Checking in with Moose

From the CBS affiliate in New York:

As head basketball coach at Montoursville High School in Pennsylvania, the 270-game winner has more anxiety about his team’s 2-5 start than seeing if he will move closer to the 75 percent balloting mark needed for election to Cooperstown. Mussina saw a significant gain a year ago when he garnered 43 percent and has momentum that could get him there in the next couple years.

As of today, Mike sits at 60.5 percent. Momentum!

Three great baseball brawls

Somehow this is a big part of my Saturday night. Thanks to Deadspin for kicking off this exploration: highlighting the first, linking to the second and inspiring me to find the video from the third. I’d forgotten about that early news in Moose’s career.

The New York Times, June 7, 1993: “BALTIMORE, June 6— Seattle starter Chris Bosio sustained a collarbone injury, at least two players were bloodied, and a manager and seven players were ejected when the Mariners and Baltimore Orioles engaged in a lengthy brawl this afternoon.”

Baltimore Sun, same day: “It started out to be a beautiful afternoon at Oriole Park, but it turned ugly in a hurry. The game between the Orioles and Seattle Mariners turned into a brawl yesterday when tempers flared and a 60-man free-for-all erupted in the seventh inning.”

The Washington Post, same day: “BALTIMORE, JUNE 6 — This was not the usual milling-around, push-and-shove, don’t-get-hurt baseball fight. Today the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners exchanged honest-to-goodness punches — then angry accusations — with an ugly brawl erupting after Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina drilled Mariners catcher Bill Haselman in the left shoulder with a seventh-inning fastball.”

2013 Big Lead look-back: “Kudos to the Camden Yards PA for deciding to play Three Dog Night’s ‘Mama Told Me Not to Come’ during the brawl. Not exactly fighting music, but a nice touch nonetheless.”

When the time arrives for Mike Mussina, I’m ready

As you know, I’m a fan of ex-Orioles ace Mike Mussina.

New York Daily News, a month ago: “Mike Mussina didn’t receive a call from the Hall of Fame, but his chances of one day being enshrined in Cooperstown went up. After appearing on only 24.6% of ballots in 2014, that figure jumped up to 43%, more than any other player, on Wednesday.”

Baltimore Sun, same week: “While Mussina still fell well short of 75 percent needed to gain election, it positions the five-time All-Star and 270-game winner well moving forward. This was just his third year of eligibility, and players can remain on the ballot for 10 years provided they receive at least five percent every year.”

Now in my closet, via Ebay and three months of the seller and I grappling with the mistake-prone United States Postal Service and Canadian Post, a new jersey to go with my Mussina Yankees and Stanford jerseys, ready for a Mussina induction one of these years:

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Hall of Fame, someday

A friend asked me the other day if I’m disappointed in baseball Hall of Fame voters not electing Mike Mussina this year. I am, of course. When voters entrusted with the official legacy of your favorite sport deny entry to your favorite player,  you’re disappointed. MLB.com sums it up well:

As announced on Wednesday, Mussina received just 20.3 percent (116 votes) of the 75 percent necessary for induction in 2014, which marked the former Yankees and Orioles right-hander’s first appearance on the ballot. While Mussina far exceeded the five percent needed to stay on the ballot, history suggests that Mussina is looking at a slow climb.

If we’re looking at a slow climb, as frustrating as that may be, it helps to see the result prompting publish of more arguments for Moose’s election.  The headline from Tyler Kepner, the Yankees beat writer during Mike’s New York tenure — and one of the best beat writers of that era, — is clear, “Mussina Deserves More Than ‘Almost’ From Hall.” Over on Forbes,  a professor throws up tons of stats to make such a case. “Mike Mussina’s Hall Of Fame Candidacy Will Require Patience And Further Examination” is the hed there. And Feinstein is quoting him as a voice of A-Rod reason.

Meanwhile, Mike seems happy coaching basketball at his old high school in rural Pennsylvania. “It’s rewarding. It’s nice to get out there and help these kids battle through a growing point in their lives when they have a lot of issues they have to tackle off the court, out of school and in school.”

