ARGONAUTS MOURN THE PASSING OF JOE "KING" KROL | Toronto Argonauts
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ARGOS, TORONTO LOSE LEGEND JOE ‘KING’ KROL
SIX-TIME GREY CUP CHAMPION, ALL-TIME ARGO, LOU MARSH AWARD WINNER AND TWO-TIME LIONEL CONACHER AWARD WINNER

Toronto – The Toronto Argonauts and the city of Toronto lost a legend last night. The Argos are mourning the loss of one of the greatest players in team history, Joe ‘King’ Krol. Krol, who was 89 years old, was one of just four Boatmen in team history to have his jersey retired.

Argonauts CEO Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons commented, “He threw three touchdowns in a Grey Cup game; matched only by Doug Flutie. He punted a ball 110 yards in the playoffs; still unmatched by a list of Argo greats. He played running back like Shatto and, as I am told, he was a great defender too. So, if this were real life - not fiction - move over Will Smith because Joe ‘King’ Krol would be a better leading man for I AM LEGEND. But this is not how I knew him, afterall, I never saw him play. The man I knew was shy and unassuming. Humility was his platform and family & friends were his greatest audience. When we recognized him alongside Damon Allen at this year’s home opener, he was visibly embarrassed by public praise - it was just his job I guess; a job he did better than any player in Toronto Argonauts history. More importantly, we can all learn a little from the King whose iconic heroics were only trumped by his humility. Today, time hasn’t taken away, but reminded us what it means to live an excellent life. The King has left the building but now resides in a warmer, more permanent place in our hearts.“     

One of the first true star athletes the city has known, Krol’s #55 was among just four Argonauts (#31 Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, #60 Danny Nykoluk, #22 Dick Shatto) to have his jersey retired. He was an Argonaut for nine years (1945-1953, 1955) and helped lead the club to an impressive five Grey Cup championships including three consecutive from 1945-1947.  An East Division All-Star in 1945 and 1948, Krol was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Argonauts Consultant, Football Operations and Joe’s former Argos teammate on two Grey Cup winning teams, Nick Volpe commented, “Joe was not only one of the greatest Argos of all time but one of the greatest CFL’ers of all time.  He was a tremendous guy to play with and he always put the team first.  Despite the fact that he had incredible talent, he was extremely humble.  He was very active with the Argonauts Alumni and was a Toronto Argonaut through and through”.

Krol's name can still be found all over the Argonauts and CFL record books. In 2006, he was named #46 on TSN's Top-50 CFL Players of All-Time and in 2007 Krol was named to the All-Time Argos depth chart at running back. Coming off his second-straight CFL championship in 1946, Krol was honored with the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete and the Lionel Conacher award as Canada’s top male athlete. He won a second Lionel Conacher award one year later in 1947. In 1975, he was inducted to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

Peter Martin, President of the Argonauts Alumni Association commented, “When you think of Argonauts football and Argos legends, Joe’s right there at the top. In his era, Joe was arguably the greatest player in the league. He’ll always be remembered as Mr. Argo in Toronto.”

Joe’s former Argos teammate on two Grey Cup winning teams, Charlie ‘Chick’ Camilleri remarked, “Simply put, he was the greatest Argo ever and definitely the best of his era. What made Joe special was that he did it all – he could run, pass, kick and defend.  He was a true Argo for life and was always proud to have worn the Double Blue.  Off the field, he was a terrific person who was very shy until you got him talking about football. He would still debate plays and calls decades after his playing days were done.”

Joe’s close friend and former Argos teammate for three Grey Cup championships, Fred Doty offered, “Joe and I were roommates for five years and have been great friends ever since.  When I got the call regarding his passing, I was just devastated.  In my opinion, he is the greatest player to ever play football in Canada and this is truly a sad day for all.”

Born in Hamilton, he helped the University of Western Ontario to the intercollegiate title (now called Vanier Cup) in 1939 before joining the Hamilton Wildcats in 1942 and winning the Grey Cup the next year. In total, he won six Grey Cup championships as a player.

