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Mike Mussina

Born: December 8, 1968 (1968-12-08) (age 41)
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
August 4, 1991 for the Baltimore Orioles
Last MLB appearance
September 28, 2008 for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Win–Loss record     270–153
Earned run average     3.68
Strikeouts     2,813
Career highlights and awards

Michael Cole Mussina (born December 8, 1968), nicknamed Moose, is a former Major League Baseball right-handed starting pitcher. He played for the Baltimore Orioles (19912000) and the New York Yankees (20012008).

Mussina spent his entire career in the competitive and high-scoring American League East, won at least 11 games in 17 consecutive seasons – an American League record – and recorded a career .638 winning percentage. Among pitchers, he ranks 33rd in all-time wins (270),[1] 33rd in games started (535), 66th in innings pitched (3,562.2), and 19th in strikeouts (2,813). A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Mussina's consistency resulted in six top-five finishes in the voting for his league's Cy Young Award, though he never did win it.


Early life

Mussina was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. At Montoursville Area High School in Montoursville, Pennsylvania he had a 24–4 record with a 0.87 ERA for his baseball team. He also excelled in football and basketball.

As a high school senior, Mussina barely missed being valedictorian of his graduating class. According to some reports, he intentionally came up short to avoid delivering a commencement speech.[2][3]

Mussina was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1987 but chose to attend college rather than sign.[4]

College career

In three years at Stanford University, Mussina compiled a 31–16 record with a 3.89 ERA. He made two College World Series appearances and was selected as an All-American. His senior year in 1990 was his best, finishing 14–5 with a 0.99 ERA before being drafted again by the Baltimore Orioles, this time as a first round pick (20th overall).

Mussina graduated from Stanford in 1990 with a degree in economics. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

Professional career


Baltimore Orioles

In the minor leagues, Mussina posted a 14–4 record with a 2.38 ERA.


In 1992, Mussina's first full season with the Orioles, he finished with an 18-5 record and a 2.54 ERA in 241 innings. His .783 win-loss percentage was tops in the league, and his 1.79 BB/9 was second best behind Chris Bosio. His 4 shutouts were tied for 2nd in the league behind only Boston's Roger Clemens. He finished 4th in the American League Cy Young Award voting that year, and was elected to 1992's All-Star Game, pitching one perfect inning.

Mussina struggled in 1993 due to shoulder soreness which placed him on the DL from 7/22-8/19. Though he still managed to win 14 games while posting the 7th best winning percentage in the American League, Mussina also allowed 83 earned runs in only 167.2 innings of work for a 4.46 ERA while striking out 117 batters. He was voted onto the All-Star team, however he did not pitch in the game. There was a controversial incident towards the end of the game when Mussina chose to warm-up in the bullpen, despite the fact AL manager Cito Gaston had told him that he would not enter the game.[5] Orioles fans believed Mussina was warming-up in preparation to come in and pitch the ninth inning and when Gaston put Duane Ward in to pitch the ninth inning, the fans at Camden Yards spent the rest of the game chanting "We Want Mike" and booing Gaston very loudly, as the popular slogan "Cito Sucks" was born in Baltimore. The slogan could be seen on t-shirts or heard even years later in Baltimore anytime the visiting Blue Jays came to town. Gaston was never treated well by Baltimore fans for the rest of his managerial career and he was subject to death threats for not pitching Mussina in the game.[6] Many believe Mussina threw on his own as a way of publicly showing up Gaston because he was angry at not pitching in the game. However, Mussina said he was just getting his work in, as he was scheduled to throw that day, and it was apparent Gaston did require his services.[5] Mussina returned from the DL in August against the Texas Rangers, only to have the Orioles shut him down three weeks later in mid-September due to lower back pain.

Mussina returned to form in 1994, but a player's strike cut his season short, causing him to finish with only 16 wins and 99 strikeouts in 176.1 innings of work. Mussina finished tied for 2nd in the league in wins, and his 3.06 ERA placed him 4th. He was selected to his 3rd consecutive All-Star Game and pitched one inning, giving up one hit while striking out one batter. Mussina finished 4th in voting for that year's American League Cy Young Award.

In 1995, Mussina started and won Cal Ripken's record breaking 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995.[7] Mussina led the league with 19 wins and had one of his finest statistical seasons. He struck out 158 batters in 221.2 innings, allowing only 81 earned runs for an ERA of 3.29. Mussina led the league with four shutouts, and he also allowed a league-low 2.03 BB/9, while his 1.069 WHIP was 2nd only to Seattle's Randy Johnson. Despite his excellent season, Mussina was not elected to that year's All-Star Game, and finished 5th in the American League Cy Young Award voting.