I’ve never been to Cooperstown before, but…

But if voters elect Mike Mussina to the hall of fame this year, I’ll be going.

The Baltimore Sun had the report this afternoon: Moose is on the ballot. “The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which was released Tuesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, includes former Orioles pitchers Mike Mussina, Armando Benitez and Mike Timlin among the 19 first-time candidates.” MLB.com has the best initial story, “Up for Hall, Mussina hopes to avoid ‘Mr. Almost’ tag.” The piece mentions the near-perfect game, the near-Series crown and the near Cy Young. On the other hand, “Only five pitchers in the game’s history have had as many wins as Mussina while matching his .638 career winning percentage: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove and Randy Johnson.” And — something MLB.com fails to mention but it’s both obvious and necessary to mention — this career happened in the ugly heart of the steroid era.

Meanwhile, Mussina is now coaching varsity basketball at Montoursville (Pa.) High School, where he graduated in 1987. “Mussina will be paid a stipend of $4,170,” the local Williamsport Sun-Gazette reports. “Mussina pitched with the Orioles and Yankees from 1991-2008, compiling a record of 270-153 with a 3.68 ERA. He has coached Little League Baseball and junior varsity basketball since retiring.” HOF vote tallies arrive in January.

Why I am sad about the Nats but not broken

In 1989, the Baltimore Orioles played the Toronto Blue Jays in the final series of the season, With two wins in the three games, they would have caught the Jays in the American League East and forced a one-game playoff. With a sweep, they could would have won the pennant outright. The Orioles had bounced back from 107 loses the previous season, with a record 21 losses to begin the year. That the 1989 team was just a game out of first place with three games to go was a near-certifiable miracle.

The Orioles lost the first two games of the series, and I began to grasp losing in professional baseball. I was nine. I went to my room and cried.

The Orioles were in contention but faded during the 1992 and 1993 seasons. In the 1993 All-Star game, held at Camden Yards, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston declined to play my favorite player, Mike Mussina. In 1996 and 1997, the Orioles went to the American League Championship Series. They lost the first time when the series momentum turned on a Yankee fan reaching from the stands to disrupt play. When they failed the next year, every game they lost was by a margin of one run.

In 1994, Mussina, by now a personal hero to my 14-year-old self, had a chance to win 20 games for the first time, but the strike ended the season. In 1996, Mussina in his last start had a chance again to win 20, but the bullpen lost his lead. In 1997, Mussina lost a perfect game with two outs to go. I was watching and blamed my brother for the loss. He had noted the possibility a batter or two earlier. In 1998, Mussina lost a perfect game with four outs to go. In 2001, he lost a perfect game with one out to go.

My love of Washington baseball has never gone much better. I grew up knowing Washington had lost two versions of the Senators, to Minnesota and then to Texas. And any baseball-card collector knew Topps had once printed Washington Padres cards, but the planned 1974 from San Diego had fallen apart. Washington lost league expansion competitions in 1993 and 1998. (I hadn’t been around for when we had lost to Toronto in 1976.) Attempts to buy other teams and bring them to D.C. failed as well.

But Washington finally landed a team. The team was in first place after the first half of its first season here. It lost most games subsequently. But this year, seven years later, the team finally made the postseason. The Nats lost a deciding fifth game to the Cardinals last night — after twice being one strike away from winning and advancing to the NLCS. I was there at Nationals Ballpark, cheering, as I had been for the two previous games.

A few years ago, Mike Mussina, in the last season of his 17-year career, whom by then the Orioles had lost through free agency to the Yankees (a move that somehow made sense in my opinion), finally won 20 games.

This year, the Orioles finally returned to the playoffs. They weren’t my team anymore, but I was happy for them. The chance of a local World Series was exciting. But the Orioles lost a deciding fifth game last night as well. I was sorry for them. They weren’t my team anymore, but twenty-three years ago, making that turnaround run for the playoffs, the Orioles had taught me losing in baseball wasn’t forever. Falling short, they had reminded me loss was forever, but losing was a only matter of timing.