September 15, 2007

For Battle, Hall of Fame is great, old pals better

By Ed Tait,
Winnipeg Free Press

HAMILTON — It’s the little things Greg Battle remembers. Some games – – those moments immortalized on film or photo or in print — obviously stand out above others.

And there are the many individual honours, including twice being named the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

But Friday, on the day one of the greatest linebackers in Winnipeg Blue Bomber history was formally inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, it was the camaraderie with his pals in the same uniform he recalled first.

“I think about those years a lot,” began Battle on his days as a Blue Bomber. “I think about the guys I used to hang out with… James West, Paul Randolph and Tyrone (Jones). I tell you what, I miss those guys quite a bit. Those were special times, being with those guys.

“I remember Tyrone dressing up as Homey The Clown (the incredibly nasty children’s entertainer from ’90s sketch-comedy show In Living Colour) on my son’s birthday when he was two years old. Without warning, Tyrone shows up as Homey the Clown. That’s one of those classic moments for my family.

“It’s the time we spent together,” Battle continued. “There was so much camaraderie with that team. It seemed like every weekend we’d get together for no good reason other than to be with each other and I think that’s what made us great.”

Battle was the silent assassin on those great Bomber defences of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Even though his voice was seldom heard among the walking, talking quote machines like West, Rod Hill, Less Browne and Jones, Battle was dynamic on the field. He had the range to cover slotbacks and running backs from sideline to sideline and the athletic ability to be a difference-maker.

No game provided more evidence of his skills than the ’90 Grey Cup in which he returned an interception for a TD, picked off another and made Edmonton Eskimo quarterback Tracy Ham’s life miserable in a 50-11 win.

“The best game I’ve been involved with,” said Battle, modest as ever. “I know I did a couple of things in the game, but as a team effort and the defence rallying behind one another… that was probably one of the most complete games I’ve been a part of.”

Battle and his wife Anita are in Hamilton to take part in Hall of Fame weekend while his sons Avory and Allante remained home in Phoenix because of their own football commitments.

Battle is currently an associate pastor at Mountain Park Community Church, the facility manager for the 30,000-square-foot building and also runs the sports ministry program.

“It’s an honour to be included in such a prestigious group of people,” Battle said. “There are only 250 people in this world who can say they are part of this alumni so it’s an honour and a privilege for myself.”