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

decade of despair here in the Charm City that he never wanted or could’ve aptly predicted.

Mike Mussina was always a massive sports fan. In the pre-Rick Neuheisel days of March Madness pools, Mussina was always the clubhouse leader. He did crossword puzzles with Mark Williamson. He talked pitching with Rick Sutcliffe and Ben McDonald. He shared a love of hard rock and heavy metal music with Brad Pennington. He played golf with Eddie Van Halen. He was a tremendous basketball player, football kicker and even was a cornerback in his gridiron days. And as Tom Glavine found out in 1997, he could also hit Major League pitching.

His tastes were small-town simple as well. He married a hometown girl. He still lives in his hometown. And he can breathe in his small town. He’s the John Cougar Mellencamp of the baseball world and the Baltimore Orioles’ hometown feel of the 1990’s treated Mussina well until Peter Angelos started quickly disassembling a franchise and a fanbase that took two generations to build.

 

Mussina could’ve had a statue on the Orioles monument walk in center field this summer but instead left for a chance to win. He never did win that championship ring – coming oh, so short in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and again vs. the Florida Marlins in 2003.

And some Baltimore Orioles fans think that’s just fantastic and rich with irony – that Mussina left and NEVER won that elusive World Series ring. Or as my pal Dave always chirps – “his ringer finger is nude. He’s got as many championships as I do!”

I’ll always be personally and professionally indebted to Mike Mussina, who truly taught me what life was like for a baseball player. He was my first good friend in baseball, a guy who allowed me into his life more than a little bit and I gained a lot of respect for the challenges of being a baseball player in the modern era.

 

I learned more about the real world of modern baseball while drinking beers after Orioles games in 1993 and 1994 than I ever thought possible.

I saw Mussina being stalked before and after games around Camden Yards. I saw a tired, weary young guy making $137,500 per year and living the life of 24-hour a day baseball trying to win and get paid. His most treasured possession was an old Camaro he bought when he was a kid.

It wasn’t nearly as glorious or glamorous as I thought it was when I was a kid collecting baseball cards and dreaming about growing up to be a guy like Mike Mussina. Figuring out road trips and being gone for 10 days at a time. Never having a day off.

And, of course, the bane of Mussina’s existence as a human being? Going from complete anonymity to being very famous, very quickly.

I watched it all happen at a relatively close angle as a quiet, stoic Mike Mussina went from a surprising addition to the 1991 team to being a star in the midst of Camden Yards’ halcyon days and crowds of 45,00 every night screaming his name, wanting a baseball, an autograph, a handshake, a picture.

One night Mussina and I walked back from a post-game beer in the pouring rain of a Baltimore thunderstorm and there were still two young girls standing near

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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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