Hall of Fame running back, multisport star Gerry James dead at 89

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Legendary CFL player and multisport star Gerry James has passed away at the age of 89.

The native of Regina played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1952 to 1962 and as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1964. He recorded 994 carries for 5,554 yards and 57 touchdowns, was twice named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian, and won four Grey Cups.

Upon his retirement, James was the league’s second-leading all-time Canadian rusher behind only Normie Kwong. He remains tied for second in single-season CFL rushing touchdowns with 18, a record that stood until 2000 when Mike Pringle rushed for 19.

James was also an accomplished hockey player, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1954 to 1961. He recorded 14 goals and 26 assists over 149 career NHL games and won the Memorial Cup in 1955.

The five-foot-eleven, 185-pounder was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1981, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1982, the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Ring of Honour at Princess Auto Stadium in 2016.

James’ passing occurred on the same day as legendary Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Ken Ploen, with whom he played for six seasons.

“It’s been a difficult couple of days for the Blue Bombers with the losses of Ken Ploen and Gerry James – two iconic figures in this franchise’s long and storied history,” said Blue Bombers’ president and CEO Wade Miller in a statement.

“Gerry James was a two-sport star during his playing days and his skill, his grit and his toughness were trademarks of those legendary Bud Grant-coached teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The WFC would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”