Former Baltimore Orioles ace Mike Mussina was
elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame
Jan. 22, the culmination of a campaign that slowly picked up steam during his six years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.
Mussina was with the Orioles for the first 10 seasons of his 18-year career before joining the New York Yankees. His biggest fan throughout his career may have been his brother, Mark, who followed his brother's career obsessively, planning his summer around each start. He compared it to Baltimore Ravens fans dictating weekend plans based on when the team plays.
"You schedule your world around it," Mark Mussina said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Jan. 24. "That's what my world was like, except instead of 16 games there were 30 starts."
Mark didn't attend many of Mike's starts, preferring to watch them on television. He recorded every game on VHS tapes, and he'd review them to analyze pitch locations and ball/strike calls.
"There's an excitement about being in the ballpark, but when your brother's the pitcher and you're way down the right field line, it's agonizing," Mark said. "There's a borderline pitch and it's called a ball, and you're looking for replays because you're wondering if it was a strike, so it was just better to watch it on TV."
Like most baseball fans, Mark had plenty of superstitions while watching games, which he
detailed in a recent article
. Friends and family did the same, despite the futility of such actions.
Mark recalled a friend coming over to watch a game that Mike had started, arriving with Baltimore up two runs in the ninth inning. The reliever -- Mark recalled it being Gregg Olson -- walked a batter, prompting the friend to say, "Oh that's great, one swing of the bat and there goes Mike's win."
Sure enough, the next batter went deep to tie the game, and the friend accepted full blame.
"It's incredible the level of responsibility that you think you have with this stuff, and you just don't want to be the fault," Mark said.
It wasn't just Mike's starts that Mark fretted about; he kept up with all of the premier starters for Cy Young and All-Star recognition purposes. With the internet growing in popularity, Mark had immediate access to scores and statistics from around the league.
"It's like while you're rooting for the Ravens, you're rooting against the Steelers," Mark said. "So while I'm rooting for Mike, I'm rooting against Pedro [Martinez] and [Roger] Clemens and Randy Johnson and all those other guys."
Even after Mike's career ended, there were the records and milestones to preserve from other hurlers. Longtime left-hander Jamie Moyer fell a single victory shy of Mike's 270. Hall of Fame lefty Tom Glavine had a chance to challenge Mike's 17 straight seasons of at least 10 wins, and Mark anguished over each of his outings down the stretch. Glavine finished with nine victories in 2003 to end his streak at 14 seasons.
It's those comparisons that kept coming up during Mike's Hall of Fame quest. Mark called his brother's career "an acquired taste," not wildly impressive on its face but remarkable when considering longevity.
Mark cited contemporaries Johan Santana and the late Roy Halladay as pitchers who may have been better than Mike at their peaks but weren't able to be effective as long. Mike won 20 games in his final season at age 39, and he won five playoff games with New York from age 32 onward.
"That's the debate of what is greatness," Mark explained. "Is it Guns N' Roses who puts out the greatest album of all time, or is it Bon Jovi, who's still doing it for 30 years and still putting out good stuff?"
Halladay's widow, Brandy, said after his election that Halladay would go into the Hall of Fame with a blank cap on his plaque after spending ample time with both the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. Mussina
will do the same
. Mark said Orioles fans have mixed feelings about the pitcher given his time spent with archrival New York.
"They'll always say that it's because he went to the Yankees," Mark said. "Mike's a villain because he went to New York. They look at it like it's a divorce."
But Mike appreciates both of his careers equally, according to Mark, who pointed out that Mike's son is an Orioles fan and said the feelings on both sides are part of fandom.
"That's also part of what makes sports great," Mussina said. "The fanatical, inexplicable passion."
For more from Mark Mussina, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles