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The big roar!

Byron BaileyIn today’s Sun sports page, there is a wonderful article by Mike Beamish on the 1964 BC Lions, who that year won their first Grey Cup. This was the year after they lost it in Vancouver when Angela Mosca of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, their 1964 opponents, very illegally piled on Willie Fleming after the play had ended and out of bounds to boot knocking the great Willie out of the game. The Lions and their fans had that very much in mind in 1964!

Willie Fleming – alive and looking good – was one of the most exciting running backs anywhere, ever. He had starred with Iowa before coming to BC alongside Bob Jeter who also came here. Oddly, in college it was Jeter who was the big star!

We old Vancouverites had suffered since 1954 when the Lions came to town with great fanfare but it took 10 years for them to make the national finals and 11 to win it. Those were very tough years to be a fan.

The 1964 Lions were indeed a memorable team as Mike points out. Tom Brown, the best linebacker the CFL has ever had, was probably as good as there has ever been. He now lives in New Westminster.

Dick Fouks, now gone, was also a great linebacker and had a whale of a game.

Mike talks about the game and recalls what we all do so well – our fullback, Bob Swift, was injured early and a linebacker, Bill Munsie, took over and was the star of the game. Bill is unfortunately gone.

Later in the game another great thrill – attempting a field goal, the ball was badly snapped and Pete Ohler, the holder, calmly picked it up and threw it to Jim Carphin in the end zone for a quite unexpected touchdown. Both are still with us although Pete is apparently not in the best of shape.

Unmentioned by Mike, was a touchdown by the unbelievable Fleming who took a short pass and then deked All Star Garnie Henley out of his jockstrap to score a brilliant touchdown.

The quarterback was, of course, the redoubtable Joe Kapp – still with us at 76 – who is the only person to have played in the Grey Cup, the Rose Bowl, and the Super Bowl. He was the heart of the team and the leader. He had played for Calgary and somehow the Lions “stole” him and he became the man who led the team out of the wilderness.

Again, unmentioned by Mike, is the fact that this was the last year for Byron Bailey, probably the most popular Lion ever. By came up in 1954, scored the Lions first touchdown against Winnipeg, then scored the winning touchdown against Calgary for the Lions first win ever.

I got to know By pretty well and we played some golf together. He always talked about the game we played in a tournament in Penticton where on the 11th hole I hooked my ball up against the out of bounds fence on the left hand side. The fence was made of barbed wire and I stood outside of the fence (quite legal) and knocked the ball back on the fairway, at the same time ripping my shirt and scratching on my stomach unto bleeding all over the place.

I hit the ball onto the green, made the putt and By always said was the most remarkable par he ever seen in golf!

He was one hell of a guy and died far too young at 67. Like Tom Brown and others, he stayed in Canada after leaving football and was a forestry executive until he retired.

One had to be a Vancouverite and have lived here from 1954 until 1964 to understand the suffering of the fans. In those days, it was a matter of local pride. The Prairie teams had not wanted British Columbia to come into the league in 1954 and did all they could to prevent it. When the Lions did come in, we fans approached each game as a matter of deep pride and we felt almost as if our lives were at stake. To lose games to Prairie teams, which happened all too frequently, was a horrible cross for the poor BC fan to bear.

When the Lions won the Grey Cup in 1964, all of that was eradicated and the BC Lions as well as their fans stood tall thereafter.

There were a great many other players on the Lions team of ’64 which Mike doesn’t mention and I haven’t mentioned here. They were all part of a very great moment in British Columbia sport, a moment that cannot possibly ever be duplicated.

4 Responses to “The big roar!”

  1. John Twigg says:

    Great history, Rafe. Thanks for reminding us of it. I still have the image in my brain of Mosca landing on Fleming, which was often replayed, but I had forgotten about Munsie, Ohler and such. And now it’s part of the Province’s posterity. Wasn’t Fieldgate in there too?

  2. Rafe Mair says:

    Indeed he was ,,, and “Mouse” is alive and well.

  3. Doug says:

    Rafe

    Of course,it is Dick Fouts.He was tall and thin and mainly played defensive end.

    During the 1994 Grey Cup hosted and won by the Lions,many of the 1964 Lions were on hand to sign autographs and talk to the fans.I talked to Dave Skrien,Willie Fleming(& his wife) and Bill Munsie.I got many autographs (Skrien,Fleming,Munsie,Sonny Homer,Mike Cacic,Norm Fieldgate etc.).

    Skrien looked exactly the same in 1994 as he did in 1964.He mentioned that the 1964 team were a great bunch of boys.

    I remember Pet Ohler playing at Washington during the early Jim Owens era.Pete played football at Vancouver College and as I remember helped coach Vancouver College at one time.

    Remember Lonnie Dennis.One tough dude.I think he became a police officer(Long Beach possibly).

    Doug

  4. Doug says:

    Of course … Bill Munsey.I am getting old!

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