1930 Roughriders - Angie Mitchell is on the far right in the back row. Courtesy Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame
SNAP QUIZ: Name the first — and heretofore only — Roughriders quarterback to make three consecutive Grey Cup starts.
The answer: Angie Mitchell.
The least-heralded great quarterback in franchise history, the Mortlach-born Mitchell was behind centre when the Regina Roughriders began the championship games of 1929, 1930 and 1931.
Mitchell alternated at quarterback for the Western Canadian kingpins in the 1929 Grey Cup.
Jersey Campbell threw nine forward passes — including the first aerial in Grey Cup history — for the Roughriders. Mitchell unfurled two throws in a 14-3 loss to the host Hamilton Tigers.
In 1930, Mitchell was again first in line at quarterback as the Roughriders advanced to the national final.
Although the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers won 11-6, the Roughriders did register the first touchdown by a Western team in Grey Cup history. Fred Brown did the honours, scoring on an onside kick.
(Trivial aside: On Nov. 11, 1929, the very same Fred Brown had scored the first interception-return TD in Canadian football history. He jumped in front of a Gerry Seiberling pass at Regina’s Exhibition Grounds and sprinted 55 yards for a major to help the Roughriders defeat the Calgary Tigers 15-8 in the Western final. We now return you to Angie Mitchell …)
Mitchell drew his third successive Grey Cup starting assignment when the Roughriders faced the host Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers on Dec. 5, 1931 at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. Montreal won 22-0.
Earlier that season, the versatile Mitchell had caught the first home-field TD pass in Roughriders history, hauling in a payoff pitch from Fred Goodman on Oct. 24, 1931 against the Saskatoon Quakers.
Mitchell and the Roughriders returned to the Grey Cup on Dec. 3, 1932, when Austin DeFrate accepted snaps for the Western representative in a 25-6 loss to Hamilton.
Mitchell was listed on the roster as a reserve for what turned out to be his final game as a Roughrider.
The Regina side reached the Grey Cup in each of his four seasons with the team. Two of those games were played in Hamilton, where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes are to collide in Sunday’s CFL final.
Mitchell later returned to the gridiron game as an official and quickly excelled in that role.
He first donned the stripes in 1934 and, in fact, officiated in that year’s Grey Cup between the Roughriders and Sarnia Imperials.
On Aug. 12, 1935, the Roughriders honoured Mitchell by making a presentation to a well-liked gentleman who former Roughriders Head Coach Al Ritchie described as “a little fellow with a big heart and the greatest quarterback the West has developed in more than a decade.”
Ritchie’s quote appeared in the Regina Leader-Post, which also referred to the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Mitchell as the “Little General” — a moniker that would most memorably be attached to Ron Lancaster.
Angus (Angie) Mitchell was only 56 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1965 in Surrey, B.C.
LITTLE GENERAL, PART 2
Lancaster was the first of two quarterbacks to pilot Saskatchewan to a Grey Cup victory over a team that traded him.
Acquired from Ottawa on July 29, 1963 for the low, low price of $500, Lancaster capped the 1966 CFL season by throwing three touchdown passes in a 29-14 Grey Cup victory over the eastern Riders.
The 1963 deal also specified that Ottawa would have the first right of refusal if Saskatchewan sought to trade Lancaster back to the Eastern Conference.
The acquisition of Lancaster was a franchise-altering move for the Roughriders, who went one step further on April 12, 2006 by acquiring two future Grey Cup-winning quarterbacks in the same trade.
Roy Shivers, who was the Roughriders’ General Manager at the time, was in desperate need of a quarterback and therefore consummated a blockbuster deal with Hamilton shortly before a dispersal draft of players from the defunct Ottawa Renegades.
Shivers dealt tailback/returner Corey Holmes and defensive back Scott Gordon to Hamilton for the first overall pick, which was then used to claim quarterback Kerry Joseph.
A seeming afterthought at the time was a transaction in which the Roughriders and Tiger-Cats exchanged the negotiating rights of two quarterbacks. Shivers dealt Reggie Ball to Hamilton in return for Darian Durant, who had been claimed by the Tiger-Cats in the Renegades’ negotiation-list dispersal draft.
Talk about 4-sight by Shivers!
Wearing No. 4, Joseph led the Roughriders to a championship in 2007 — a season in which he was decorated as the league’s Most Outstanding Player.
After Joseph was shockingly shipped to the Toronto Argonauts on March 5, 2008, Durant requested and received No. 4.
His greatest moment as a Roughrider was on Nov. 24, 2013, when he — like Lancaster — threw three touchdown passes in a Grey Cup victory over the team that traded him to Saskatchewan.
Hamilton, which had briefly owned Durant’s CFL rights, fell 45-23 at historic Mosaic Stadium with a championship at stake nearly 10 years ago.
