Hamilton Tiger Cats

Angelo Mosca - Defensive Line - 1958-59, 62-72 - Notre Dame

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MOSCA: Outspoken lineman always has been a fan favourite - Steve Milton -

Hamilton Spectator - August 23,2008

 

Mosca was born in Boston's Little Italy -- "where we learned how to steal everything" -- but grew up in the hard-scrabble satellite town of Waltham. You can still hear the distinctive Massachusetts accent in many words which end in "er."

He attended Notre Dame but lost his scholarship during his third year. Mosca's explanation is that the Irish had a rule against married athletes, and he had snuck off campus to wed Darlene, eventually the mother of his three children.He landed at Wyoming where, contrary to college rules, "I was making more money there than Carters has little liver pills."

 

An outspoken free spirit blessed with a big, muscular body and foot speed uncommon for someone his size, Mosca became a massive presence as soon as legendary Cat coach Jim Trimble brought him to Hamilton in early '58. On and off the field. He played offensive tackle and guard, but made an instant impact as a defensive tackle, with his boisterous play, which opponents -- slapped across the head by his gigantic forearms -- often called dirty.The Cats made the Grey Cup each of his first two years, losing to Winnipeg each time, but in 1960 he was suddenly traded to Ottawa, where he won the Cup with Ron Lancaster and Russ Jackson as quarterbacks.

He was traded to Montreal in 1962 but that was a short-lived disaster.

 

"(Head coach) Perry Moss came up to me in a blocking drill one day and said, 'You better grab a dummy.' So I grabbed Moss and put him in front of me. That was the end of Angelo Mosca in Montreal."

 

He returned to Hamilton, via waivers, part way through that season, and Trimble told Mosca that he'd originally been traded "not because of my ability but because they had to discipline me a little bit. I was carousing a little too much. I was partying a little too much. They had had Cookie Gilchrist here before that and had had enough of all these characters. But it takes those kinds of guys to win."

By the time he retired, seconds after the Cats won the 1972 Grey Cup at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Mosca had been in nine Grey Cup games, winning five, and was a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

 

And he'd parlayed his reputation as a menacing, lawless agitator into a lucrative professional wrestling career which lasted until 1984, when he was 46 years old.

 

He began wrestling in 1960 and quickly learned from an early mentor "that your face is your money. I learned how to sell myself from pro wrestling."

 

Trading upon, and expanding, his Ticat image as the master of mayhem, Mosca started at Calgary's Stampede Wrestling as the Mighty Hercules and was later known as King Kong.

 

But Canadians always recognized him as Angelo Mosca, the hated Ticat, who used every tactic, however marginal, to win.

In 1963, his controversial sideline hit put Lions star Willie Fleming out of the Grey Cup Game.

"It was clean, one of those bang-bang plays like a first baseman on the bag on a throw from shortstop," Mosca said. "But because Angelo Mosca had done it, they went nuts. So later that year, I went into B.C. to wrestle as a bad guy. I had learned that the heels made all the money and controlled the match. So other than when my son (Angelo Jr.) got into wrestling, I was always the bad guy."

Strangely, that bad guy -- despised across the country in two sports -- has become a beloved symbol of when all was right, and big-time, with the CFL. He readily concedes that his job description is Being Angelo Mosca.

 

He still has an energetic attitude, but 40 years of robust tackling and wrestling have exacted a physical toll: He has had one shoulder and two knees replaced, and a back nerve injured in surgery obliges him to walk with a cane.

 

Often on the outs with those who officially ran the Ticats, he was brought back into the fold when Ron Foxcroft made him an ambassador for the 1996 Grey Cup Game here. Current team president Scott Mitchell has appointed him as Cats' community ambassador, and he makes countless local appearances, no matter how small the audience, to sell the team and the league.

 

"I've never had a job offer in the CFL and I'm probably the best-known face in the league," he says. "I'm just here to help. I was like the taboo guy and I haven't figured out why yet."

 

It may be because he can be rough around the edges and says what's on his mind which, at times, will rub people the wrong way.

"Very possibly," he concedes. "I'm the type of guy who says what everybody else is thinking. I'm not going to kiss asses."

That wouldn't be him. It wouldn't be truly Ticat. It wouldn't be at all Hamilton.

 

"I connect to this town," he says. "I'm very comfortable wherever I go, but this is where I belong.

 

"This is my identity."