Mike Mussina

A photo of Mike Mussina.

Template:Infobox MLB player Michael Cole (Mike) Mussina (born December 8 1968 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania), nicknamed Moose, is a retired Major League Baseball starting pitcher, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He is known for his consistency in winning, having won at least 11 games in 17 straight seasons (1992–2008). Among pitchers, he is 33rd alltime in wins (270) (tied with Hall-of-Famer Burleigh Grimes),[1] had 23 shutouts along with 57 complete games. He is 33rd alltime in games started (535), 66th all time in innings pitched (3,562.2), 19th all time in strikeouts (2,813) and has a BB/9 IP (1.98) and a career .638 win-loss percentage.

Early lifeEdit

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]

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

College careerEdit

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 careerEdit

Baltimore OriolesEdit

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 6/22-8/19. 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 due to his injury. 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 prior to the game that he would held out of the contest because of his injury issues and in case the game went into extra innings.[3] 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.[4] 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.[3] Mussina returned 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.[5] 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 showed his consistency by again posting 19 wins, 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. He gave up 130 earned runs for an ERA of 4.81 and struck out 204 batters. Baseball America's annual "Tools of the Trade" poll listed Mussina as having the best changeup and best control in baseball in 1996. 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 a calcium deposit in his right elbow. 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 1.117 WHIP was 3rd best, and his 218 strikeouts were not only a career high, but established a franchise record. Mussina was again voted onto the All-Star team after a two year hiatus, 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.


Mussina's 1998 season was punctuated by two separate trips to the DL, once from 4/17-5/3 after a wart on his right index finger split open during a game, and again from 5/18-6/6 after 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, however he also threw ten wild pitches, the only time in his career he would rank among the league leaders in that category. 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.


Mussina had a very good 1999 season. 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, giving up one hit, while walking one and striking out two. 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 career losing record, 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. Mussina committed just one error in the field, but was not awarded what would have been his 5th consecutive Gold Glove. He finished 6th in voting for the Cy Young Award that year.

New York YankeesEdit

Following the 2000 season, Mussina decided to leave the Orioles via free agency.[6] He signed a 6-year, $88.5 million contract with the New York Yankees on November 30, 2000.[7]


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). In addition, he held batters to a .216 batting average when there were 2 out with runners in scoring position. 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).[8] He made a questionable comment regarding his performance in a 6–4 Yankee loss, when he claimed that a 15 minute delay for long time broadcaster Tom Cheek lasted too long.[9] Mussina had carried a 2-1 lead into the 7th inning. Mussina was slammed for being unaware that Cheek was battling brain cancer which had just ended a streak of 4,306 consecutive games in the Blue Jays radio broadcast booth.


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.


In 2007, Mussina became just the ninth player to win 100 games with two different teams—he had won 147 with Baltimore.[11] 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.[12] Although that remark was widely interpreted as a slight, Mussina has since performed outstandingly, 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.

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.[13]


On November 20, 2008, Mussina officially announced his retirement.[14][15] Mussina is the first pitcher to call it quits following a 20-victory season since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in 1966.[16][17]

Career earningsEdit

On November 20, 2006, Mussina and the Yankees reached a preliminary agreement, pending a physical, on a two-year, $23 million contract.[18] 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.[19]

Year League Team Salary ($)
2008 American League New York Yankees 11,071,029
2007 American League New York Yankees 11,070,423
2006 American League New York Yankees 19,000,000
2005 American League New York Yankees 19,000,000
2004 American League New York Yankees 16,000,000
2003 American League New York Yankees 12,000,000
2002 American League New York Yankees 11,000,000
2001 American League New York Yankees 10,000,000
2000 American League Baltimore Orioles 6,786,032
1999 American League Baltimore Orioles 6,623,143
1998 American League Baltimore Orioles 6,653,143
1997 American League Baltimore Orioles 6,825,000
1996 American League Baltimore Orioles 4,000,000
1995 American League Baltimore Orioles 2,925,000
1994 American League Baltimore Orioles 750,000
1993 American League Baltimore Orioles 425,000
1992 American League Baltimore Orioles 137,500
Career Total 144,136,270

