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Upon announcement of his election to the Orioles Hall of Fame today, Mike Mussina said he could understand that the Baltimore fans were frustrated with his decision to sign with the Yankees as a free agent before the 2001 season.
"Looking back, I can understand people being upset, frustrated and bitter. Especially when you leave Baltimore and go to a rival city in the same division. I can understand that. It was a decision that I made at the time and it probably worked out for me," Mussina said.
"But the first 10 years in Baltimore can't be replaced and nothing was more fun or exciting or enjoyable for me than being the last couple of players to get to play in Memorial Stadium and then move into a brand-new park. It was such a thrill to go and have a full house every day and to be in contention for a long stretch of time and to put us in the playoffs for the first time in a long time.
"There are so many things that were exciting and memorable and that I'm going to never forget. The Orioles were the ones that gave me the chance to experience that. If people are upset that I made a change, they are allowed to be upset. People take this stuff really personally sometimes, but honestly, the first ten years in the major leagues were a great ten years. I thoroughly enjoyed it."
Mussina was asked if he considered himself an Oriole or a Yankee.
"My career was almost split evenly with Baltimore and New York. I consider myself both. To start in one place and have one organization give you a chance, to show what you think you can do, then leave and go someplace and have another organization treat you like you've been there your whole career. You have to give both sides a lot of credit. I can't say that I'm one or the other, I have to say that I'm both," Mussina said.
"This is a tremendous honor. To be considered with the players that have played in Baltimore and wore the O's uniform, with the things that have been accomplished there, it's a tremendous honor. To be put in the same sentence with Cal (Ripken) and (Jim) Palmer and guys of that caliber is a tremendous honor and I am very thankful for it."
Mussina was elected to the O's Hall of Fame along with former Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer who will be enshrined as a selection of the Veteran's Committee, and longtime Orioles scout Walter Youse, who will be inducted posthumously as this year's Herb Armstrong Award winner.
Mussina spent 10 of his 18 big league seasons with the Orioles, going 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA. He ranks among the club's all-time leaders in wins (third), strikeouts (second), starts (fifth), innings (sixth), shutouts (eighth) and complete games (10th). Mussina led the Orioles in ERA eight times and in victories and innings pitched six times each in his 10 seasons with the club.
Mussina actually posted better pitching stats with the Orioles than the Yankees despite playing on five losing teams in Baltimore and six first-place clubs in New York. His ERA (3.53 to 3.88), win percentage (.645 to .631) and WHIP (1.18 to 1.21) were all better with Baltimore.
Does Mussina still keep track of the Birds?
"Of course, I pay attention once in a while and try to figure out where everybody is. Not as much as I did as a player, obviously," he said.
Dauer, now a third base coach with the Rockies, played 10 seasons with the Orioles from 1976 to 1985. He was on the 1979 Orioles team that lost the World Series to the Pirates, but also the 1983 Birds who beat the Phillies in five games in the Series.
"It was my first trip to the World Series and I don't think there was a lot of disappointment (in '79). I was happy and I think we were happy that we just got to the World Series. When we took a 3-1 lead with Flanny (Mike Flanagan), (Scott) McGregor and Palmer, it was almost as if we had won the World Series and then things didn't turn out right," Dauer said.
"The return to the World Series was something completely different. We were totally focused on one thing and we had to win it. After losing Game 1 and Al Holland giving us, I guess, the juice we needed to go by because he started shaking his finger at us (as if to say), 'That was one' - the whole clubhouse went nuts and we started screaming, 'We've got to take those guys.' "
Dauer continues to follow the Orioles and spoke of joining the club's Hall of Fame.
"It might have been a long time, but I've pretty much kept up with the Orioles on a daily basis. I believe because I played for the Orioles, it has allowed me to continue my career. I hope that I've become the kind of guy that they would have been proud of in my other organizations," Dauer said.
"The list of people that are on that board is just amazing. To be a part of that, especially a lot of my teammates. That is just really special to me."
Mussina, Dauer and Youse will be honored at a luncheon sponsored by the Oriole Advocates, founders of the Orioles Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 24. Tickets for the luncheon are available by calling 410-247-2703. Tickets for the induction ceremony and the Orioles-Blue Jays game on Saturday, Aug. 25 are available at www.orioles.com or by calling 1-888-848-BIRD.