This is the third in a series of off-season “Blue Bomber Stories,” that are actual excerpts from the next football book written by the authors of Quiet Hero: The Ken Ploen Story. Scott Taylor and Roy Rosmus provide young fans with an opportunity to learn a little about the history of one of the greatest franchises in CFL history…
By Roy Rosmus (with some help from Scott Taylor)
If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll love the ESPN 30 For 30 feature called “Bo Knows.” It’s well done, as are all the 30 For 30 documentaries, and it tells the story of one of the last two great two-sport players (Deion Sanders was the other).
Back in the 1950s, Canada had a “Bo Jackson” of its own. In fact, he’s a guy we spend a lot of time writing about in our new book on the history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Once again most of our younger Bomber fans won’t know much about Gerald Edwin James but he was a pretty remarkable athlete.
Gerry (Kid Dynamite) James, who was born in Regina in 1934, was a graduate of Kelvin High School and became a runningback with his hometown Blue Bombers at the age of 17 (the second youngest player ever to play professional football in Canada — Tommy Manastersky was a few months younger when he caught on with the Montreal Alouettes in 1946).
However, what makes James so much like Bo Jackson is that he not only played for the CFL’s Blue Bombers, he also played with the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
In fact, over an 18-week span that overlapped the 1959 CFL season and the 1959-60 NHL season, James became the only athlete in history to play in the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup in the season.
He played with Kenny Ploen and the Bombers when they beat Hamilton to win the Grey Cup on Nov. 28, 1959. Six months later, in April 1960, while playing with the Leafs, he made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Leafs did not win. The only other athlete to play in both the Grey Cup and Stanley Cup was Lionel Conacher who won the 1921 Grey Cup and the 1934 and 1935 Stanley Cups.
Ultimately, James won four Grey Cups (injured, he did not play in the 1958 Grey Cup game) with the Bombers, playing in a backfield that included the incomparable Leo Lewis.
Kid Dynamite was a real Canadian hero. When he finished playing, he coached hockey and even owned a junior team or two.
Can you imagine what U.S. TV would do with the Gerry James Story? As it is, Gerry James remains a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (alongside his dad, Eddie James) as well as a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.