 

“Joe was not only one of the greatest Argos of all time but one of the greatest CFLers of all time. He was a tremendous guy to play with and he always put the team first. Despite the fact that he had incredible talent, he was extremely humble. He was very active with the Argos Alumni and was a Toronto Argonaut through and through”.
- Nick Volpe, Krol's teammate

“Simply put, he was the greatest Argo ever in my opinion and definitely the best of his era. What made Joe special was that he did it all – he could run, pass, kick and defend. He was a true Argo for life and was always proud to have worn the Double Blue. Off the field, he was a terrific person that was very shy until you got him talking about football. He still would debate plays and calls decades after his playing days were done”.
- Charlie Camilleri, Krol's teammate

“When you think of Argonauts football and Argos legends, Joe is right there at the top. In his era, Joe was arguably the greatest player in the league. He’ll always be remembered as Mr. Argo in Toronto.”
- Peter Martin, President of the Argonauts Alumni Association

“Joe and I were roommates for 5 years and have been great friends ever since. When I got the call regarding his passing, I was just devastated. In my opinion, he is the greatest player to ever play football in Canada and this is truly a sad day for all”.
- Fred Doty, Krol's teammate

“He threw three touchdowns in a Grey Cup game; matched only by Doug Flutie. He punted a ball 110 yards in the playoffs; still unmatched by a list of Argo greats. He played running back like Shatto and, as I am told, he was a great defender too. So, if this were real life - not fiction - move over Will Smith because Joe ‘King’ Krol would be a better leading man for I AM LEGEND. But this is not how I knew him, afterall, I never saw him play. The man I knew was shy and unassuming. Humility was his platform and family & friends were his greatest audience. When we recognized him alongside Damon Allen at this year’s home opener, he was visibly embarrassed by public praise - it was just his job I guess; a job he did better than any player in Toronto Argonauts history. More importantly, we can all learn a little from the King whose iconic heroics were only trumped by his humility. Today, time hasn’t taken away, but reminded us what it means to live an excellent life. The King has left the building but now resides in a warmer, more permanent place in our hearts.“

- Argonauts CEO Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons

"When we see a bright future for our league, it's because we can stand on the shoulders of giants. Joe 'King' Krol was one of those giants. More than 65 years after he won his first Grey Cup, his achievements still permeate our record books, his exploits are still the stuff of legend. He was the consummate Toronto Argonaut, his name synonymous with North America's oldest professional football club. His passing saddens us, and our condolences go out to his family and friends. But it also serves to remind us of his contribution to the Argos, and the Argos' long and colourful history. That history is the foundation of the Argos' important place in the Toronto and Canada of today. So the King may be gone; but his legacy lives on. And that, despite all of his on field achievements, may be the true measure of his greatness"
- Mark Cohon, CFL Commissioner

 

More coming soon...

Joe Krol won 5 Grey Cups with the Argonauts (1945, 46, 47, 50, 52). Below, is a recap from all 5 Grey Cup games that he participated in.

1945 – Toronto Argonauts 35, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 0

Venue: Varsity Stadium
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: December 1
Attendance: 18,660
Winning Coach: Ted Morris


Football returned to relative normal in 1945 following the conclusion of World War II. Two rivals from the pre-war years met once again in the annual Canadian football classic, but on this occasion, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were no match for the Toronto Argonauts.

The Argos had finished in a tie with Ottawa in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union with a 5-1 record. In the playoffs, Toronto defeated Ottawa then cross-town rival Balmy Beach to advance to the Grey Cup game against Winnipeg.

Toronto got down to business early on the frozen tundra of Varsity Stadium. Fred Doty and Doug Smylie ran for huge gains against the Winnipeg defence, and scored the only points Toronto would need when Smylie took a lateral pass and dashed across the goal line for a major.

The Argos increased their lead to 12-0 at the end of the first quarter when Joe Krol, formerly of the Hamilton Wildcats, threw a touchdown pass to Billy Myers.

Toronto was held off the scoreboard until the third quarter when Royal Copeland scored on a 13-yard end sweep. Smylie then scored his second touchdown of the game when he caught a short forward pass from Krol.

The Boatmen added two more touchdowns in the final 15 minutes of play. Krol showed his prowess on defence, hauling in a Winnipeg pass attempt and running 55 yards to pay dirt, out sprinting all of his pursuers.

Myers then scored his second major in the dying seconds on a 70-yard run, eluding a number of attempted tackles along the way.

The Blue Bombers got inside the Toronto 25-yard line only once during the entire game, then proceeded to fumble the ball back to the Boatmen.

The 18,660 in attendance were more interested in what they could do with the snow then what was taking place on it. Fans hurled snowballs around the stadium, including at motorcycle cops who were clearing the field for the teams. One reporter unfortunately stopped one snowball with his face, resulting in a black eye.

