“I dealt with racism when I was in Canada. I dealt with racists. I was totally exploited. I was left with nothing, with no dignity. I was treated like an animal,” Cookie Gilchrist seethed in a July 1983 interview with Paul Patton of the Globe and Mail. “Go through your files,” the former Canadian Football League and American Football League all-star demanded. “Canadian newspapers are full of Cookie Gilchrist stories and all are derogatory. There’s nothing complimentary. I have all the clippings in a scrapbook and, if you read those stories, you wouldn’t think that I was worthy of the Hall of Fame. They didn’t treat me like a human being when I was there.”
Cookie, a ferocious and dynamic force on the field and a charismatic personality off it, was refusing to be enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. One of the biggest stars for the Toronto Argonauts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the bruising fullback was considered by many to be one of football’s all-time greats—Canadian or American.
Cookie was always outspoken and could be a cantankerous interview at the best of times. Living as a virtual recluse by the early 1980s, he was suspicious and paranoid of even innocuous questions from reporters. And he seemed to still have a chip on his shoulder about the decade he spent playing football in Canada. Although a perennial all-star, Cookie had a rocky relationship with most coaches and general managers, which eventually led to his ignominious departure from the Argonauts in 1962 for breaking curfew.
“Any place. Any brand of football,” insisted Larry Felser, a sportswriter who covered Cookie’s stateside career after he jumped to the fledgling American Football League. “Cookie was, pound for pound, the greatest all-around player I ever saw. He would be a superstar in today’s football.”