In 1996, Mussina won 19 games, and set a new career high of 243.1 innings. His league leading 36 games started were also a career high. 18 of his starts that year were quality starts. In his last start of the season, the Oriole's bullpen blew a late inning lead, costing Mussina a 20 win season. Mussina also won his 1st Gold Glove that year.

Mussina did not start the Opening Day game in 1997 due to elbow tendonitis. He had been the Opening Day starter for the Orioles every year since 1993. Mussina finished the season with a 15–8 record and his 3.20 ERA was 4th best in the league. In addition his 218 strikeouts were a career high, and established a franchise record. Mussina was again voted onto the All-Star team but did not appear in the game. He finished 6th in the American League Cy Young Award Voting, and won his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove. In the 1997 American League Championship Series he pitched fifteen innings over two starts, allowing one run, four hits, and striking out twenty five—an ALCS record at the time. However, the Orioles failed to score in both of his starts, and Mussina ended up receiving no-decisions for each.

Mussina's 1998 season was punctuated by two separate trips to the DL, including for injury resultant from when a ball hit by Sandy Alomar, Jr. struck him on the face and fractured his nose. Mussina still managed to win 13 games and post a 3.49 ERA, with 175 strikeouts in 206.1 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio ratio was good for 2nd in the league. Mussina won his 3rd consecutive Gold Glove with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage out of 50 total chances. On 8/4, Mussina struck out Detroit's Bip Roberts for his 1000th career strikeout.

In 1999 he finished 2nd in the league with 18 wins, and his 3.50 ERA and .720 win-loss percentage were good for 3rd. Mussina struck out 172 batters in 203.2 innings while walking just 52, for a 3.31 K/BB ratio. He was selected as an All-Star and pitched one inning, Mussina finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting that year behind Pedro Martínez. He committed just one error out of 61 total chances and won his 4th consecutive Gold Glove, further cementing his reputation as one of the top defensive pitchers in baseball.

In 2000, Mussina recorded his first and only losing season going 11–15. However, he did not pitch as badly as his record suggests, as he allowed 100 earned runs in a league-leading 237.2 innings for a 3.79 ERA. He struck out 210 batters while allowing 44 walks. Opponents batted just .255 off him. He finished 6th in voting for the Cy Young Award that year.

New York Yankees

Following the 2000 season, Mussina decided to leave the Orioles via free agency.[8] He signed a 6-year, $88.5 million contract with the New York Yankees on November 30, 2000.[9]


Mussina finished the 2001 season with a 17–11 record. He was 2nd in the league in ERA (3.15), strikeouts (214), shutouts (3), and strikeout/walk ratio (5.10), and 5th in strikeouts/9 IP (8.42) and complete games (4). Mussina pitched seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2001 American League Division Series and the Yankees went on to win the game 1-0, and eventually the series, becoming the only team to win a division series after losing the first two games at home. Mussina started Games 1 and 5 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting an 0–1 record with a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings pitched.

In 2002, Mussina was second in the AL in walks/9 IP (1.65), third in strikeouts (182) and strikeouts/9 IP (7.60), eighth in wins (18), and ninth in walks/9 IP (2.00). He held batters to a .198 batting average when the game was tied.

In 2003, Mussina was third in the league in strikeouts/9 IP (8.18) and strikeout/walk ratio (4.88), fourth in strikeouts (195) and walks/9 IP (1.68), fifth in wins (17), and eighth in ERA (3.40). He held batters to a .190 batting average when there were two outs and runners in scoring position. During Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Mussina authored one of the greatest clutch pitching performances of all time. With the Yankees trailing Boston 4–0 Mussina made the first relief appearance of his career. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Mussina struck out Jason Varitek before inducing Johnny Damon to hit into a double play. Mussina went on to pitch 2 more scoreless innings and kept the Yankees within striking distance in a game they later came back to win.

In 2004, plagued by a series of injuries, Mussina ended the year with a 12-9 record and a 4.59 ERA. He was fourth in the league in strikeouts (195), and eighth in walks/9 IP (2.19).


In 2005, Mussina finished with a 13–8 record and a 4.41 ERA. He was seventh in the AL in strikeouts/9 IP (7.11).

