Mussina knows rough task awaits him in Toronto's opener

The Inside Stuff

April 09, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Mike Mussina, the Orioles' most impressive pitcher in spring training, gets his first start of the regular season -- finally -- tomorrow afternoon against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Though he's only 23 and in his first full season in the big leagues, Mussina knows what's in store at SkyDome and he's looking forward to it.

"This'll be Toronto's home opener," Mussina says. "Think there'll be a few people there?"

The Blue Jays drew a major-league record 4,001,526 last year. Ninety-eight percent of all seats were sold for the season. They've all been sold for six months for tomorrow's game.

Opposing Mussina will be Jimmy Key, who was Toronto's No. 1 winner last year with a 16-12 record. The Jays say Key was outstanding in the spring.

Mussina, a Stanford graduate, believes this is a week for his alma mater's athletes. Sunday the Stanford women's basketball team won the NCAA championship.

"In all sports, including baseball, tennis, swimming and what-have-you," Mussina says proudly, "Stanford has a record of 20-4 in its last 24 appearances in NCAA championships."

The school certainly appears to have developed a winner in Mussina.

* Baltimore basketball guru Paul Baker told me even before Grant Hill graduated from South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., that the youngster, who had just announced he would attend Duke, would become the greatest player in Blue Devils history.

Having seen Danny Ferry, Mark Alarie, Johnny Dawkins, Dick Groat and Art Heyman, I knew that was quite a prediction. But after watching Hill in action as Duke repeated its NCAA championship, I'm starting to believe Baker. That was a pretty good prediction -- even for a guru.

* Anyone who knows Cleveland Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi at all -- and many do from his days as Baltimore Colts PR man andGM -- knows the man is a stadium nut. Ernie has in his home a chair he salvaged from the original Yankee Stadium when the place was rebuilt some years ago.

So it was interesting to get Accorsi's evaluation of Oriole Park at Camden Yards when he came here this week for the O's opener.

"I had heard and read all the rhapsodizing over the new ballpark," Ernie said, "and I said to myself, 'It can't be that good.' I was right. It's not that good. It's better. Leaving the warehouse up was smart. It gives the place personality and character."

* Larry King said it right when he said this week that Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the worst name he had ever heard for a ballpark. He said it wrong, though, when he then asked: "Why didn't they name it for Babe Ruth?" Most Baltimoreans will tell you instinctively that Yankee Stadium in New York is the House that Ruth Built. But then King is not a Baltimorean.

* Local ice hockey fans will be interested in the comments of Washington Capitals right wing Tim Bergland, who played here this year with the Skipjacks, regarding the NHL players strike and the possibility of bringing in replacement players to finish the season:

"Some guys from the Skipjacks might come up if the Caps asked them to. Most of those guys don't make more than $40,000 and they dream of playing in the NHL."

* Jim Margraff, the bright, young football coach who in two years has revived the program at Johns Hopkins, traveled to College Park the other day with his defensive coordinator, Bob Benson (who is a friend of new Terps coach Mark Duffner), to observe Maryland's spring drills.

Said Margraff: "Boy, are they impressive -- not just Coach Duffner but his entire staff. They're really good teachers. Enthusiastic. Positive. I think they're going to do a great job at Maryland."

Gib Romaine, who was on Jerry Claiborne's coaching staff at Maryland and now works in development, agrees with Margraff. "I've watched these coaches at practice," Gib says, "and they're very up-tempo. I think the players like it."

* You've got to love kids for getting right to whatever it is they want to say. They just don't buy excuses like youth movements and injuries. For instance, the 12-year-old sports freak who lives on my block took note this week of the Bullets' lowly position in the NBA standings and said: "The Bullets are getting like the Cleveland Indians. They're lousy every year."

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