From Montoursville to Cooperstown: Mussina becomes first D4 athlete to make pro sports HOF.

By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | January 23, 2019 | Photo courtesy Brian Fees

From Montoursville to Cooperstown: Mussina becomes first D4 athlete to make pro sports HOF.

Mike Mussina's life growing up was a lot like many other athletes in this area.

He played Little League and high school baseball in the district. He played games at Bowman Field, dreaming that one day he might become a professional baseball player.

For most District 4 athletes that's the goal, that's the ultimate dream. To become a professional and make it to the highest professional league in their sport.

Becoming a five-time all-star, a seven-time gold glove winner and eight times finishing in the top six in Cy Young voting, that's not the type of stuff you think about.

And, days like Tuesday, that's something you never even imagine.

On Tuesday Mussina got the call every professional baseball player dreams of. He got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mussina is now the first District 4 athlete in any sport to make a major professional sports Hall of Fame.

"I hadn't even thought of it," Mussina said during a conference call on Tuesday night. "That's cool stuff to be from small town America, Pennsylvania and be able to even play professional baseball and make it to the Major Leagues.

"When you start doing this for a living you don't ever expect to ever be on a phone call like this to be in the Hall of Fame. I am just honored, blessed and thankful that a kid from the country got a chance to go out and play a game and accomplish something like this."

Mussina has seen his percentages rise each year that he's been on the Hall of Fame ballot, and he made in his sixth year on the ballot eclipsing the 75% necessary to make the Hall.

While he had seen the numbers rise, he wasn't sure he was going to have a chance to make it this year.

"I am obviously honored," he said. "Surprised a little bit. I want to thank everybody for their support. This is my sixth year and it's been a steady climb and I appreciate everyone staying with me and doing the research.

"At the beginning, the first year, I'm just thankful to the 20% of the writers who felt I deserved to be given a vote. If you watch this thing often enough there are a lot of very good players who don't make it past the first time on the ballot. I was okay with 20% the first year, I didn't think much about it because I was like, 'wow, I get to be on the ballot again.' I went up 4-5% the next year and felt pretty good and then the next year I got a pretty good jump and I was like 'wow.' I was 63% last year and jumping another 12% again is asking a lot to get over the threshold. I was hoping to jump again, but I wasn't expecting to jump from 63 to over 75. I'm honored, proud and all those things. It's been crazy the last couple of hours, but it's pretty cool."

While he was in his career with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, the pitcher didn't think much about things like legacy and Hall of Fame.

"While it's happening you don't think about what you have accomplished because you think about going out and having another good season the next year," Mussina said. "When it's over you get a chance to think back if you did some good things. You get to compare how guys are doing now to how it was 10-15 years ago. The game has changed, it always is going to change. My kids are older now, I think they wish they had been a little older when I was playing to enjoy it more.

"I had a great career. I think I got out at the right time for me, and my family, and I'm just glad people think I did enough to get elected to Cooperstown."

There was a time when the threshold for Hall of Fame pitchers seemed to be 300 wins. Mussina finished his career with 270 wins. He's not sure if that means things are changing with Hall pitchers, but he's happy that he did enough to get in.

"I think the game is obviously changing, it's always evolving," Mussina said. "It's going to be tremendously challenging for anyone to get to 300 again. I don't know if this is the norm (Getting in with under 300 wins). I don't know if it changes how writers feel about pitchers. I am honored that what I was able to do was enough to get their votes."

This magical ride for Mussina started in Montoursville and will end in Cooperstown. In between there was his time in Stanford, and then a rise through the minor leagues before pitching with the Orioles and Yankees.

"To go to Stanford University and pitch in that conference, for that school and all the experience college provided for you was the right thing for me at the time. An 18-year-old kid leaving small town America on the East Coast and going to the West Coast to figure out what I could do. Could I really pitch? I would make the same decision again if it was offered to me. It was a great time. I still talk to those guys out there and it's been 30 years."

Mussina pitched 10 seasons for the Orioles and eight for the Yankees. He had success with both teams, and knows he wouldn't be in Cooperstown without both stops.

The questions are already there on if he'll go in as a Yankee, an Oriole or with no logo on his cap, but he isn't thinking about that yet.

"I think this is January and we have a little time to figure out what the best plan is," Mussina said. "I know a few guys have gone in without anything on their hate. Both organizations were important to my career. I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if it wasn't for Baltimore and New York."

Mussina is like a lot of former athletes. He played sports, returned to Montoursville and now he's involved with his kids sports, coaching the Montoursville varsity boys' basketball team.

However, most former athletes never have days like Mussina had on Tuesday.

Before Tuesday District 4 athletes dreamed of playing pro sports, they dreamed of making it to the Major Leagues.

Now, that dream is bigger. Now there is proof that the dream can one day end with the phone call saying they made the Hall of Fame.


About the Author

Brian Fees Author Bio
Brian Fees

Brian Fees is the sports editor of the Daily & Sunday Review in Towanda, PA.