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Mike Mussina’s Overlooked Distinguished Collegiate Baseball Career

Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame Major League baseball career is rightly being celebrated and noted by avid observers of the game. However, one important aspect of his distinguished baseball journey is being mostly overlooked, and that is his collegiate baseball feats with the Stanford Cardinal baseball team from 1987 to 1990. He excelled there in

Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame Major League baseball career is rightly being celebrated and noted by avid observers of the game. However, one important aspect of his distinguished baseball journey is being mostly overlooked, and that is his collegiate baseball feats with the Stanford Cardinal baseball team from 1987 to 1990. He excelled there in one of the most storied baseball programs at the collegiate level. To prosper at such a program speaks volumes about his pitching prowess.

Mussina is considered one of the most dominant pitchers in Stanford history. From 1987 to 1990 he was a stellar pitcher for the Cardinals. In 1987, he was part of one of the most potent one-two punch pitching combinations any collegiate club could claim when he, along with future Cy Young winner, Jack McDowell, anchored the Stanford pitching staff that helped them win the College World Series.

It seemed that McDowell would be the more celebrated and proficient as a major leaguer than Mussina when McDowell won the Cy Young Award in 1993 while pitching for the Chicago White Sox and winning 20 games two times. It seemed that he would be the one that would go on to the Hall of Fame rather than Mussina, but McDowell’s arm flamed out after eight seasons.

It almost seems natural that Mussina would have attended an academic powerhouse such as Stanford. He has earned the reputation as a cerebral and intellectually curious pitcher and person. He would analyze batters, trying to gauge their weaknesses and strengths. He would use his guile sometimes rather than his speed to retire an opposing batter. It was this analytical approach rather than just trying to overpower an opponent that probably helped preserve his arm and enabled to pitch for 18 major league seasons.

He majored in Economics at Stanford and for his senior thesis wrote a paper, according to Sports Illustrated titled, “The Economics of Signing out of High School as Opposed to College.” He wrote it in one night and received a B+.

Some experts regard Mussina as one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the Stanford baseball program.

During his tenure at Stanford, he compiled a 25-12 mark in 40 games. In 1988, he earned All-American honors during Stanford’s national championship season, compiling a 9-4 record with a 4.44 Earned Run Average in 21 games.

During his junior year in 1990, he had a 14-5 record to go along with a 3.50 E.R.A.

His excellence as a collegian prompted him to be named to the Pacific 12 All-Century Team.

In a quote from Stanford Magazine Tom Dunton, his pitching coach at the time said, “Working with him (Mussina) was like working on a Ferrari.” He took a regular spot in the rotation — a rarity for a freshman.

In 2015 Mussina was honored with the NCAA’s “Silver Anniversary Award.” The award annually recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the end of their collegiate athletic careers. Representatives of NCAA member schools and conferences, along with a panel of distinguished former student-athletes, select each year’s recipients.

After his stellar career at Stanford, he was drafted Number One by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1990 Amateur Baseball Draft. He signed with the Orioles and was assigned to their Double-A Eastern League Club, the Hagerstown Suns. Interestingly, he made his professional baseball debut for the Suns here at Bowman Field — a field he knew very well — against the Williamsport Bills, on July 14, 1990. Disappointedly, the game was washed out after just two innings, and he would have to make his real professional debut away from here and his hometown fans. It was not long before he was on his way to “The Show” and baseball immortality, but Stanford was a good and useful proving ground to hone his pitching craft.

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