The CFL season is heading towards the playoffs and before we know it the Grey Cup will be upon us.
In the run up to that game in November I thought it might be interesting to do a series detailing the first time each team in the league captured the grand old trophy.
The 36th Grey Cup saw 20,013 fans on hand at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. There they witnessed the 12-0 Stampeders defeat the 10-2 Ottawa Rough Riders 12-7.
The Run up to the Game
The Calgary Stampeders were undefeated in all of their games that they played this season, and as of 2019, remain the only team in the history of what is now the CFL to do so.
Calgary actually put together a 14-0-1 season. The Stamps had gone 12-0 in the regular season. Their only ‘blemish’ came in a 4-4 tie with Saskatchewan in the first game of a two leg Western semi-final. But then we have seen how hard it is to put together the perfect rarities of an undefeated untied season in pro football.
Ottawa had taken the IRFU title with their 10-2 record. A playoff ensued with the second placed 7-5 Montreal Alouettes. Ottawa won a two game series by an aggregate score of 34-28
That meant they squared off with the 9-0-0 Hamilton Tigers who were champions of the ORFU.
The Tigers themselves had played off against the 5-4 Toronto Beaches-Indians. A two game contest saw them come through by an aggregate score of 39-1.
In a single game Eastern Final the Rough Riders dispatched Hamilton 19-0 to set up a contest with Calgary.
Allowing for playoff results that meant the 1948 Grey Cup actually saw a match between a 12-3 team (Ottawa), and a 14-0-1 team (Calgary).
The Grey Cup Game
We have to confess, we have already looked at this game. But as this is a series about first Grey Cup wins we could not leave it out, and we can now look in a little more detail.
This is a game with to ties with Winnipeg’s first win in 1935. Particularly as Calgary became only the second Western team to win the trophy. That Winnipeg team had been the first in 1935 & the Blue Bombers had won again in 1939 & 1941.
Another link came via Melvin “Fritz” Hanson. He had been on all of those Grey Cup winning teams in Winnipeg and was again here in Calgary. A unique career that saw him pick up the first 4 Grey Cup rings won by teams in the West.
The ‘Sleeper Play’ and the Turnover
Defense was pretty dominant in this one. The first quarter only saw a single from Ottawa so that they led 1-0 going into the second.
The second quarter saw Calgary score on the so called ‘sleeper play’.
As quarterback Keith Spaith completed a pass to Woody Strode on one side of the field, Norm Hill dropped on the ground at the opposite side of the field.
When the next play began, he jumped up. Before Ottawa players could react, Hill was open to catch Spaith’s quickly thrown pass in the back of the end-zone.
Hill slipped before he had possession of the ball but he fell on his back and the ball dropped into his hands. As well as being a ‘sleeper play’, Hill’s score is sometimes called the “sit-down touchdown”.
Ottawa led 7-6 at the end of the third as they answered with a touchdown of their own. Bob Paffrath ran in the score and it was converted to put the Riders on top.
The game winning score came in the final quarter after the Stamps had forced a turnover. Picking off an intercepted lateral put Calgary on the Ottawa 11 yard line. The turnover came as Ottawa thought the play was dead and only realized what had happened as Calgary ran away with the ball.
Pete Thodos bulldozed in for the winning score and the Stamps took home the grand old trophy for the first time.
What Came Next
The Stampeders followed up their undefeated season by going 13-1 in the WIFU, before losing in the 1949 Grey Cup game to Montreal.
That was followed by a period of decline as the Stamps failed to put together a winning season between 1950 & 1961.
A period of success ensued with appearances in the Grey Cup in 1968 & ’70 before finally winning it again in 1971.
From 1990 onward they have had a period of incredibly consistent regular season success. They are also the defending Grey Cup champions.
Banner Image: The Stamps celebrate their win. Image from instazu.com