"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Last Call

This is one of Edward Hopper’s last paintings.  He said it was “about me.”  Space, light, composition, isolation.  You never see Hopper’s people smile much.  And smiles were hard to come by with Mike Mussina too, although he’s got a dry wit and could be cutting and sly with reporters. 

Something about Moose always reminds me of Hopper’s world–private, self-contained.

My brother liked him first.  Back when Moose was pitching for Baltimore.  Then again my brother has always been drawn to pitchers, particularly guys as cerebral, fastidious and determined as Moose.  Reports tonight have it that Mussina is going to retire.  An official announcement will likely be made by the end of the week. 

This comes as no surprise.  Still, it’s rare to see an athlete walk away from the game on his own terms and there is something deeply satisfying about Moose splitting with 270 wins.  It’s neat and controlled like Mussina himself. 

Moose finally won twenty games this past year, an achievement that had eluded him during his fine career.  It wasn’t his best overall season (though it was probably in the top five) but it was impressive.  He pitched beautifully and had just the right amount of good fortune.  In fact, it was all the more admirable because he pitched so well at an advanced age after it appeared that he was all but warshed up.

270 wins.  No Cy Young awards.  No World Serious hardware, but a great winning percentage and some fine playoff performances.  Durable, reliable, stubborn.  A winner.

Is he a Hall of Famer?  (Tyler Kepner addressed the matter a few days ago in the Times.) I’d say yes.  Joe Posnanski had two posts about Moose’s Hall of Fame candidacy earlier this week:  one and two.  Check em out.

Thanks for the great memories Moose.  We’ll miss ya, but are proud to see you calling one last shot.

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1 Bum Rush   ~  Nov 19, 2008 9:20 pm

The Kepner piece is a good one in bringing out quotes he had obviously stashed away for this occasion. I didn't think Moose had a chance at the Hof before the season. Now I think he's a lock. Writers are writers for a reason. And walking away when you're still performing well, especially after reinventing yourself, is a romantic story they can get behind. He won't be a first ballot, but after all the similarities have hashed themselves out (Palmer, Marichal) and the fact that he spent his whole career in the AL East, he'll make it in after a few years. The final story is a nice bookend and I love how you've put it above: "It’s neat and controlled like Mussina himself."

2 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 19, 2008 9:22 pm

I like how he liked "The Bad News Bears" so much. He even made a Chico's Bail Bonds comment a few years ago, and even rocked a BNBears t-shirt too. Gotta love that.

3 Mattpat11   ~  Nov 19, 2008 9:36 pm

Can't wait to see him at Old Timers Day

4 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 19, 2008 9:42 pm

I'm kinda sad.
I'm really gonna miss Moose.
He really did add an intelligence and dignity to the team.
2008 was indeed a great year for the Moose, but especially after 2007.
Remember when he was all but DFA'ed by many of us?
Do ya feel bad now?
Nice when the story has a happy ending
Moose was a class act.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 19, 2008 9:51 pm

I too have been a Mussina fan since his Baltimore days (saw him just miss a no-hitter against the Tigers at Camden Yards in '98).

I was thrilled when the Yankees signed him, and rewarded by his Cy Young-worthy 2001 campaign. As his skills faded, my fandom shifted to his dry wit and thoughtful, intelligent, introspective, and gleefully curmudgeonly interviews. I've always loved the idea of going out on top (see Michael Strahan for another great recent example), and though it saddens me both as a Yankee fan and a baseball fan to see him go, I admire him all the more for doing it. The decision suits him perfectly.

Speaking of which, Alex, the Hopper comp is brilliant. I also really dig Hopper's stuff and seeing you draw the comparison was a total head-slap moment. Of course!

6 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 19, 2008 10:23 pm

Dude, Cliff, tell the gang about the one and only time you were at Fenway Park!

7 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 19, 2008 10:58 pm

[4] Somebody needs to put your comments to music sometimes, my friend.

Mussina was the kinda guy I hated to see pitch against us earlier in his career; especially when I was in DC and the Orioles were the only game in town (well, do the Nats count yet?) that I could tolerate (I hated the DC football team) But secretly, I wanted him to pitch for the Yanks, and counted the days to when he actually could. I think he would have been first ballot HoF and a legend if the Yanks won in 01. Still, I was one who stated and agreed that his time was up in 2007 and again this past season, but I don't feel that bad. He gave as best as he had, better than I gave him credit for, and that he's leaving on his own terms is better than anything I can say about him, so... again, thanks for everything, Moose and don't be a stranger. >;)

8 thelarmis   ~  Nov 20, 2008 12:48 am

[4] "Somebody needs to put your comments to music sometimes, my friend."

[7] what does it pay?! ; )

9 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 20, 2008 3:15 am

Oh yeah, the only game I've ever seen in person at Fenway Park was Mussina's near perfect game. The one that was broken up by Carl Everett.

So, I saw Moose pitch outside of Yankee Stadium twice, and both times he took a perfect game into the eighth inning.

10 Raf   ~  Nov 20, 2008 10:48 am

That pitch was high and outside, and Everett still managed to get a piece of it...

I was in the Brockport (NY) area at the time, watching the game unfold. I loved the pacing and rhythm of the game, especially since Mussina was matching up with Cone, two pitchers I really enjoyed watching.

Also, the rivalry was at it's hottest.

11 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 20, 2008 10:58 am

My favorite Moose memory is when he wagged his finger at Torre and told him to go back to the dugout - because it was a rare outward expression of his inner fire.

For all the ink spilled over Game 7 of the '03 ALCS, let us not forget that when Clemens was done, it was Moose who came out of the bullpen for the first time in his career to hold the Sox scoreless for 3 innings and set up all the fun that followed.

And though the first thing everyone mentions about Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS is Jeter's shovel pass, it was Moose who brilliantly out-pitched Zito to save the Yanks' season.

Gosh I'm going to miss him.

12 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 1:06 pm

[5] Maybe 'Old Friends' by Simon and Garfunkel?

[11] The 'finger wag' was an absolutely stellar moment. And while Moose was deadly serious, Torre, while obeying, got a laugh out of it.

I was watching the near perfecto on TV. My first reaction was why give Everett anything to hit on an 0-2 count, but as you just said, it wasn't exactly a phat pitch. After the ball dropped in, the camera showed Moose's face, and his expression was one of distain, but not really surprise. It was almost like a fatalistic 'well that figures' kind of face. I myself was almost in tears and looking for something to punch.

13 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 1:13 pm

By the by, the rumor mill has us hot on Cameron. Not my favorite choice, but any one year deal can't be too bad. My questions are:
1) Considering Gardners speed, he might be as good, and maybe better then Cameron on D?
2) And how much, in terms of games Won, is Cameron's offense over Brett? While I know he will hit and slug better, while Gardner didn't get on base much, it seems to almost always produce a RS or RBI. It might also mean with AJax maybe ready in 2010 that Gardner never really gets a chance to play?

As Ichiro, and before him, Matty Alou showed, slap hitters with great speed can be very productive.

14 rbj   ~  Nov 20, 2008 2:52 pm

[9] And it was the bottom of the ninth, two outs and 2 Ks on Everett. Even though he couldn't have gotten to it, I wish Knobloch had dived for the ball.

So long Moose, and thanks for all the Ws.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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