his SUV waiting for an autograph at 2 a.m.
“I do one thing in the whole world well – I pitch,” Mussina would often say to me. “It’s crazy that people think it’s such a big deal.”
Of course, Angelos was famous for saying starting pitchers only pitched every five days so how valuable could they be, right?
Mussina’s departure from the Baltimore Orioles found no nadir, no bottom to its fate. Even as the team wins games now in 2012, the empty seats and lack of civic passion is directly tied to the decisions of good men like Mike Mussina to want to be as far away from Baltimore and Angelos as possible.
And in Mussina’s case, it had far more to do with respect, integrity and a burning desire to win. And clearly being on the inside he rightfully believed that it would be impossible to achieve his career goals with Peter Angelos’ Baltimore Orioles of 2001 and beyond.
I have a closet full of memories with Moose in Baltimore as a young journalist and sports talk show host trying to make my way in the world.
Mussina was the central figure in the greatest debate of modern day baseball at Camden Yards – the 1993 All-Star Game debacle where Cito Gaston refused to pitch him in the 9th inning and instead opted for Duane Ward of the manager’s Toronto Blue Jays much to the chagrin of the Baltimore baseball world, who still carries aggression toward Gaston 19 years later. (For what’s its worth, Mussina told me over dinner one night in Toronto that he was simply throwing bullpen because Elrod Hendricks asked him to do it so they wouldn’t have to stay at the ballpark after the game to do it.)
I’m convinced he meant no harm and had no idea what the fallout of that 9th inning toss would be or that we’d still remember it 19 summers later.
The Bill Hasselman intentional beaning in 1993 that wound up later sidelining Mussina for most of the year after he was rolled in the bottom of the pile after a nasty scrum involving the likes Jay Buhner, Alan Mills, Lou Piniella and large sections of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
His amazing no-hit bid vs. the Cleveland Indians in the summer of 1997 when he retired the first 25 hitters until Sandy Alomar drove a single to left to leave the Camden Yards faithful saddened.
The Sandy Alomar line drive of his skull in 1998, which was among the nastiest come-backers you’ll ever see in baseball.
There were so many big wins amongst his 147 as a Baltimore Oriole and he started the last truly meaningful game the franchise played in Game 6 of the ALCS vs. the Cleveland Indians. In two starts in that series he pitched 15 innings over two starts, allowing one run and four hits, and striking out 25 Tribesman.
This weekend, I’ll choose to remember those days and not the many memories he shared in New York in pinstripes.
If Jim Palmer is correct, sometime in August of 2014 Michael Cole Mussina – he always thought “Funky Cole Mussina” was a better Berman nickname than “Loggins & Mussina” — will almost certainly stand on a dais in Cooperstown, N.Y. and accept the greatest individual honor any Major League Baseball player can be bestowed – a plaque and a seat at hardball eternity and immortality.
My guess is he’ll wear a hat with an N and a Y on that piece of bronze. So this weekend will truly be his last as a Baltimore Oriole.
Oh, he’ll say the right things at the luncheon and at the Hall of Fame ceremony. At least I think he will.
But this is a rough weekend for the team to honor someone like Mike Mussina – while at the same time looking in the mirror and realizing a generation of lost Baltimore Orioles fans booed No. 35 but should’ve been booing Angelos and this lousy ownership the whole time.
Quite frankly, given Peter Angelos’ legendary quest to get even with anyone and everyone who has ever crossed him, I’m kind of shocked the Orioles invited him back for this honor and I’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out.
I always loved Mike Mussina – on and off the field.
I’m proud to say that I knew him when…
I’ve been critical of many of the Orioles Hall of Fame choices over the years because the “honor” has been diminished by the low bar set by those who choose to give this distinction each August.
Mike Mussina is simply a no-brainer.
He shouldn’t have just been a Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer. He should’ve been a lifer Baltimore Oriole.
But, alas, just one more of the many civic sins of Peter Angelos will be on display for all this weekend at Camden Yards.