Mike Mussina is now four years into retirement. He sports a salt-and-pepper goatee. His days include coaching his two sons in baseball and basketball.
Happy with life after baseball, Mussina remains in his hometown of Mountoursville, Pa., just three hours from Baltimore, where he became one of the top pitchers in Orioles history.
But this week marks Mussina’s first trip back to Baltimore since he retired after the 2008 season. Mussina will be honored, along with former Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer and the late longtime scout Walter Youse, as the newest members the Orioles Hall of Fame before Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
“I’m obviously honored,” Mussina said before a luncheon Friday to honor the Hall of Fame inductees. “To be thought of in a way that you couldn’t have pictured, to be put in the same room with [Jim] Palmer and Cal [Ripken, Jr.] and guys who have accomplished so many things for this organization, most of them playing even longer than I did, it’s really been nice. I’m not really sure that I’ve understood how big a deal it is. There’s only so many organizations in the major leagues, and this team thought enough about my career here to include me with some of the best who have ever put the uniform on for these guys. So, I really appreciate that.”
Mussina had 147 wins over 10 seasons with the Orioles, third-most in club history behind Palmer (268) and Dave McNally (181).
But Mussina’s departure from Baltimore, when he signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal with the New York Yankees after the 2000 season, was one of the most painful in club history for fans. He was a home-grown product who left in the prime of his career to join the team the Orioles spent the late-‘90s trying to topple.
At Friday’s luncheon, Mussina was asked if he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — his becomes eligible in 2014 with the likes of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — and was able to choose whether to go in as an Oriole or a Yankee, which he would choose.
Mussina was non-committal.
“That’s a tough question, because my career obviously is pretty evenly split between both places,” he said. “You eliminate one and it changes everything about what I was able to do. I accomplished a lot of things here. I accomplished a lot of things in New York. I can’t stand here and say it’s one over the other.
“Baltimore people want me to say Baltimore. New York people want me to say New York,” Mussina added. “When I was here, I loved being here. And there’s nothing else I can say about it. This was the only place I had known for the first 10 years of my career, and it was a great place to play, and it was tough to leave when I had to go."
Mussina, a first-round pick of the Orioles in 1990, became a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner while in Baltimore. He won at least 15 games six times, including back-to-back 19-win seasons in 1995 and ’96. He threw three one-hitters as an Oriole, struck out 15 in a game three times and was 2-0 with a 1.24 ERA in four postseason starts in 1997, the last time the Orioles made the playoffs before their string of 14 straight losing seasons.