When Dick Aldridge was asked what he remembered most about the Argo team he played with, and the 1971 squad in particular, his answer was direct and to the point: "the number 33,135".
That would seem like a strange digit to have as a favourite number, so there had to be some symbolism behind it, and there is. 33,135 was the capacity at the old Exhibition Stadium before it was expanded in the mid-70's, and it was a constant in the boxscores of the day beside the word "attendance".
In fact, the Argos sold out every home game in 1971, as they were synonymous with sellouts just like the Leafs and their 16,485 in Maple Leaf Gardens were for so long, and the Blue Jays and their 50,000-plus at the SkyDome in the early '90's.
"I remember 33,135 coming to the CNE almost every weekend, and when you walked down the street, everyone knew you," recalled Aldridge, a solid homebrew linebacker out of the University of Waterloo. "There was a strong core of players, we had a great bunch of guys."
Originally drafted by the B.C. Lions in 1964, Aldridge was traded first to Hamilton, and then to Toronto, in the summer of 1965. That first year with the Double Blue, he commuted to and from school, where he was in his last year.
Out of school in 1966, Aldridge got married to his wife of now 30 years, Betty. The couple has two children, Jodi and Rick. That year, he also got started on his second career, teaching. His first assignment was at his old high school alma mater, Toronto's Runnymede Collegiate, where he had been a star football and basketball player. Aldridge stayed at Runnymede from 1966-68, and then moved to Westview Centennial, where he taught until 1975. The family then got up and moved an hour north of Toronto to Tottenham, as Aldridge got a job teaching at nearby Banting High School in Alliston, where he still teaches today. The family also owns a Stedman's franchise in Tottenham.
Many CFL players have done what Aldridge did, namely be a teacher and play football at the same time, but it became much more difficult when afternoon practices were introduced in 1974.
"We used to start practices at 4 o'clock, and then one year they changed to 12 noon and I had to make a decision," said Aldridge, who decided to retire from the Argos. However, he immediately got a call from neighbouring Hamilton, since the Ti-Cats hadn't instituted the policy yet, and spent the 1974 season in black and gold.
"With the rivalry, it felt strange going there," said Aldridge, who had played a total of 117 regular season and six playoff games with the Argos, and led the team in interceptions with seven in 1970. Another highlight was appearing in a humourous Miller Lite commercial with several other ex-Argos, such Gene Mack, Granny Liggins, Mike Eben and Bill Symons.
When his playing days ended, Aldridge continued coaching the game at the high school, university and junior levels. He was York's head football coach from 1975-77, and coached the Etobicoke Jr. Argonauts for a couple of season in the late '70's as well. He was also elected to the OUAA Legends Hall-of-Fame.
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