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Today's Tidbit... Fog and the 1962 Grey Cup
Back in July, I penned a Tidbit about two-day football games that began on Saturday evening and, for one reason or another, were delayed and did not finish until early Sunday morning. Such games were quite uncommon when lighted football fields were rare, but we have become nonchalant about these games since playing under the lights has become ordinary.
When telling the original story, I failed to mention the 1962 Grey Cup or the Laval Rouge et Or vs. Concordia Stingers contest in the 1998 Dunsmore Cup for the Ontario-Québec Intercollegiate Football Conference championship. (Thanks to John Valentine and Nathan Sager for the heads-up on those games.)
Since the 110th playing of the Grey Cup arrives tomorrow, it is appropriate to look back on the 50th Grey Cup, another two-day game that has become known as the Fog Bowl. I'll return to the Dunsmore Cup soon.
The 50th Grey Cup, which began on December 1, 1962, started like any other championship game. Sort of. Featuring the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the game took place at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium, which sat a Hail Mary pass north of Lake Ontario. The location made it subject to wind, cold, and seagulls, earning the nickname, the Mistake on the Lake. Despite its faults, it was a perfectly suitable stadium on most occasions, but the 50th playing of the Grey Cup was not one of them.
The 1962 Grey Cup was the first broadcast in the U.S. ABC, which did not handle NFL (CBS) or AFL (NBC) games, planned to show the game on a several-hour tape delay as part of an extended episode of Wide World of Sports. It was an opportunity to put the CFL before an expanded audience and may have affected decision-making over the next few hours.
Fog rolled in the Saturday morning of the game, leading to more than a few calls to push back the game to Sunday. However, CFL Commissioner G. Sydney Halter did not want to delay out of respect for the 33,655 fans who packed the stadium, especially those who traveled to Toronto and could not stick around for a Sunday game. So, the teams got ready for a contest whose very start would be a game-time decision.
The weather looked fine an hour before kickoff, and despite moderate fog rolling in a half hour before the game, they carried on, and the teams kicked things off as scheduled. The Blue Bombers, ravaged by injury entering the competition, looked poorly as the Tiger-Cats' Graham Henley broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown run. Don Sutherin's missed conversion left the score at 6-0, which lasted until the quarter's end.
Near the start of the second quarter, however, the fog thickened and settled fifteen or twenty feet above the playing field. While play continued, players lost sight of passes and punts, while the fans and everyone in the press box could make out little of what happened on the near side of the field and nothing on the far side.
However, a lot happened in the second quarter as the teams scored five touchdowns, and Joe Sutherin missed another extra point, leaving it 21-19 Ti-Cats at the half.
Despite all the second-quarter action, the television and radio announcers saw little of it. Instead, they were reduced to the status of early radio broadcasters like Ronald Reagan, who provided play-by-play descriptions and commentary at a remote location using telegraphed information crossing his desk. But things were even worse for the Grey Cup announcers since they didn't even have telegraph messages to go on.
Arguments about whether to continue the game arose at halftime—many who had approved of starting the game called for playing the second half on Sunday. Nevertheless, the commissioner ordered the teams to play on, so they did.
Hamilton threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter, and Winnipeg responded to bring the score to 28-26 before Hamilton attempted a field goal from 30 yards out. This time, Joe Sutherin missed the field goal attempted, but the Tiger-Cats earned a rouge to make it 28-27.
Play continued in the fourth quarter until worsening fog forced the game officials to stop play with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter. Hoping the fog might dissipate after 5 or 10 minutes, the teams stayed on the field before being sent to their locker rooms. When the delay reached 35 minutes, Commissioner Halter suspended the game, ordering it to continue at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.
The suspension meant that the fans, stadium workers, press, players, and coaches would have to return on Sunday to see how the story would end after another 9 minutes and 28 seconds of play.
And so must you. We'll pick up how the second day of the 1962 Gray Cup came together and ended with tomorrow’s Tidbit.
As a reminder to American readers, tomorrow's Grey Cup is unavailable on a network or cable channel in the U.S., but you can stream it for free at cfl.ca/plus starting at 6:00 PM Eastern.
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