Mussina’s call to Cooperstown

Cooperstown, a hamlet in southeastern New York, sits where the Susquehanna River begins, amid farms and rolling hills.

It also is the promised land of professional baseball players, home to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mike Mussina grew up and still lives in Montoursville, part of the Susquehanna River community that serves as Little League Baseball’s promised land.

Today, Mussina finds a second home in the Major League Baseball promised land.

His date with Cooperstown is richly deserved and, we would argue, overdue. Raised on local pitching mounds, he was a first-round draft choice out of Stanford University in 1990. He was a model of consistent excellence from his first major league pitching assignment in August 1991 to his last one Sept. 28, 2008.

During that time, he won 270 games, with 20 wins one season, 19 two others, and 18 three others. He never won fewer than 11 games in 17 full seasons of pitching in the major leagues. He pitched 57 complete games and 28 shutouts, with a career earned run average of 3.68.

While those numbers did not get Mussina a quick induction into the Hall of Fame, they are looking better and better as time goes by. Today, starting pitchers don’t pitch many complete games and shutouts are even more rare. Seasons of 18 to 20 wins are achieved by only a handful of pitchers a year and a career total of 270 wins is now elite. A typical earned run average is about 4.50 runs per game.

It’s even more impressive that Mussina achieved his numbers in baseball’s steroid era, against hitters who had an artificial advantage.

Mussina was a craftsman, keeping hitters off balance with an arsenal that included a knuckle curve and pitches that dipped and darted in unpredictable places, except to Mussina. He always seemed to be in control during a career that split time between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

After arguably his best season in 2008, when he won 20 games, he decided to retire and come home to his family with plenty left in his pitching tank.

Instead, he’s coaching baseball and basketball at Montoursville High School. We are proud he is part of our community, proud of his baseball achievements and proud of the way he has represented our area.

He’s come home. But he also deserves the second home he is being welcomed to today.