Any talk of the history of the Argonauts is incomplete without a mention of the Stukus family. In fact, entire chapters of books can be written about brothers Bill, Frank and Annis Stukus, who are synonymous with the legends surrounding the Toronto Argonauts and Canadian football.
"We made history; we were the only three brothers to play in the same backfield at the same time," said Frank Stukus, reminiscing from his condominium in Mississauga recently. "In 1938, we played against Montreal in Toronto and we won the game 58-10. We had five touchdowns in the family that day."
Each was a successful player in his own right, and therefore each brother will get a profile on Ancient Mariners.
We'll start today with Bill, who was arguably the most talented of the bunch. Two years younger than Annis and two years older than Frank, Bill Stukus was a great all-around athlete growing up in the Bellwoods Park area of Toronto.
"He was a better hockey player than a football player," said Frank of Bill, who played junior hockey at St. Mike's as a defenceman who led the team in scoring and was a devastating bodychecker. He was also a great baseball and basketball player, "but in our era, you didn't make money in sports, so you just picked which sport you liked best."
Bill joined the Argos in 1936, and that year the team went 4-2 in the regular season, but lost the Big Four (what the current East Division was called then) final to Ottawa 22-6. However, the next two years, with Stukus directing them at quarterback, as well as playing safety and running back punts, the team won consecutive Grey Cups over Winnipeg, 4-3 in 1937 and 30-7 in 1938. The 1938 team was also voted the team of the first half century in Canadian football.
"(Bill) weighed 185 pounds and he was honest-to-goodness tough," said Frank. "Bill ran over me one play and I thought a truck had hit me."
Bill played with the Argos until 1941, when he entered the air force and won another Grey Cup with the RCAF Hurricanes in 1942. However, the only game they lost that year was to the ORFU's Toronto Indians, who were led by his brothers Annis and Frank. Another significant game Bill played during the war years was overseas in England, when a group of Canadian servicemen challenged a group of American servicemen, with the rules being a combination of the two games. The Canadians won handily.
After the war, Bill joined the Toronto Indians in 1945 and broke his leg, but still played in the playoffs against Balmy Beach three weeks later, a game they lost. He returned to the Argos for another Grey Cup win in 1947, and then moved out to Edmonton to play with the Eskimos for three years when his brother Annis took over the team. Bill stayed in Edmonton for 13 years, managing a Holt Renfrew store and running minor hockey programs. In 1963, he came back east to become the athletic director at Frank's camp in Fenelon Falls, the Byrnell Manor Boys Camp. Never married, Bill took care of his ailing parents until their death, and now lives alone in the house he grew up in.
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