Ask yourself: What would it feel like to come so close to perfection, only to fall just short? Then ask yourself what it would feel like to have that happen twice? That is a pain Mike Mussina knows of first hand.
On May 30, 1997, Mussina, then an Oriole faced the powerful Cleveland Indians. The Indians would make the World Series that year, finishing with the third highest run total in the American League. Their lineup included Manny Ramierez, David Justice and Jim Thome. Five regulars were hitting over .300 on game day. Justice was at .384. On this day however, none of them could do anything more than wilt in Mussina’s presence. One by one, the Indians fell by the wasteside as Mussina spun a masterpiece. Heading into the ninth inning, all 24 Indians hitters had been retired without incident.
In the final frame, Mussina got Tony Fernandez to ground out to second leading off the inning. The next hitter was Sandy Alomar Jr. Mussina battled valiantly, but Alomar managed to hit a single, spoiling the perfect game. But the drama wasn’t over. The Orioles were only up 3-0 at the time, and with the Indians powerful lineup, anything was possible. Many pitchers could have lost focus. Mussina struck out the final two hitters to close with a line of:
9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K
On September 2nd, 2001, The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame Campaign Page was sitting in his brother’s dorm room at Ithaca College. Originally, a night of feasting and sport was planned, with professional wrestling earning top billing. The Yankees were battling the rival Boston Red Sox, but with a division title all but wrapped up for the Bronx Bombers, that game had become of secondary importance. However, Mike Mussina had other plans.
In what simply may be described as one of the most dominating and heart-shattering games in Yankee history, Mussina dueled agains former Yankee ace David Cone deep into the cold, Boston night. For eight innings, the two matched zeroes in the runs coulmn. But Mussina was even more dazzling. One by one, Boston’s best were sent up and set down by Moose. After the Yankees scored a lone run in the top of the 9th, Mussina again stood three outs away from baseball immortality. A perfect game
The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame Campaign Page watched transfixed a Troy O’Leary desperately tried to be the first Sox hitter to reach base safely against Mussina. A groundball to first ended that dream. The nex hitter, Lou Merloni, could only helplessly flail at Mussina’s aresenal, striking out swining.
The tension in the room was unbearable. The Red sox, in a desperate attempt to find someone who could touch Mussina, sent up Carl Everett. The Moose was unfazed, as he quickly jumped out to an 0-2 lead in the count. A single strike seperated him from glory.
That strike never came. Everett was able to fight off an inside pitch and drop it in front of a charging Chuck Knoblauch. History was stopped.
Again however, Mussina was faced with a difficult challenge. So close to perfection, he now had to face the reality of the game winning run at the plate, the top of the order, and a crazed Sox crowd. Unraveling in the face of that would not only be possible, it might be expected.
Mussina was having none of it. Showing extrodinary poise and focus, he induced Trot Nixon to ground out, preserving a Yankees victory. His line for the night almost boggles the mind:
9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K
Now, you may be asking why we at The Official Mike Mussina Hall of Fame Campaign Page would highlight this aspect of his career. We felt that both of these starts illustrate not only Mike Mussina’s ability to dominate great teams, but his ability to stay focused, and overcome adversity. These two starts shed some light on these traits