Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

August 23, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

franchise and grabbing the money of the New York Yankees. For anyone else who isn’t reverent to the laundry and a defender of the indefensible run of futility as a Baltimore Orioles owner in Peter Angelos, the decision made by Mussina can only be judged as a wise move by a wise man despite never achieving his goal of winning a World Series.

To his credit, Mussina saved himself a decade of long summers, poor run support, bad baseball, rotten ownership and the decay of the fan base throughout the region.

He also earned $144,533,619 playing Major League Baseball.

I’m thinking there won’t be one nano-second this weekend where he’ll wonder “What if?” in regard to remaining here in Baltimore with the two-bit, depressed organization the Orioles quickly became during the era after his departure.

Quite frankly, Mussina would probably tell you it was the single greatest decision he ever made, leaving Baltimore.

*****

The first time I met Mike Mussina was at his locker on the first day Camden Yards opened in 1992. He was a reluctant fourth starter in that rotation and was another “phenom arm” with a question mark not unlike any of the latter day next chosen ones – think Ben McDonald, Rocky Coppinger, Jimmy Haynes, Erik Bedard, Matt Riley, Adam Loewen, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and even Dylan Bundy — put on so many Orioles arms since Jim Palmer.

But with Mussina, unlike the list above, it all worked out and unlike any other he was the real thing. Making his patented knuckle-curveball part of the pitching vernacular, Mussina finished his career in 2008 with a 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA in the modern era of juiced hitters, short porches and AL East dominance.

The book on Mussina has been played out over two decades — his Stanford wit, his small-town life. He once told me in 1993 that all he wanted to do in baseball was make enough money to have a tricked-out RV so he could drive to Penn State games in comfort. He almost kicked for Joe Paterno in then-Happy Valley back when Edward Bennett Williams drove to Montoursville to recruit him to baseball and the good life as a Baltimore Oriole. He was a special athlete, one who grew up less than 10 minutes from the cradle of childhood baseball – Williamsport and the Little League World Series.

I’m very familiar with Northeastern Pennsylvania and Montoursville. I had a girlfriend from Geneseo State University for two years in 1989-90 and we’d meet at the Super 8 in Montoursville for full weekends because it was cheap and halfway between Baltimore and Rochester, N.Y.

Mussina was always amused that I knew all of the hotspots like the local Ponderosa, Pizza Hut and Celini’s Sub Shop in Montoursville.

His younger brother Mark lived with me for a while in the mid-1990’s and did sports talk radio better than anyone I’ve ever heard. Mark Mussina easily could’ve been an ESPN analyst or a star in New York City sports talk radio. Moose Junior – as I called him – was a phenomenal sports fan, a sponge of information made even wiser by having a brother in “The Show” and perennially pitching in All-Star Games and pennant race baseball. Mark was also a standout athlete and wound up playing his ball at Susquehanna until he injured his right arm and by his own admission “couldn’t throw a party” at the end.

Mark’s wife was introduced to him by one of my best friends here in Baltimore so I’m caught up in the middle of the dinner tables at the Mussina household forever as one of the links to his family.

Mike Mussina must’ve been deeply affected by his time in Baltimore and visiting the latter-day demise of Camden Yards many times as a Yankee over a

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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve Says:

    Thanks for linking the eras together and putting in the perspective that we need to be reminded of. As one of those people who grew up with the orioles and went to 25 games a year up until the current regime chased me away from baseball, it’s good to be reminded that it happened to us, not because of us. Mussina was basically my last orioles hero so thanks for sharing your story about him. This year I have been back into baseball but I am not back in the stadium much. They will have to do a lot more to get us all back and win over a new generation. I doubt it’s actually possible but we will see.

  2. radar303 Says:

    Mussina was a bulldog. Tough and smart pitcher who never had the size and sheer power of Clemens and Randy Johnson. He left here for numerous reasons. Money and the chance to be part of a WS winner were at the top, I would think that Peter Angelos was far down the list as far as reasons.

    Fact checking.. Don Baylor did not leave the Orioles as a Free Agent, he left Oakland for the the Angels.. he was traded for Reggie. He cried when he was traded, so he may have stayed. DeCinces was also traded for “Disco” Dan Ford. AS far as not being able to keep everyone that they wanted in the 80′s and 90′s due to the cash machine of OPACY, it is clear that they wanted to keep Palmeiro and probably Eric Davis after his monster year.

  3. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    No hard feelings toward the MOOSE he did what he had to do, he might have stayed if he wasn’t low balled by Angelos & Co.

  4. Will Says:

    You said he signed with New York on December 7, 2001. However it was really November 30, 2000.

  5. unitastoberry Says:

    Great pitcher. Arrogant and aloof. Go back to NY.

  6. bill Says:

    He will never be as talented as his mind tells him he was…The guy is and was a jerk. I saw him around kids and other fans. He was an arrogant douchebag almost in the Eric Bedard class.

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