The convert attempt on Myers’ last touchdown was also delayed five minutes, as fans stormed the field. After many years at war, perhaps it was fitting that the crowd let loose.

For Winnipeg, it was the worst loss by a Western team in the Grey Cup since 1923 when Queen’s University routed the Regina Roughriders 54-0.

1946 – Toronto Argonauts 28, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 6

Venue: Varsity Stadium
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: November 30
Attendance: 18,960

Winning Coach: Ted Morris

The Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers met once again for the Grey Cup in 1946. It was a coming out party of sorts for the Gold Dust Twins, as Toronto’s Joe Krol and Royal Copeland put on a performance that will live in infamy.

The Argos were held deep in their own territory for all of the first quarter. The Bombers came close to taking the initial lead, as Walt Dobler connected with Harry Hood on a forward pass. Hood got inside the Toronto 10-yard line, when Copeland cut across the field and lay a massive hit on the Winnipeg player. The ball was jarred loose, and rolled toward the Toronto end zone. By rule the Argos were given the ball on their 10-yard line.

The Toronto offence got going in the second quarter. Krol hit Copeland with a pass, who then broke out of Dobler’s grasp for a touchdown.

Copeland’s defence shined again, as he intercepted a pass to set up another Toronto touchdown. This time Copeland threw a 30-yard pass to Krol, who avoided would be tacklers for the major.

Not to be outdone Ron Smylie got into the scoring act, hauling in a Krol pass and racing down the sideline to put the Argos ahead 16-0 at the half.

Playing from a deficit, the Bombers attempted a couple of third down gambles in the third quarter, but lost the ball on downs. On one of these occasions, Krol booted an onside kick which Copeland recovered, leaping above three Bombers to reel in the catch. Byron Karrys, as his last name suggests, carried the ball into the end zone from the two-yard line.

Krol struck again for another touchdown pass. Krol, faking an end run, wheeled to his right and connected with Leo Deadey on a 52-yard play to the Winnipeg 12-yard line. On the very next play, Krol faded to his left, and fired a pass to Boris Tipoff all alone on the right side of the end zone for the major.

With the game all but over, the Bombers managed a touchdown in the final seconds, avoiding back-to-back shutouts in the final. Dobler did the honours, on a plunge from the two-yard line.

Prior to the game, Winnipeg head coach Jack West suggested that Dobler was just as good a player as Krol. Dobler was unable to prove his coach right on this day.

1947 – Toronto Argonauts 10, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 9

Venue: Varsity Stadium
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: November 29
Attendance: 18,885
Winning Coach: Ted Morris


For the first time in Grey Cup history, the same two teams challenged for the trophy for the third consecutive year. But unlike the previous two years, the Toronto Argonauts needed some late game heroics to win their third straight title.

With the score tied 9-9 and less than a minute remaining, Winnipeg faced a punting situation on their own 52-yard line. By pinning the Argos deep, the Blue Bombers would be able to hold on until overtime.

With 10 men on the line of scrimmage, the Argos were expecting a kick, and attempted to block the punt. But Bob Sandberg had another idea, and called for a trick play. The ball was snapped back not to the punter, but another player, and was bobbled. A pileup ensued, and when the bodies were cleared, Toronto was awarded the ball on a loss of downs.

Needing to beat the clock, the Argos had a quick huddle, and Joe Krol, a Grey Cup hero for many seasons, angled a kick away from the Winnipeg safety, over the goal line and into touch for the winning point as time expired.

Sandberg, who had played a fine game despite the gamble, knew it was all or nothing. “I gambled. If it had worked, I’d be a genius. As it is I’m a bum. That’s football.”

The feeling was that the Bombers were living on borrowed time, and that they would be too drained to hold the Argos back in a 10 minute overtime session. Had the ball not been fumbled, there was a good chance the play would have worked, as there was nothing but daylight to the Toronto end zone. At the very least, the play may have set up a winning kick if time permitted.

The Bombers jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a converted touchdown by Sandberg and a field goal by Don Hiney. The Argos then chipped away at their deficit. Krol booted four rouges in the game, and Royal Copeland scored a converted touchdown in the third quarter.

The teams almost didn’t have a trophy to play for. Earlier in the year a fire gutted the Toronto Argonauts Rowing Club. All the trophies in the building were either melted or burnt by the flames, except for one. The Grey Cup got caught on a large nail, and never fell to the floor. Although it received from minor damage, the mug survived.

