This is the fifth 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
Quick, a pop quiz: Who was the (a) Lincoln Locomotive, (b) the Galloping Ghost, (c) the Brirmingham Rifle and (d) Blink?
It seems that everywhere you go in sports these days, the great players — even some of the mediocre ones have nicknames. Of course, when it comes to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, great nicknames have been a big part of the club’s long, colorful history.
In fact, entire portions of the Blue Bombers team have been named for either their greatness or their colorful play.
According to the great James (Wild) West, it was newspaper columnist — now editor of The Huddle — Scott Taylor ,who first called the lock-down, smash-mouth Blue Bombers defense “Blue Thunder.”
It was a great moniker because this defense was truly special from front to back and make no mistake, it lived up to its name. This group was so good, it is was almost entirely responsible for the ’88 and ’90 Grey Cup victories.
The core of this defense was at linebacker with Tyrone Jones, James West, Greg Battle and Paul Randolph, but the secondary was pretty sensational, too. It featured Hall of Famer Rod Hill, who spent six years in the NFL with Dallas, Buffalo, Detroit and the L.A. Raiders before signing with Winnipeg in 1988. He still holds Blue Bombers records for most career interceptions with 47 and most interceptions in a game with five. He was a CFL all-star in 1989 and 1990 and one of the stars who made Blue Thunder the greatest defense of the era.
While Blue Thunder pretty much covered all the Bombers defensive stars of that era, most of the great Blue Bombers nicknames have been bestowed on individuals. Here’s a list of some of the best and, please, note their accomplishments:
Leo Lewis, “The Lincoln Locomotive,” won four Grey Cup championships.
Fritz Hansen, “The Golden (sometimes Galloping) Ghost,” won four Grey Cup championships.
Herb Gray, “Hawg,” won four Grey Cup championship.
Gerry James, “Kid Dynamite,” won four Grey Cup championships.
Ron LaTourelle, “Pepe,” won four Grey Cup championships.
Don Jonas, “The Magnificent Man and His Scoring Machine,” was the first Blue Bomber offensive player to win a Schenley Award.
Dieter Brock, “The Buirmingham Rifle,” won two straight Schenley Awards.
Joe Poplawski, “The Polish Prince,” won one Grey Cup championship and was the all-time leading Canadian receiver.
Trevor Kennerd, “The Hammer,” won three Grey Cup championships.
James Murphy, “Quick,” won three Grey Cup championships.
Willard Reaves, “The Sheriff,” won a Grey Cup and was CFL most outstanding player.
James West, “Wild,” won two Grey Cup championships.
Chris Walby, ”Bluto,” won three Grey Cup championships.
Charles Roberts, “Blink,” is the all-time Blue Bombers rushing leader.
Milt Stegall, “Turtle Man” is the all-time CFL Touchdown leader.
All memorable players with memorable names.
So what’s in a nickname? In a nutshell, it’s accomplishment, stability, longevity, commitment, pride and teamwork.