R.I.P. Kenny Ploen (3 June 1935 - 13 February 2024)

Started by Hepcat, February 17, 2024, 06:38:36 AM

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Legendary QB Kenny Ploen passed away earlier this week after a long struggle with Alzheimer's.

He was born in Lost Nation, Iowa and attended high school in Clinton, Iowa. In 1956 he led the University of Iowa Hawkeyes to their first Big Ten Conference championship in 35 years. He was then named an All-American as well as the Big Ten player of the year. The Hawkeyes then defeated the Oregon Beavers 35-19 in the 1 January 1957 Rose Bowl and Ploen was voted the MVP. He was elected to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1997

Ploen was then drafted by the Cleveland Browns but chose instead to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL simply because the Blue Bombers offered him more money. He played QB and on occasion halfback on offence as well as safety on defence for the Bombers from 1957-67. (Imagine pampered QBs being asked to play both ways these days.) Ploen led the Bombers to six Grey Cup appearances in 1957, 1858, 1959, 1961, 1962 and 1965 all against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with the Bombers emerging victorious in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962. Ploen was named the MVP of the 1961 Grey Cup game in which he scampered 19 yards for the winning TD in overtime. Here's a clip from the game:

1961 Grey Cup

Along the way he was the CFL All-Star at QB in 1965 and the Western Conference All-Star at QB in 1957 as well as 1965. Not surprisingly he was the Bombers' all-time leading passer when he retired. But what was surprising was that he was the Western Conference All-Star at defensive halfback in 1959 when he set a Blue Bomber club record with ten interceptions!

While I never got to see Kenny Ploen play live, I was well familiar with his name from my football cards, the B/A CFL game broadcasts on CKSL Radio in London and the live telecasts of the 1961 and 1962 Grey Cup games on CFPL-TV. Here are some pictures of Kenny Ploen:

Samples from the ones I have in my own collection:

1958 Star Weekly

1958 Topps

1963 Post Cereal

1963 Humpty Dumpty

And here are a couple of pictures of Ploen with legendary Blue Bomber coach Bud Grant:

Kenny Ploen stayed in Winnipeg after his playing career. He joined CJOB Radio as an advertising sales rep and eventually became the sales manager. He also served as a colour commentator on Blue Bombers radio broadcasts.

Ploen was inducted to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1975, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1987, the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Blue Bombers' Ring of Honour in 2016. He was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2007.

Collecting! It's what I do!


"There is something wrong with us, very, very wrong with us"
Bill Murray - Stripes

Sir Masksalot

Quote from: Hepcat on February 17, 2024, 06:38:36 AM
passed away earlier this week after a long struggle with Alzheimer's

I'm no sports fan but that must've been a humiliating decline he suffered.
Let's hope he had a loving family to see him through.


Quote from: michblk on February 17, 2024, 08:24:10 PMHepcat, are you a Hawkeyes fan?

No. I'm a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan now that my beloved Edmonton Eskimos are gone.

And when it comes to U.S. college football, I favour the Michigan Wolverines and the Arkansas Razorbacks.


Collecting! It's what I do!


Quote from: Sir Masksalot on February 17, 2024, 09:23:55 PMLet's hope he had a loving family to see him through.

Yes he did. Said his wife Janet Ploen:

Quote from: Janet PloenWhen we were getting married he said, 'How would you like to live in Canada for two years?' I said, 'Where you are where is I want to be.' And 63 years later, we're still here.

Ken and Janet have a son, two daughters and eight grandchildren. Here's a newspaper article on how Janet and family have been coping:

Peaceful End - Winnipeg Free Press

Here's Kenny Ploen in happier times handing off to super star WR Milt Stegall during a pre-game ceremony at Winnipeg's Investors Field in June 2013:

Collecting! It's what I do!