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Mike Is Who He Is – All the Way to Cooperstown

Tip of my Loyalsock Lancer cap to cross-creek rival Mike Mussina. His election into the Baseball Hall of Fame is a celebration of a good man doing great things the right way, and being rewarded with baseball immortality. Mike’s priorities have always been in the right order, although sometimes, big city people and sportswriters didn’t understand. He loves his family, his hometown, privacy, and athletic competition.

So before we get to some of his Hall of Fame numbers here are some things that are a little less known about Mike. First up, he’s a tremendous athlete. Definitely not a PO-pitcher only in the baseball terminology of today. On the baseball diamond, if he had chosen to be a position player and step into the batter’s box, he would have been very good. However, it was obvious from an early age he had a future as a pitcher.

On the football field, he could compete with the best of them. He was an outstanding receiver. One thing that separated him from others was an unbelievable ability to kick the football. If it wasn’t for that baseball thing, he could have pursued this in college and possibly beyond.

Mike’s favorite sport growing up was basketball. His athletic ability was suited for the game. He was a stellar offensive and defensive performer. I’m sure he would have loved to play college basketball; however, he was just a much better baseball player. I knew when Mike was hired as the head basketball coach for Montoursville he would turn the program around and return the Warriors to the glory days of old.

Mike is flat-out one of the smartest people I have ever met. He could have been a doctor, rocket scientist or accountant — whatever he chose he would have excelled at. He graduated from Stanford with two degrees, one of which is in economics that he has definitely put to good use.

Everything with Mike is thought out, calculated and then executed with 100% commitment. He is able to strategically accomplish his goal without allowing emotions to become part of the equation. You could never tell from his reaction whether the batter had struck out or hit a home run. This is what made him a cold-blooded assassin on the pitching mound.

His enshrinement in Cooperstown was made possible by him harnessing that great mind, great arm, and understanding how they work together. He became a better pitcher the longer his career went on winning 20 games his final season.

To this day, I don’t believe any of the Major League experts have figured out how many different pitches he threw. This was created by cerebral Mike’s ability to simply tweak how he held the ball or make a subtle change in velocity. He was able to create a finished product that had his mind and body in harmony. Then execute it in front of 50,000 screaming fans while the guy standing at the plate wanted to knock the ball back up the middle and spin his hat around.

Mike has a good sense of humor. Yes, it may be a little dry, but it’s quick, witty and funny. He enjoys ribbing people in his own special way.

I’ve always respected how Mike approached the media during his professional baseball career. The big city folks didn’t always understand, but simply put, he wasn’t there to make friends, have fun or give you a sound bite. He was going to work to do his job. He was going to give you his best effort, and expected to be judged and paid for his productivity. He wanted nothing to do with all the other glitz and glamour that surrounds the game. He didn’t want the big commercial endorsement deals; he didn’t want to be the face of anything. He wanted to work on being the best pitcher, pitch the best game possible, and just be who he is.

At the end of his career, he had honed his talents into his first 20-win season. Mike could have parlayed that into a big fat paycheck the following year with the Yankees and added a few more wins to his Hall of Fame resume. But there were more important things for him back at home. Family — young children that needed their dad for many reasons. It was time to go home to move onto bigger and better things. Mike did the unthinkable to so many professional athletes and members of the media and hung up the cleats. He dedicated himself to his family and giving back to the community.

There was never a doubt or question about Mike doing things the right way during his baseball career, which just happened to coincide with the steroid era. A time when many players took performance-enhancing drugs and cheated the game of baseball. Mike pitched against these players, usually getting them out, and also played with some of these players. Baseball fans know all their names so I will stop here. However, I do want to mention the Red Sox David Ortiz who tested positive for PEDs. He hated batting against Mike. He was 0-20 before he recorded his first hit off of him.

Mike was by the book even when many in the game were not. That is the reason why his Hall of Fame induction should have come sooner. Reward the good guys. The gentlemen that do things the right way. His numbers were definitely deserving of the honor.

OK, I know Mike would tell you I’ve written way too much. So I’ll finish up with some numbers.

Mike on the Mound: 18 seasons – 270 wins – 153 losses for a winning percentage of .638. He was a five-time All-Star. He showed his athleticism by winning seven Golden Gloves. He holds the American League record for winning 11 games or more in 17 consecutive seasons. He recorded 2,813 strikeouts, ranking him 19th on the all-time list. For you modern-day number crunchers, he is 23rd all-time in wins above replacement by a pitcher, 82.9. Mike and Sandy Koufax are the only pitchers in the history of the game to retire after posting a 20-win season. He pitched four one-hit shutouts in his career. Twice the one hit was the only blemish from perfection. He is the only Stanford Cardinal to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mike spent ten seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and eight seasons with the New York Yankees. He has chosen to respectively represent both teams during his induction. On the Walls of Fame in Cooperstown, his plaque will appear with no logo on his hat, which is so true to who Mike is. I would like to see that Montoursville M on his hat, I think that would be just perfect.

God Bless America.

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Jim Webb

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  • Carol & Rocky Ruoff
    February 12, 2019, 7:14 pm

    Hi Jim……we just received your very fine article about Mussina, from my wifes brother in Jersey Shore, Gene Cillo. My wife graduated with Mikes Mother, Eleanor, from Williamsport HS way back then. We actually saw her as we attended the 1st Oriole Opening Day in Camden Yards. Small world! and we watched his career very closely as he came thru Rochester on his way to the bigs. As you know, he didn’t stay in Silver Stadium very long because he was so good! We have his card, and many others, in his Red Wing uniform and we are delighted that he has earned his way into the HOF!