantly reminded of the football heroes of yesteryear.
Jackie Parker, Wayne (Thumper) Harris, Joe Kapp, Doug Flutie, Angelo Mosca ... are among the names which adorn the walls or some other prominent spot and welcome fans, young and old, to those venues.
Everywhere, that is, but Canad Inns Stadium, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. There is no mention anywhere in the stands of the names to remind us of the ghosts of Bombers past, including Fritz (Golden Ghost) Hanson.
Well, now that we have come to the club's 75th anniversary celebration, it is high time to correct that snub of Bombers who will forever remain part of the franchise's folklore.
They can make the appropriate move by retiring at least one number when the Bombers officially celebrate their special date on Oct. 10 when the B.C. Lions come to town. And that would be No. 11, the one won worn by the man whom everyone believes is the best Bomber to ever play for the club, Ken Ploen. And, for that matter, one of the greatest players in CFL history.
Actually, retiring that number would not be much of a stretch because no Bomber has worn it since Ploen retired back in 1967. And no one ever will. In other words, it has been unofficially retired since that day.
Ken Ploen quarterbacked the club in six different Grey Cup games from 1957 to 1965, winning four of them. Incredible. And he was named the MVP of the first and only Grey Cup to ever go into overtime, scoring the winning touchdown on a 19-yard scramble. And what many people do not realize is that Ploen also played safety in at least one of those contests as he shared quarterbacking duties with, first, Jim Van Pelt, and later, Hal Ledyard. Actually, Ploen was once an all-star safety.
Ploen will forever embody the Golden Days of Bombers football. Not only did he get the job done on the field but the Iowa native made his home in Winnipeg. In fact, he still lives here long after his playing days ended, which only further endears him to our local fanatics. And he is still considered a very special member of our community.
Sure, Ploen had a great supporting cast, with names like Leo (Lincoln Locomotive) Lewis, Charlie (Choo Choo) Shepard, Gerry (Kid Dynamite) James, Ernie (Old Folks) Pitts, Herb Gray and Frank Rigney just rolling off the tongue. But Ploen was their leader and as such, he should be the first to be hailed and his jersey hung with honour in a prominent place wherever the Bombers should play.
Yes, that would just be the start, with players like Lewis and Hanson to follow in short order.
Whenever we have broached this subject in the past, the club has pointed out that both their CFL and Bomber hall-of-famers have been honoured with plaques sometimes seen in the Blue and Gold Room. But most fans seldom see those.
What most fans want is to sit in the stands and feel the history of the franchise's proudest moments. The older folks would love to point at a memory of Ken Ploen and say, "Now there was a winner." Frankly, we have never understood the club's reluctance to highlight its glorious past -- unless it is too embarrassed by its present.
But the time to do it is now. There is no legitimate excuse for not making amends for this insulting oversight.
Whether the Bombers finally retire your number or not, Mr. Ploen, we here at The Sun salute you. And thank you for playing an integral part in local football history.