Biography highlights accomplishments of sports great

Author Ron Smith hopes to increase knowledge of Nanoose Bay's Gerry James

He has four Grey Cup rings and is the only athlete to play in both Canadian football’s biggest game and the Stanley Cup final in the same year.

He was runner-up for the Lou Marsh Award in 1957, given to the country’s most outstanding athlete, second only to Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s 500-goal milestone.

Yet his name is hardly known outside the most die-hard sports fan circles. With his new biography Kid Dynamite: The Gerry James Story, author Ron Smith hopes to change that.

“He’s very modest about his accomplishments,” Smith said.

James followed in the footsteps of his father, Eddie, who was considered one of the greatest running backs in the 1920s and ’30s in the Canadian Football League. Twenty years later, Gerry James did the same as running back for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

James’s career started at the age of 17, making him the youngest player in CFL history. He led the league in scoring in 1957 and held the record for most rushing touchdowns in one season for 43 years.

Not content with just playing football, James also won the Memorial Cup in 1955 with the Toronto Marlborors and played four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, going to the Stanley Cup final in 1960 – six months after winning the Grey Cup with Winnipeg.

“I found records that he wasn’t aware he held,” Smith said. “He just doesn’t talk about himself.”

Smith and James became friends on the golf links near their homes in Nanoose Bay.

“I didn’t know him from Adam the first time I played with him,” Smith said.

But Smith had an indication that James was more than he seemed by the competitive way he played their friendly golf rounds. Smith said it reminded him of an athlete.

So he did a little digging. Sports records, scrapbooks compiled by James’s mother containing more than 1,500 articles from childhood to professional sport, and the memories from James himself provided the background for the biography.

Smith describes it as a “warts-and-all” biography, covering aspects of his life James rarely discussed, even with family.

“He was uneasy at times,” Smith said. “I treated it really seriously.

“More than just sports people will enjoy it.”

Smith will be signing books at Royal Bank in Woodgrove Centre Nov. 25, 1-4 p.m., and at the credit union at Red Gap shopping centre in Nanoose Dec. 2, 1-4 p.m.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com