The 1947 Argonauts were the last all-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup.

1950 – Toronto Argonauts 13, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 0

Venue: Varsity Stadium
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: November 25
Attendance: 27,101
Winning Coach: Frank Clair


The 1950 Grey Cup is remembered more for its poor field conditions than the actual game itself.

The Mud Bowl featured two teams facing each other for the sixth and final time at the Canadian football classic. The muddy conditions at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium made for a lacklustre game, but didn’t prevent the Argonauts from winning their eighth Grey Cup title.

The Argos kicked for what turned out to be the winning point in the first quarter. Winnipeg’s Tom Casey misjudged Joe Krol’s punt from the Blue Bombers 49-yard line, as the ball went over his head and into the end zone for a rouge.

Krol avoided a potential turnover later in the half when he dropped the ball on an attempted kick in Bombers territory. Krol picked it up and raced around the end for 10 yards, putting the ball on the Winnipeg 15. After failing to make another first down, Nick Volpe kicked a 21-yard field goal to put the Argos up 4-0.

Before the end of the first half, the Argos increased the margin to 7-0. Toronto’s Billy Bass recovered Indian Jack Jacobs at the Winnipeg 19. After two running plays from Ulysses 'Crazy Legs’ Curtis and Teddy Toogood, Volpe was successful on a field goal from the Winnipeg 23.

The Argos completed the scoring in the third quarter. Toronto’s Jake Dunlap blocked Jacobs’ kick which the Boatmen recovered at the Winnipeg 20. Billy Bass and Al Dekdebrun carried to the four-yard line, and Toogood to the one. On third down Dekdebrun slid across the goal line for the only touchdown of the game. Volpe missed on the convert, but Krol later kicked a single for the final point of the game.

Dekdebrun directed Toronto’s ground offence all game, which steamrolled the Winnipeg defence for 232 yards.

As for the Canadian Rugby Union, they were criticized for the poor field conditions. Some pointed to a lack of tarpaulin at Varsity Stadium; others believed the game could have been played a week earlier to avoid adverse weather conditions. Wrote one writer, “Because the field was like a pig’s wallow, what should have been a football classic turned into a slogging show.”

It was the last time a team has been shut out in the Grey Cup final.

1952 – Toronto Argonauts 21, Edmonton Eskimos 11

Venue: Varsity Stadium
Location: Toronto, ON
Date: November 29
Attendance: 27,391
Winning Coach: Frank Clair

The Toronto Argonauts broke from recent tradition and faced the Edmonton Eskimos in the annual classic. Although the Argos would hold on to win the game and their 10th Grey Cup championship, it was the passing of the torch as the Eskimos would end the decade with three titles of their own. An Argo would not sip from the silver mug again until 1983.

The Eskimos took a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. Rod Pantages hauled in a short pass and ran 73 yards before he fumbled the ball out of touch on the Argonauts one-yard line. This moved the Eskimos back to the Toronto 10, but two plays later, Normie Kwong scored his first of two majors on the day.

Doug Pyzer, playing in just his second game in a month due to a knee injury, responded with a 75-yard run to help set up the tying score. Nobby Wirkowski sneaked across from the Edmonton one-yard line to knot things up at 5-5.

Toronto’s Red Ettinger booted a field goal to put the Argos up for good. Before the end of the second quarter, Billy Bass scored to put the Argonauts up 15-5.

The Eskimos drew within four points in the third quarter. A goal line stand held the Argonauts on the Edmonton two-yard line. A fake kick from behind their own goal line allowed Jim Chambers to race to the Edmonton 35. Rollin Prather and Rollie Miles carried the Eskimos to the Toronto eight-yard line before Kwong reached the end zone for his second touchdown.

With six minutes to go and trailing 15-11, the Eskimos began from the Toronto 54 and marched their way towards the end zone. Miles carried for 14 yards, Pantages for 11 and Miles again for 13. With the Eskimos deep in Toronto territory, Claude Arnold couldn’t find an open receiver on a pass attempt and threw to the ground, which was ruled a fumble in the early 1950s.

Toronto’s Ed Soergel intercepted a pass at the Edmonton 36, setting up Toronto’s final touchdown. Zeke O’Connor made a finger tip catch on a pass from Wirkowski, and with no Edmonton defender within reach, ran for the easy score.

It was Frank Filchock’s last game as Edmonton’s head coach as he was fired shortly after the final.

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