Construction is far from complete on the stadium itself, but that hasn’t stopped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from starting plans to decorate Investors Group Field for Bomber game days.
The club has decided to enshrine four Bomber greats, one at each of the four entrance gates of the new stadium. Furthermore, the Bombers have extended the privilege of selecting those players whom will be immortalized to the fans — based on their own list of the top 20 candidates — by asking them to go to the team’s website and voting on a special page, set up specifically for the selection process. Polls are open until April 11.
Here, for your consideration, is my list of the four Bomber greats that should be selected, and a brief explanation as to why. I tried to spread my four picks out over four different eras of Bomber football, and avoided selecting two players who played the same position:
Jack Jacobs, QB (1950-54)
Jack Jabobs was one of the first great Canadian football quarterbacks, and a charter member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 1963. In his five years with the Blue and Gold, Jacobs threw 710 passes for 11,094 yards and 104 touchdowns, while also kicking for 57 singles. His exciting style of play brought in such large crowds that a bigger stadium was needed; Opened in 1953, Winnipeg Stadium (now known as Canad Inns Stadium) was affectionately referred to as “The House That Jack Built.”
Leo “Lincoln Locomotive” Lewis, RB (1955-1966)
Before there was Charles Roberts, there was Leo Lewis. Lewis was the workhorse during the most successful period in the Bombers’ Grey Cup history. Through his 11-year career in the CFL, Lewis was simply electric. He ran for 8,861 yards and 48 touchdowns, and hauled in 234 passes for 4,251 yards and 26 touchdowns receiving. During his time with the Bombers, they went to the Grey Cup six times, winning in ’58, ’59, ’61 and ’62. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame with the class of 1973.
Greg Battle, LB (1987-93, 1997-98)
Greg Battle deserves to be recognized at the new stadium for many reasons, most notably for his performance in the 1990 Grey Cup. The hard-hitting linebacker was scouted by legendary Bomber Head Coach Cal Murphy, and was a key star in the dominant Bomber defence, which went to four Grey Cups and won twice. In the 1990 Grey Cup, Battle had two key interceptions: one on Edmonton’s first offensive drive, made in the shadow of his own goalposts, and a second in the third quarter, which he returned for a touchdown as the Bombers blew the Eskimos away 50-11 — marking last time the Bombers won the Grey Cup. Battle was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2007.
Milt Stegall, WR (1995-2008)
If Winnipeg Stadium was called “The House that Jack Built”, then Investors Group Field must be called “The House that Milt Built.” Milt Stegall is quite possibly the greatest player in CFL history, let alone Bomber history. #85 had a quick wit and soft hands, torching defences for record numbers. While B.C.’s Geroy Simon will inevitably break his record for most career receiving yards, Stegall’s 144 career touchdowns is a record that may stand for generations. Through his 14 years in the CFL, all as a Bomber, Stegall became the face of the franchise, and the pride of the city. His friendly personality and clean lifestyle made him the perfect player ambassador and hero for Bomber fans young and old. Almost a shoo-in to be one of the four selected, Milt will be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this summer.