Near-perfect gamesEdit

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, David Cone, was the one who achieved the most recent perfect game at the time, having accomplished the feat in 1999 with the New York Yankees. Although Mussina did not achieve perfection, this performance was so dominant that James Buckley, Jr. included an appendix chapter about it in his 2002 book Perfect: The Inside Story of Baseball's Sixteen Perfect Games. ISBN 1-572-43454-6

Other career achievementsEdit

  • Seven-time Gold Glove award winner.
  • Seven-time Cy Young Award nominee, placing in the top five six times.
  • Two-time MVP award nominee, garnering 2 points in 1992 and 8 in 1994.
  • 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 performanceEdit

Mussina has collected an overall 7–8 record and 3.40 ERA, with 142 strikeouts in 22 career postseason games.

Mussina's best postseason performances came 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.

Pitching styleEdit

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26]

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 debateEdit

Mussina's candidacy for the Hall of Fame has come under recent debate.[27] "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 Hall of Famers (except Maddux, still active). 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 well-known pitchers like Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. 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."[28]

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 has never won the Cy Young Award, but eight times he has finished in the top six. Mussina has also come tantalizingly close to pitching a perfect game and winning a World Series, having lost in the 9th inning, chances at achieving both 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.[29][30]

Personal lifeEdit

Mussina married Jana McKissick in 1997. The couple have 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.[31] He serves on the Little League International Board of Directors, based in nearby Williamsport, Pennsylvania.[32]

Mussina is also a crossword puzzle enthusiast who is featured in the 2006 documentary film Wordplay.[33][34]

See alsoEdit


  1. Mussina announces his retirement
  2. Smith, Chris, "Be Like Mike (Mussina)", New York Magazine, November 5, 2001
  3. 3.0 3.1 Altman, Billy. "The All-Star Game: Should Everyone Get to Play?" Village Voice, July 17, 2002
  4. Elliott, Bob. "Elliott on Baseball" Toronto Sun, September 5, 2004
  5. Box score: Baltimore Orioles 4, California Angels 2 (September 6, 1995). Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  6. "Absolutely no way - Mussina says he is resigned to free agency",, July 26 2000. Retrieved December 16 2006
  7. "Mussina, Yankees agree on six-year, $88.5M deal", ESPN, November 29 2006
  8. Jones, Danyel, "Armed and Dangerous: Mike Mussina", At Home Plate, Inc., January 14, 2005
  9. Elliot, Bob, "Mussina Should Button It", Slam Sports, September 5, 2004
  10. AP, "Mussina outpitches Willis, Damon drives in both Yanks' runs",, June 25, 2006
  11. Kepner, Tyler, "The Yankees Rebound, but Damon Falls to the Side", The New York Times, July 6, 2006
  12. Hoch, Bryan, "Hank sticking with Yanks' plan for Joba",, April 21, 2008
  14. Mike Mussina announces his retirement
  15. Photo Gallery
  16. Girardi: Yankees expecting Mussina to retire
  17. Mike Mussina Set to Retire
  18. Feinsand, Mark, "Yankees bring back Mussina: Right-hander agrees to two-year, $23 million deal",, November 20, 2006
  19. Salary Database: Mike Mussina. USA Today.
  20. Box score: Baltimore Orioles 8, Texas Rangers 0 (July 17, 1992). Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  21. Box score: Baltimore Orioles 3, Cleveland Indians 0 (May 30, 1997). Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  22. Box score: Baltimore Orioles 4, Detroit Tigers 0 (August 4, 1998). Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  23. Box score: New York Yankees 1, Boston Red Sox 0 (September 2, 2001). Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  24. BASEBALL; Mussina Shuts Down Orioles With Surprise and His Splitter - New York Times
  25. Verducci, Tom (2006-04-25). Wise guys. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
  26. Brown, Craig, "The Mussina renaissance ", The Hardball Times, August 8, 2008
  28. Will the Moose Be Mounted?
  30. Hall spot for Moose? Era, as much as ERA, may help sway
  31. AP, "No Celebrity Status: Mussina just another face in his hometown ", October 26, 2001
  32. Little League International Board of Directors. Little League Baseball. Retrieved on 2007-03-25.
  33. Mike Mussina at the Internet Movie Database
  34. Wolf, Buck (2005-06-15). 'Wordplay' De-nerds Crossword Craze. ABC News. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.

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