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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Mike Mussina chose college, then became great, made Hall

Mike Mussina 1990 Rochester Red Wings card

Drafted by the Orioles in 1987, Mike Mussina opted for college ball at Stanford University, instead of the pros.

Mussina promptly went out and recorded an 8-1 record and a 3.77 ERA by the end of April his freshman year in 1988, The Sacramento Bee wrote.

"We knew he'd be a great pitcher," Stanford coach Mark Marquess told The Bee. "But we didn't think he'd do all this as a freshman."

As it turned out, Mussina turned out to be a great pitcher both in college and, later in the majors with the Orioles and the Yankees.

Once he arrived in the pros, Mussina made short work of the minors before ending up pitching in 18 major league seasons. He amassed 270 big league wins, more than 2,800 strikeouts and one near-perfect game, all on his way to a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Mussina's pro career began in 1990, taken again by the Orioles, but this time in the first round, 20th overall, out of Stanford. He went to Stanford out of Montoursville High in Pennsylvania.

Mussina started out with the Orioles at AA Hagerstown and AAA Rochester. In nine starts between them, he went 3-0, with a 1.46 ERA. He then started 1991 at Rochester, before arriving in Baltimore that August.

Mussina went 4-5 over 12 starts, with a 2.87 ERA with the Orioles that year. He then broke out in 1992, going 18-5, with a 2.54 ERA over 32 starts. He also made the first of his five career all-star appearances.

He spoke to his hometown Sudbury Daily Item that June as his record stood at 8-2.

"To get off to this kind of a start wasn't a surprise to anybody. But But I've been fortunate that we've scored some runs and we've played good defense behind me," Mussina told The Daily Item. "I think everything worked out. It doesn't happen like that all the time, and when it does happen you have to be thankful for it."

That 1992 campaign also became the first of 17-straight seasons where he won no fewer than 11 games. He won 19 games twice and 20 once.

Mussina stayed with the Orioles through the 2000 season, before signing with the Yankees for 2001. He then continued his success. That Sept. 2, Mussina even came one strike away from a perfect game, a 1-2 fastball hit for a single ending it. 

"I knew it was a hit ... I'm going to think about that pitch until I retire," Mussina told The New York Daily News, adding he didn't regret his pitch selection. "He could have popped it up, done anything with it."

Mussina ended up going 17-11 for the Yankees that year, with a 3.15 ERA. He won 18 the next year and 17 in 2003. He continued with the Yankees through 2008, when he recorded a career-high 20 wins to 9 losses and a 3.37 ERA.

He ended with 270 career major league wins and 153 losses, with a 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts.

In 2019, his sixth year of eligibility, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. On his plaque, he chose no team on his cap as he'd had near-equal success in Baltimore and in New York.

"I don't feel like I can pick one team over the other because they were both great to me," Mussina told the USA Today Network ahead of his induction that July. "I did a lot in Baltimore and they gave me the chance and then in New York we went to the playoffs seven of eight years, and both teams were involved. To go in with no logo was the only decision I felt good about."

Mike Mussina 1990 Rochester Red Wings card

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,930
Made the Majors:1,309-33.3%-X
Never Made Majors:2,621-66.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:532-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:328    

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