In 2006, he ended the season with a 15–7 record. He was second in the league in OBP against (.279), third in the American League in walks/9 IP (1.60; a career-best), batting average against (.241), and strikeout/walk ratio (4.91), fourth in ERA (3.51), sixth in win-loss percentage (.682). He fanned Cody Ross to reach the 2,500 strikeout mark on June 25.[10] Mussina also became the first pitcher in American League history to win 10 or more games for 15 consecutive seasons.

On November 20, 2006, Mussina and the Yankees reached a preliminary agreement, pending a physical, on a two-year, $23 million contract.[11] Earlier in the off-season the Yankees declined the 1-year, $17 million option on Mussina's previous contract. Under that back-loaded six-year, $88.5 million contract, Mussina earned $19 million in each of the last two seasons.[12]

Mike Mussina with Yankees on September 28, 2007.

In 2007, Mussina became just the ninth player to win 100 games with two different teams—he had won 147 with Baltimore.[13] However, with the Yankees locked in a tight pennant race, Mussina struggled and temporarily lost his spot in the rotation to prospect Ian Kennedy. After just one relief appearance, (the first of his regular season career), Mussina returned as a starter, going 3–0 in his final four starts to end with 11-10 record and a career-high 5.15 ERA. The '07 season for Mussina and Mets' pitcher Tom Glavine was the subject of a 2008 book by John Feinstein, Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember', showcasing a pivotal season for two New York City pitchers as Mussina nailed down milestone career win #250 with the Yankees and Glavine earned win #300 with the cross-town Mets. ISBN 0-316-11391-3

In 2008, Mussina started his 8th season with the Yankees as a much-needed veteran of an inexperienced rotation. The year began with difficulty reminiscent of 2007, and many noted a sharp decline in his pitch velocity. Owner Hank Steinbrenner suggested that Mussina should "learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer," and no longer rely so much on his fastball.[14] Although that remark was widely interpreted as a slight, Mussina joked in response that he could not pitch like Moyer because he did not throw left-handed, and afterwards he excelled, going 9–1 in his subsequent eleven starts. On June 15, he recorded his 10th win of the season, extending his American League record to 17 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. On September 18, Mussina notched his 18th victory of the season and lead the Yankees to a 9–2 victory over the first place White Sox in his final start at Yankee Stadium. On September 28, he won 20 games for the first time at the age of 39, with a 6–2 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, becoming the oldest first-time 20 game winner in MLB history. He finished 20–9 with a 3.37 ERA. His 67.6% first-strike-percentage was the highest among major league starters.[1]

Mussina would later finish second to Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee in the voting for American League comeback player of the year honors. On November 6, he was awarded his seventh career Gold Glove Award, and the third in his career with the Yankees. He would later finish behind Lee again in the balloting for the 2008 AL Cy Young Award. Mussina's sixth place finish was his best since 2001.[15]

On November 20, 2008, Mussina officially announced his retirement.[16][17] Mussina is the first pitcher to call it quits following a 20-victory season since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in 1966.[18][19]

Near-perfect games

Mussina has pitched several near-perfect games throughout his career:

  • On July 17, 1992, he retired the first 12 Texas Rangers before surrendering a double to Kevin Reimer. Mussina retired the final 15 batters he faced for a one-hit 8–0 shutout.[20]
  • On May 30, 1997, he retired the first 25 Cleveland Indians before surrendering a single to Sandy Alomar Jr. with one out in the ninth. Mussina struck out the last two batters for a one-hit 3–0 shutout.[21]
  • On August 4, 1998, he retired the first 23 Detroit Tigers he faced before surrendering a double to Frank Catalanotto with two outs in the eighth. Mussina gave up another hit in the eventual 4–0 shutout.[22]
  • On September 2, 2001, he retired the first 26 Boston Red Sox he faced; he then ran pinch-hitter Carl Everett (batting for Joe Oliver) to a 1-and-2 count before Everett lined a single to left-center. Mussina then retired leadoff man Trot Nixon on a grounder, striking out 13 batters in a one-hit 1–0 shutout.[23] The losing pitcher was David Cone. Although Mussina did not achieve perfection, James Buckley, Jr. considered it special enough to include an appendix chapter about it in his 2002 book Perfect: The Inside Story of Baseball's Sixteen Perfect Games. ISBN 1-572-43454-6
  • On October 12, 2004, he retired the first 19 Boston Red Sox he faced in Game 1 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. On Mark Bellhorn's third trip to the plate, Mussina surrendered a double to left field on an 0-2 pitch. He would work 6+23 innings and record the 10-7 Yankee win.

