Blast from the past

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

On Mondays a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week, Kirk Penton sits down with Canadian Football Hall of Famer Ken Ploen, the 74-year-old Bombers great who over the weekend was voted the CFL's most outstanding player of the 1960s.

Sun: The Bombers could use an experienced quarterback. How's the arm?

Ploen: (laughs) Well, the arm's not very good. If they need one, they better look somewhere besides me.

Sun: How famous are you back in your home state of Iowa?

KP: Well, back a few years I hung in there pretty good. If they went back there and mentioned it around Clinton, Iowa, where I grew up, they might still remember me.

Sun: What was the original play call on your 18-yard rushing touchdown in overtime that won the 1961 Grey Cup for the Bombers?

KP: As I recall, a hook pass is all it was. I can't remember who the receiver was, but he kind of tripped up a little bit, stumbled, scared the hell out of me. I didn't know what was going to happen. I saw all these big guys running, and I just ran like hell until I got into the end zone.

Sun: What do you remember most about the 1957 Rose Bowl, where you guided the Iowa Hawkeyes past the Oregon State Beavers?

KP: I'll tell you, that '57 Rose Bowl was a dream come true, because I can remember watching Rose Bowls growing up as a young kid growing up in Clinton, Iowa, and saying, 'Boy, would that be something to play in that game one day.' When we found out we were going, that was probably, in my football career, one of the highlights that I had because it was always a dream as a kid. We won the game. I was the player of the game. What more could one ask for?

Sun: Why did you stay in Winnipeg after you retired in 1967?

KP: Because I like it here. I can go into detail if you like, but I came up here in '57, I brought my wife in 1960, my children have all been born here. I've lived most of my adult years here. This is my home.

Sun: Who would play you in the movies?

KP: (laughs) Some lean, skinny guy.

Sun: Which teammate from your playing days would you have wanted beside you in a bar fight?

KP: It would be Herb Gray, pound for pound.

Sun: You had 10 interceptions for the Bombers in 1959?

KP: That's the year that (quarterback Jim) Van Pelt got hurt. I was hoping to maybe get a few more, but I had to go over and play quarterback again. I enjoyed playing defensive back. I was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as a defensive back, not as a quarterback.

Sun: If you played quarterback today in the CFL, what kind of numbers would you put up?

KP: It's an unfair question. There's just no way you could compare the game of our day to the game of today. The guys are bigger, faster. I think they're even more skilled than we were. It's a proportionate thing. If we were born, as these guys were, a few years ago and were playing in the league and had the abilities at the level we had back then, we'd be just as damn good today as we were back in the old days.

Sun: What's your favourite TV show?

KP: I guess I like a lot of the mystery shows that are on at times. I watch movies, sometimes old ones or the newer ones, and I like to watch sports. Other than that there's no great favourite one that I gotta watch every night.

Sun: What's your favourite movie?

KP: The Godfather was a great film.

Sun: Did you meet any celebrities at the '57 Rose Bowl?

KP: Yeah, we met Jayne Mansfield when we were out there. We were on Bob Hope's show. Forest Evashevski was our coach's name, and Hope came out with his opening line. Evashevski was a very demanding coach, a great coach, but very much respected by the players. You wouldn't back talk or say anything smart to him. And Hope says, when he walked on stage, 'That's the first time I've heard your name, Forest Evashevski. I thought it was a national park in Russia.' The players cracked up. Evvy got a charge out of it, too, but only Bob Hope could get away with something like that.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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