Toronto Argonauts

 Ed Harrington - Defensive End/Guard - 1963-65, 67-71, 74 - Langston


Argos to honour Ed Harringotn - Steve Simmons - Toronto Sun - 17-09-2010

The telephone call interrupted his workout. Ed Harrington, 34 years after his retirement from football, not far from his 70th birthday, is still lifting weights.

"Three or four times a week," said the man they used to call Hercules. "I had major surgery last year. I lost a lot of weight, a lot of strength. Slowly, I'm getting it back, I'm gaining and recovering."

The best of the recovery comes on Sunday. After all these years, Harrington, a gentle man who was a vicious, intense football player, will be honoured at Rogers Centre as an All-Time Argo. He will join those he played with - Dick Shatto, Danny Nykoluk, Bill Symons, Jim Corrigall, Marv Luster, Jim Rountree, Dave Mann, Jim Stillwagon - with a 500 Level likeness, a ceremony, and the opportunity to be remembered forever.

"When I think of Ed Harrington, I think of a tenacious, aggressive football player who had all the tools on the field and an absolute gentleman off the field," said Leo Cahill, who coached Harrington with both the Toronto Rifles and the Toronto Argonauts. "I'm just so happy he's being honoured now. It's richly deserved."

To those of us old enough to remember, Harrington was an Argo defensive end (and before that, offensive guard) who couldn't avoid the spotlight. Partly because of his play. And partly because of his penchant to find himself in the midst of controversy. He says he played the game hard. Others might use the term filthy.

Harrington's on-field feud with Montreal quarterback Sonny Wade is the stuff of legends (pictured above #64 & #14). The more people you ask about it, the more versions the stories have.

"We played a game in Montreal and Peter Martin was the outside linebacker who played right behind me," said Harrington. "There was a point in the game when I threw Sonny Wade for a loss, and I guess I threw him a little too hard, and Peter overheard Sonny making a comment."

A racial epitaph of some kind.

"I didn't hear it. Peter heard it. But it got in the papers. And the next week, we played against Montreal and I hit Sonny Wade real hard. And everything got blown out of proportion."

That's the way it was then with the Argonauts, before there were Blue Jays, before there were Raptors and TFC, when Toronto was a two-sport town: Maple Leafs in the winter; Argos in the summer and fall. One team was as important as the other.

And the men who played for the Argos became household names. The way Ed Harrington became household.

The Sonny Wade incident took place in the 1969 season. The following year wouldn't be any calmer for Harrington.

"We were playing a game in Ottawa and Gary Wood was their quarterback, and I guess I hit him a little hard," said Harrington. "I think I might have knocked him out. I know I knocked him out of the game. The commissioner (Jake Gaudaur) didn't like that."

"I think he got ejected from that game and suspended from the next game," said Cahill. "We play the next game and Ed isn't allowed to even sit on our bench. The commissioner won't allow it. So Ed's up in the stands somewhere. And when the game ended, he was waving at me, and I said to him, 'Come down here.' And he came down from the stands and in front of everybody we presented him with the game ball (see photo above). I didn't get many cheers from the commissioner's office when that happened - but the fans loved it."

"The fans stayed in the stands and gave me an ovation," said Harrington. "The players hoisted me to their shoulders. It showed how they felt about the efforts I had given on behalf of the team. You don't ever forget things like that ...

"I guess I played football as hard as I could. That's the way I played (on the offensive and defensive lines). It wasn't how I lived my life."

When he played for the Argos, and before that the Toronto Rifles, and after his football career, Harrington, a native of Oklahoma, has always been about helping people. His on-field image had nothing to do with his off-field contributions. In his Argo days, he worked with kids who needed help. In his later years, he retired after years working as a patient advocate at the North Bay Psychiatric Hospital.

"Even in university, I did volunteer work with kids," he said. "It was just something that interested me."

On Sunday, he gets to take a few bows at the age of 69, mostly for an audience that never saw him play. His wife, Terryl, will be with him, some friends, some ex-teammates, some ex-coaches will be along to enjoy the ride. He played 12 seasons in Toronto, 10 for the Argos, two for the defunct Rifles, also coached by Cahill.

"I never thought about awards or things like this," said Ed Harrington, who made the trip in from Field, Ont., halfway between North Bay and Sudbury. "But I'm very excited and very appreciative. I never expected anything like this to happen to me."