June 11, 2024

Reunited in history

EDMONTON – It took nearly 70 years, but a piece of Canadian history is finally back where it belongs.

A bundle of leather and stitching less than a foot in diameter that became priceless by virtue of the men that held it.

Flash back to Nov. 24, 1956 and the 44th Grey Cup game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouettes. It was the culmination of the Edmonton’s first dynasty, with the Green and Gold having been crowned champions in both 1954 and 1955. They were a team led by legends of the game, filled with names that are still held in reverence and monumentalized in the city to this day.

The greats like Rollie Miles, Johnny Bright, Don Getty, and Normie Kwong all played significant roles in the Double E’s 50-27 triumph over the Alouettes, but it was the late-great Jackie Parker who took part in the game’s most infamous play.

Of the 126 yards and three touchdowns Parker rushed for on that day, it was the final eight yards for six points which remain the game’s most iconic. Receiving the option pitch from Getty, Parker eluded Montreal’s Jack Dwyer before running across the goal line and into a mass of fans for the score.

Parker would leave the crowd of patrons empty handed. Gone from his grasp was the game ball, the last of 18 J5E Spalding balls with 1956 Grey Cup emblazoned on the leather. In the moments that ensued, the decision was made to end the game — with the Esks already ahead by 23 the extra point was declared a moot one.

“In fifties fashion, all the fans were already onto the field. They didn’t have the security like we have now,” said Jeff McWhinney, the keeper of the Grey Cup and a CFL historian. “Guys are patting (Parker) on the back like they’re patting him down, police officers are patting him down, and the one guy goes in and takes the ball from Parker and takes off.”

No one knew what happened to that championship ball for decades. It was an iconic piece of memorabilia that was lost to time as the CFL flourished and Jackie Parker’s legend grew to that of one of the best players to ever play the game.

The 1956 Grey Cup ball held by the Keeper of the Grey Cup Jeff McWhinney

However, at the Elks Kickoff to 75 Dinner last week, the ball was symbolically returned to Parker by means of his son.

“Interesting enough, Doug Bower, who on that very day stole that ball or ‘borrowed’ the ball, returned it back to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame,” McWhinney said. “It’s pretty neat. And it’s neat that the last guy that touched this was the great spaghetti legs, Jack Parker.”

As a part of the dinner’s festivities, the ball was reunited with Jackie Parker Jr.. The moment allowed Parker Jr. to hold the same ball that helped establish his father’s legacy in the league.

Jackie Parker Jr. (right) is reunited with the ball his father used to score the 1956 Grey Cup’s final touchdown

Parker Sr. played six more seasons for the Esks after the 1956 Grey Cup game, winning six consecutive Jeff Nicklin Memorial trophies as the West Division’s Most Outstanding player from 1956-1961. He is immortalized on the Double E’s Wall of Honour and will be named to the 1950’s All-Decade team, as a part of the Elks 75th season festivities.

The entire team will be revealed on Friday, June 14 in Commonwealth stadium as the Elks take on the Montreal Alouettes at 7:00 p.m.. The rest of the all-decade teams will be revealed at each of the Double E’s subsequent home games, culminating in a fan vote for the all-time team and the greatest collection of players to ever wear the Green and Gold.

Be there for the full reveal on June 14. Tickets to Elks Football start at just $22.