September 14, 2011
The two sides of Angelo Mosca
By STEVE SIMMONS - QMI Agency

Angelo Mosca shows of his new autobiography, co-written by Steve Milton, during the book's launch Wednesday in Toronto. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

TORONTO - It doesn't seem to matter that he is 74 years old, needs a cane to walk and can barely lift himself out of a deep armchair.

It doesn't seem to matter because he is Angelo Mosca, still King Kong, and the face hasnít changed all that much over time: still chiseled and distinctive and so easily identified.

"In 1968, Pierre Trudeau was the most recognizable man in Canada," Mosca said proudly Wednesday. "I was second."

Today, he would still be high on anybody's list: The Canadian Football League is filled with players and faces but no one quite like Angelo Mosca. A face we know, a voice we remember, a personality for the ages.

And now, after all these years, an author of his own story.

The launch for Tell Me To My Face, written alongside the fine columnist Steve Milton, at Real Sports, was typical Mosca on Wednesday morning and afternoon. Everybody was there. If you looked around the room, you would have seen George Chuvalo and Dave Raimey and Adriano Belli kissing anyone he could find. But this day, like most days, was about the most colourful, outspoken, angry, dirty, loved, despised figure in CFL history and a book written with love and pain and anguish and honesty. Which is how Mosca played. And how his story is now told.


"I really had no interest in doing a book until Bob Young (the Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner) talked me into it. He said: 'Angelo, you have to have a legacy.' And I figure, this guy's made money, so I might as well listen to him."

And then his wife said to him: 'You have a story to tell. Tell the truth.'

And what came out wasnít just truth, it was the makings of a blockbuster movie.

"I had a really rough childhood," Mosca said. In just the first few pages of the book, Mosca relates a deep secret he has kept hidden until now. He grew up outside racist Boston, the son of a white father, an African American mother. Mosca was, by the standards of his time, a black child who couldn't or wouldn't let anyone know what he was.

"America was a very prejudiced country and being black meant, at the very least, that you probably weren't going to get anywhere in life. Your chance for success was very slim. Nobody wanted you around. You would be called 'nigger' and would automatically be considered a lazy bum ...

"Even in Boston, we would read about lynchings and murders ...

"My dad died 25 years ago. I didn't go to the funeral. And when my mom died a few years ago, I didn't go to the funeral, either. I had no reason to go. I raised myself. They treated me like a nigger, in the most ugly and hateful sense of the word. Once I left home, I had no respect for my parents. They didn't want me, so I didn't want them."

About a year and a half ago, when the entrepreneurial Young was preparing to launch the self-publishing website lulu.com, he approached Mosca about writing a book. The Ticats put Milton and Mosca together, even though they'd known each other for years, and once a week they began meeting at Mosca's St. Catharines home. Hours and hours and hours of taped conversations turned into 98,000 words, edited down to 65,000 for book size.

"I could have written a sequel," said Milton. He still might consider it.

There are so many sides to the Mosca story, from lousy childhood to kid on the streets to college football star to prejudice at U.S. universities to his time starring in the CFL on the Ticats' defensive line, his time in the pro wresting world, and all that his life has been since.

"I've learned a few things doing this," said Milton. "I learned not to piss him off. I also learned he has a heart as big as this country. Heís not a Canadian by birth, but he's done more for the country, loves the country more than any Canadian I know."

The old man who loves this country could have ended up like some of his childhood friends, in jail for murder. He did only small-time crimes himself, such as running dice games on the street in his teenaged years.

"We'd have a game going and I'd yell: 'Police are coming.' And everyone would scatter. I'd scoop up all the money from the game and take off. Then I'd set up a game someplace else."

That was a almost 60 years ago. Now he still likes people to know who is he, and who he used to be.

"I introduced myself to a rookie the other day. I said: 'I'm Angelo Mosca.' And he said: 'Yeah, hi' -- like he really wasn't interested. I couldn't help myself. I said 'Hey, a------, come here.' He didn't know what to do. He froze. I showed him the only two rings I wear -- my '65 Grey Cup ring and my Hall of Fame ring. It's important for people to know who came before them."

RELATED LINKS

  • Angelo Mosca bio and story archive

    Steve Simmons is a Toronto Sun sports columnist.


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