TWO FROM ’72
The Roughriders began and ended their generally successful 1972 season at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.
On July 31 of that year, the Tiger-Cats recorded an opening-week, 20-17 victory over the Roughriders thanks to a tie-breaking (and, from this perspective, heartbreaking) 38-yard field goal by Ian Sunter with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
When the teams next collided, it was in Steeltown on Dec. 3, 1972. Once again, Sunter settled matters, nailing a 34-yarder with one second left to give the host team a 13-10 victory.
- Sunter was just 19 — 18 days shy of turning 20 — when he kicked the Cup-winning field goal.
- He was an unlikely hero for reasons other than age, or lack thereof. As a rookie in 1972, he connected on only 14 of his 38 field-goal attempts — a 36.8-per-cent accuracy rate — during the regular season. But with the game on the line versus Saskatchewan, he was 2-for-2.
Roughriders fans will have considerably fonder memories of another book-end performance by a placekicker.
A la Sunter, Dave Ridgway kicked a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds of a regular-season opener and a Grey Cup Game.
July 12, 1989: On the final play, Ridgway’s 42-yarder at Taylor Field gave Saskatchewan a 32-29 victory over the Calgary Stampeders, who had led 26-8 early in the fourth quarter.
Nov. 26, 1989: A 35-yarder by Ridgway with two seconds remaining was the difference as Saskatchewan edged Hamilton 43-40 in the 77th Grey Cup Game.
The Tiger-Cats’ coaching staff at the time included Garney Henley, who was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player three days before helping Hamilton win it all in 1972.
Six years later, Henley had helped Ridgway land a scholarship at the University of Toledo, in Ohio. The future Robokicker played high school football in Burlington, Ont., which is near Hamilton.
In the stands at Toronto’s SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) for the 1989 Grey Cup Game was Tony Gabriel, who had made three clutch receptions for Hamilton on a drive that culminated in Sunter’s Cup-clinching three pointer.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
In the oft-mentioned 1972 Grey Cup Game, Alan Ford caught three passes for 41 yards on behalf of the Roughriders, only to share in his teammates’ lament as Hamilton won a nailbiter.
The following day, on the pages of the Edmonton Journal, a story was headlined: “Al Ford gets shot at title.”
The Reuters dispatch, with the dateline of Kingston, Jamaica, pertained to Edmonton-based boxer Al Ford, who was to face Percy Hayles on Jan. 22, 1973 in a Commonwealth lightweight championship bout. For the record, Haynes successfully defended his title when the fight was stopped in the 12th round.
To conclude the evening of pugilism in Kingston, George Foreman felled Joe Frazier six times en route to becoming the world heavyweight champion.
Kudos to the CFL for naming the league’s most prestigious individual accolade in honour of a Roughriders legend.
Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly received the George Reed Most Outstanding Player Award on Thursday night in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Reed, who died on Oct. 1, was the first MOP in Roughriders history. He received the award in 1965 after rushing for 1,768 yards — an enduring franchise single-season record.
He was also decorated as the Western Conference’s MOP in 1968 and 1969.
On Thursday, two CFLers received awards that have been named after a Roughriders great.
The Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award, first presented in 2006, was given to long-time Stampeders equipment manager George Hopkins on Thursday.
Campbell, like Reed, debuted with the Roughriders in 1963.
Don McDougall, a great friend to the Roughriders for most of his life, celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday.
A board member from 1989 to 1995, Don helped his favourite football team in myriad ways before and after the six years in which he served on what was then known as the executive committee.
His father, Albert (Bus) McDougall, played for the Regina Roughriders from 1925 to 1929 and later returned to the team in 1932.
To complete the circle, it should be noted that Bus McDougall and Angie Mitchell were teammates in 1929 and 1932.
ROLL CREDITS …
- Nice people who deserve a plug: Thea Madeline Anderson, Eric Anderson, Lauren Martell, Rory Jeanette Young, Katie Brickman-Young, Adam Young, Briggs Jackson McCall, Shawn McCall, Greg Korpan, Shirley Prokop, Shawna Argue, Clint Spencer, Scott Tresek, Nicole Keen, Sam Lawrek, Jared LaCoste, Don McDougall, Jill McDougall, Dr. Tom Robinson, Ryan Watters, Luke Dunville, Jody Kerr, Jason Duczek, Blair Sanderson, Sharyn Rutledge, Cristobal Huet, Tanner Howe, Daryl Shirkey, Larry Kielo, Sorrel Steinberg, Darryl Brace, Ross Vanstone, Ibrahim Osman, Morgan Fleury, Blake Tiedeman, Ryan Barnstable, Shaun Priel, Evan Bray, Kayle Neis, Derrick Moncrief, Jorgen Hus, Brett Lauther, Brayden Lenius and Jake Wieneke.