Fleming remains feisty
July 17, 2008 Tony Fitzgerald The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 17, 2008)
"Whaddya want?" answers the voice on the other end of the phone.
It certainly is a different way of answering the telephone but, then again, Dave Fleming is a different sort of Cat.
Former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Angelo Mosca said he knew Fleming was different the first time he saw him. He was brushing his hair with a toothbrush. Former Tiger-Cats reporter Jeff Dickins painted Fleming as one of a kind.
No they didn't break the mould -- it was already cracked when he was forged in the iron and coal country of Pennsylvania some 62 years ago.
Time has done little to soften Fleming, a fierce competitor on the field and a character off.
"I'm waiting for the call to come back," Fleming said through the background noise of his Pittsburgh home. "I could probably still play for them." During his 10-year tenure with the Ticats (1965-74), he was known as the heart and soul of the locker room. With abusive taunts, he'd invite the opposition "heavies" to hit harder the next time.
Off the field, he's been in one or two scrapes with the law, and is a veteran of barroom brawls.
Fleming was raised in Pittsburgh -- about five blocks from former Ticat player and general manager Joe Zuger. He went directly from high school to the semi-pro Pittsburgh Valley Ironmen.
The following year, the 19-year-old was invited to the training camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent a year on the taxi squad before answering Ralph Sazio's call to come to Hamilton.
Nicknamed the Fly, the running back/defensive back was an all-Eastern all-star in 1970.
He scored 50 touchdowns in his time with the black and gold. Fleming was thoroughly indignant when placed in the same age category as Mosca and Zuger.
"Don't ever put me with those ..." Fleming roared. "I'm a lot younger. They got me young, man."
After retiring, he did some scouting and operated a bar in Pittsburgh, where he brought a whole new meaning to last call. At closing time, they'd lock the doors and play a little football with a beer can wrapped in a towel.
"The bar was a few years ago," Fleming said. "It's gone. I'm retired. I go to the gym all the time to work out and stay in shape. I'm pretty much at my same playing weight.
"I'm just waiting for the call to come back. I'm ready."