Other career achievements

  • Seven-time Gold Glove award winner.
  • Seven-time Cy Young Award nominee, placing in the top five six times.
  • Three-time MVP award nominee, garnering 2 points in 1992, 8 in 1994, and 3 in 2008.
  • 1994 Baseball America First-Team American League All-Star starting pitcher.
  • 1999 Baseball America Second-Team American League All-Star starting pitcher.
  • Led AL in Won-Loss percentage (.783) in 1992
  • Led AL in Wins (19), Walks/9IP (2.03) and Shutouts (4) in 1995
  • Led AL in Games Started (36) in 1996
  • Led AL in Innings (237 ⅔) in 2000
  • Reached both the 2001 and 2003 World Series with the New York Yankees
  • Won 15 games in a season 11 times.
  • One 20 win season (2008), two 19 win seasons, three 18 win seasons, and two 17 win seasons.

Postseason performance

Mussina collected an overall 7–8 record and 3.40 ERA, with 142 strikeouts in 22 career postseason games. His finest posteason occurred in 1997 for the Baltimore Orioles when in 4 games he went 2-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 29 IP with 11 H, 4 ER, 7 BB and 41 K.[24]

Pitching style

Early in his career, Mussina's arsenal included a four-seam fastball that topped out at 95 mph, a two-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a plus knuckle-curve. He has always been a finesse pitcher and coming up through the Orioles' organization, he was often compared to Jim Palmer. He has received praise for the ability to make in-game adjustments to compensate for days when he is not at his best.

Mussina's prolonged success is also the result of his ability to make adjustments. He has added a splitter to his repertoire and replaced his knuckle-curve with a more conventional curveball.[25] He has become more skilled at changing speeds with his breaking pitches and using different arm angles to confuse batters as well as to compensate for the diminishing speed of his fastball, now at 86–88 mph (tops out at 90.91 mph).

During spring training in 2006, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada noticed the unique grip Mussina used for his changeup and promptly hit a home run off it during an intra-squad game. Posada alerted Mussina to the tip-off, and he adjusted the grip. This new changeup has been difficult for batters to recognize, and was considered a main reason for his success that season.[26]

Mussina's remarkable results in 2008 have been attributed to changes in pitching style. While in the past he was known for painting the outside corner of the plate with a mid 90's four-seam fastball, he now works more on both sides of the plate with his diminished upper 80's fastball. Additionally, when throwing the fastball he often uses the two-seam grip, which gives the ball late breaking motion. Despite his lower fastball velocity, Mussina has maintained a significant differential in pitch speed by also lowering the velocity of his changeup. In addition to those more obvious changes, Craig Brown of The Hardball Times also attributes Mussina's renaissance to excellent control, noting that he is walking fewer batters than ever before and is becoming a ground ball pitcher for the first time in his career.[27]

Throughout his career, Mussina has also complemented his pure pitching ability by doing the little things well. He issues very few walks, holds baserunners well, and fields his position superbly.

Hall of Fame debate

Mussina's candidacy for the Hall of Fame has come under recent debate.[28] "Do I compare to some guys who are in? I think I do," Mussina told USA Today in 2006. The only other pitchers to match Mussina's 17 seasons of 10 or more victories are Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, Cy Young, Don Sutton, and Steve Carlton; all are Hall of Famers except Maddux, who also retired after the 2008 season and thus is not yet eligible. Of the 23 eligible pitchers who have at least 265 wins and an ERA of 3.69 or less, 20 are in the Hall of Fame. Mussina's consistency is often overshadowed by the dominant peaks of contemporaries like Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson.

His numbers are often compared to those of Jim Palmer. Mussina has two more wins and one more loss than Palmer, (both finished with a .638 winning percentage,) while Palmer's ERA is .82 lower. Mussina finished his career with 601 more strikeouts than Palmer. Baseball writer Tim Kurkjian stated on the August 3, 2008, edition of Baseball Tonight: "He's a Hall of Famer. I've looked at the numbers and he's in."[29]

He is the oldest pitcher to ever win 20 games in a season for the first time at the age of 39 in 2008. He never won the Cy Young Award, but finished in the top six of Cy Young voting eight times. Mussina also came tantalizingly close to pitching a perfect game and winning a World Series, having lost chances at achieving both in the 9th inning in 2001.

Only five pitchers in the history of major league baseball have as many victories as Mussina and a better winning percentage: Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson.[30][31]

Mussina has won seven gold gloves.

