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An unforgettable fumble for Robert Stanfield

The Story

Anything can happen during those unplanned moments on the campaign trail, as Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield learned to devastating effect in 1974. When his plane stopped to refuel in North Bay, Ont., Stanfield passed the time by tossing around a football with ease. But, as photographer Doug Ball recalls in this CBC clip, it was Stanfield's one fumble that landed on the front page of the Globe and Mail - and quite possibly cost him the election.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 2, 2004
Guest(s): Doug Ball
Duration: 1:12
Photos by Doug Ball, Canadian Press.
Photo: Doug Ball/CP PHOTO

Did You know?

• Stanfield's plane refuelling came in the middle of a 20-hour day during which he travelled across the country through four time zones.


• In a column on July 7, 1974, the day before the election, a Globe and Mail writer noted that the fumble photo had been a problem for Stanfield's campaign, but that he regained his momentum partway through June.


• In the Globe's sports section that day, Martin O'Malley wrote: "Some accused the wire services of bias by selecting a shot of Stanfield fumbling a ball when in fact, on that day, he caught more than he dropped ... I thought it was a stroke of Tory genius, automatically giving the party the votes of that huge block of men who've known that hapless moment when even a perfectly thrown pass spills through the fingers when they most want to catch it."


• Stanfield had a sense of humour about the gaffe and didn't hold a grudge against the photographer. He began a speech at the 1974 gallery press dinner bay saying: "Governor General Leger, Prime Minister, Mr. Broadbent, guests, friends - and Doug Ball."


• The photo was named one of 10 iconic Canadian photos by The Beaver, a Canadian history magazine, in 2008. Ball told the magazine Stanfield later autographed a copy of it for him:
"I've got the picture signed by him, and it says, 'To Doug: I should've taken off my tie. Robert Stanfield.'"



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