The Case for the Defense: Angelo Mosca.
CFL Free agency has been busy again this year. Arguably the biggest signing has been the Winnipeg Blue Bombers retaining Outstanding defensive player of the year Willie Jefferson.
All of which got me to thinking. We have run a series on all time great CFL special teams players in the past. So now I think in honour of Willie Jefferson being perhaps the biggest name this time around, we should focus on some defensive greats.
The only CFL defensive great we had looked at on the site prior to this series was Grover Covington, so it is time to redress the balance a little. The series itself started with Esks’ great Willie Pless.
Now it is time to look at another great defensive player from the CFL annals. This time it’s legendary Hamilton Tiger Cats Defensive Lineman Angelo Mosca.
In a sixteen year CFL career, running from 1958 to 1972, Angelo Mosca proved to be as about a dominant a lineman as the game could hope to see.
A Ti-Cat Legend
Mosca was on the roster for three different CFL teams, but he is indelibly linked to his time in Hamilton. Not least because when he represented them between 1962 & 1972 (his return to the team) they went 98-51-5. They made 12 consecutive playoff appearances during those years appearing in 6 Grey Cups and winning on 4 occasions too.
During the 2 years he was in Ottawa the Rough Riders went 17-11 and won the 1960 Grey Cup.
He also spent a year on the books of the 4-7-3 1962 Montreal Alouettes. But it is for his time with the Tabbies he is most remembered. It was there that he and the team had great success.
Despite Mosca having had an illustrious career, there is still one play that stands out.
A tackle in the 1963 Grey Cup game that saw him controversially knock BC Lions star running back Willie Fleming out of the game.
The question was, did he kick him in the head whilst he was down? You can find a clip online but it’s inconclusive. I think it looks accidental but some may well argue the other way. The refs didn’t think it was dirty play although the Vancouver press certainly did!
In 1964, the CBC’s news-magazine program This Hour Has Seven Days ran a 10-minute documentary about Mosca. It was “a behind the scenes study of the meanest man in the game.”
In the documentary, Mosca says, “I created an image and everyone thinks I’m dirty. There’s no such thing as dirty play unless you’re kicking people in the face.”
Even now he isn’t popular on the West Coast. However he says “Hey, it just happened, it wasn’t a late hit, I came from about 45 yards away to make the play and slid over the top of him”.
Mosca was named a CFL East All-Star five times as a defensive tackle, one with Ottawa in 1960 and four with Hamilton (1963, 1965, 1966 and 1970).
He was twice named CFL All-Star (1963 and 1970). In both of his CFL All-Star Seasons (1963 and 1970), he was named the Outstanding Lineman in the East and runner-up for the Outstanding Lineman in the CFL.
Not many people can claim to have appeared in nine Grey Cup games but Mosca can. Appearing in the title game in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, & 1972.
He took home a winners ring in 1960, 1963, 1965, 1967, & 1972.
He has a place on the Tiger-Cats Wall of Honour, and was only the second Hamilton player to have his shirt number retired. His career is also marked by being a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
After the Gridiron
As we have noted before, pro athletes face a dilemma, after retiring from the field of play, what then?
For Angelo Mosca the answer was pro wrestling. If you are going to get the reputation of tough guy and potential heel, (see ‘that tackle’ above), you might as well cash in on it right?
Mosca was brought into wrestling by Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn. He began wrestling in the off-season, and became a full-time wrestler after his retirement from football.
He wrestled all across North America, and almost always as a heel, even in Toronto until the late 70’s. As with all wrestlers a turn came and he was a face towards the end of his career.
In the 80’s he spent time as a commentator for the WWE (then WWF) but was replaced by Jesse Ventura & moved to NWA promotions for a spell.
For our purposes though, it is the in your face smash mouth defensive lineman that we want to remember. Another player making the case for the defense in the CFL.
Featured Image: Mosca graces a Ti-Cats program. Image from ti-cats twitter on the occasion of retiring number 68’s number.
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