Personal life

Mussina married Jana McKissick in 1997. The couple has two sons, Brycen and Peyton, and he is also stepfather to Jana's daughter Kyra, from a previous marriage. He still resides in his hometown of Montoursville where he is well-known. During the off-season, he often helps out with the athletic programs at his high school and he operates a training camp for student athletes in the area.[32] He serves on the Little League International Board of Directors, based in nearby South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.[33]

Mussina is of Slavic descent.[34] Due to his last name, which was Americanized by his ancestors, he is often misidentified as an Italian-American; before the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players union, even asked him to play for Italy on that assumption.[35]

Mussina is also a crossword puzzle enthusiast who is featured in the 2006 documentary film Wordplay.[36][37]

He is also a collector of tractors and vintage cars.

See also


  1. ^ Hoch, Bryan (2008-11-20). "Mussina announces his retirement Right-hander won 270 games, including 20 for first time in 2008". Retrieved 2008-11-26.  
  2. ^ Smith, Chris, "Be Like Mike (Mussina)", New York Magazine, November 5, 2001
  3. ^ Barra, Allen, "Mike Mussina, Businesslike Baseball Great", Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2008
  4. ^ "Baseball Draft: 11th Round of the 1987 June Draft". Retrieved 2008-11-26.  
  5. ^ a b Altman, Billy. "The All-Star Game: Should Everyone Get to Play?" Village Voice, July 17, 2002
  6. ^ Elliott, Bob. "Elliott on Baseball" Toronto Sun, September 5, 2004
  7. ^ "Box score: Baltimore Orioles 4, California Angels 2 (September 6, 1995)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  
  8. ^ "Absolutely no way - Mussina says he is resigned to free agency",, July 26, 2000. Retrieved December 16, 2006
  9. ^ "Mussina, Yankees agree on six-year, $88.5M deal", ESPN, November 29, 2006
  10. ^ AP, "Mussina outpitches Willis, Damon drives in both Yanks' runs",, June 25, 2006
  11. ^ Feinsand, Mark, "Yankees bring back Mussina: Right-hander agrees to two-year, $23 million deal",, November 20, 2006
  12. ^ "Salary Database: Mike Mussina". USA Today.  
  13. ^ Kepner, Tyler, "The Yankees Rebound, but Damon Falls to the Side", The New York Times, July 6, 2006
  14. ^ Hoch, Bryan, "Hank sticking with Yanks' plan for Joba",, April 21, 2008
  15. ^
  16. ^ Mike Mussina announces his retirement
  17. ^ Photo Gallery
  18. ^ Girardi: Yankees expecting Mussina to retire
  19. ^ Mike Mussina Set to Retire
  20. ^ "Box score: Baltimore Orioles 8, Texas Rangers 0 (July 17, 1992)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  
  21. ^ "Box score: Baltimore Orioles 3, Cleveland Indians 0 (May 30, 1997)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  
  22. ^ "Box score: Baltimore Orioles 4, Detroit Tigers 0 (August 4, 1998)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  
  23. ^ "Box score: New York Yankees 1, Boston Red Sox 0 (September 2, 2001)". Retrosheet. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  
  24. ^
  25. ^ BASEBALL; Mussina Shuts Down Orioles With Surprise and His Splitter - New York Times
  26. ^ Verducci, Tom (2006-04-25). "Wise guys". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-06-08.  
  27. ^ Brown, Craig (2008-08-08). "The Mussina renaissance". The Hardball Times. Retrieved 2008-12-10.  
  28. ^
  29. ^ Will the Moose Be Mounted?
  30. ^
  31. ^ Hall spot for Moose? Era, as much as ERA, may help sway
  32. ^ AP, "No Celebrity Status: Mussina just another face in his hometown ", October 26, 2001
  33. ^ "Little League International Board of Directors". Little League Baseball. Retrieved 2007-03-25.  
  34. ^ Kepner, Tyler (2008-07-09). "Lots of Lip Fur at Yankee Stadium". Retrieved 2009-06-02.  
  35. ^ Blum, Ron (2006-03-02). "Will Baseball Tournament Be a Classic?". AP. Retrieved 2009-06-02.  
  36. ^ Mike Mussina at the Internet Movie Database
  37. ^ Wolf, Buck (2005-06-15). "'Wordplay' De-nerds Crossword Craze". ABC News. Retrieved 2007-03-26.  

External links

Preceded by
Jimmy Key
American League Wins Champion
Succeeded by
Andy Pettitte


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