Memories of Mike Mussina as MASN airs more Orioles moments

The classic coverage yesterday on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network included Game 1 of the 1997 American League Division Series between the Orioles and Mariners. A wire-to-wire team staying on its roll, and in unfriendly territory.

Delmon Young's three-run double in the 2014 Division Series created the loudest moment at Camden Yards, but the '97 playoff game at the Kingdome, with 59,579 fans cranking up the volume, nearly burst my eardrums. The ringing noise didn't subside until pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

These were the days of landline phones in the press box. I remember filing an early sidebar, dialing the copy desk at The Baltimore Sun and screaming, "My story's in!" I hung up without waiting for a response that I wouldn't have been able to hear.

Game 1 also sticks in my mind because Mike Mussina outdueled Randy Johnson, holding the Mariners to two runs over seven innings with no walks and nine strikeouts in a 9-3 win. Johnson allowed five runs and seven hits with four walks in five innings.

Geronimo Berroa homered off Johnson in the fifth and Chris Hoiles connected off future Orioles closer Mike Timlin in the sixth.

Álex Rodríguez homered off Armando Benítez in the ninth, but the right-hander would save his worst for the AL Championship Series.

Manager Davey Johnson broke out one of his creative lineups, starting Jeff Reboulet at second base instead of Roberto Alomar and Jerome Walton at first base instead of Rafael Palmeiro. B.J. Surhoff pinch-hit later in the game and replaced Jeffrey Hammonds in left field.

mussina-sidebar.jpgMussina bested Randy Johnson again in the decisive Game 4 at Camden Yards, allowing only one run in seven innings. Johnson struck out 13 batters in eight innings, but was charged with three runs. Reboulet and Berroa homered.

The ALDS impacted me because it brought me closer to Mussina, who had a tight inner circle that was challenging to crack. And that's especially true of someone new to the beat.

We bonded after Game 1 while arriving back at the hotel at the exact same time. We rode the elevator together and I complimented him on the outing.

And in another coincidence, we stood outside the hotel the following day waiting for rides to the ballpark. Mussina's cab arrived first, he invited me to join him and we talked about raising kids and other non-baseball topics.

The driver dropped us off at the players' entrance and I pretended that I didn't need to find the media gate.

Relationships between players and reporters evolve in different ways. With Mussina, it began to develop in a Seattle elevator and cab.

With Brady Anderson, it was strengthened by his advice to me after I showed up in the clubhouse one day with my hair cut much shorter.

"Dude," he said, "you need to put some gel in that moss."

With David Segui, it was probably my gym membership.

With Kris Benson, it was his charitable work with ex-wife Anna Benson that included their "Presents for Patients" initiative at St. Barnabas Hospital in Pennsylvania, where my uncle Joseph Palombo resided.

The Bensons became especially close to Joe, who had cerebral palsy, and gave him a Pirates jersey with his name stitched across the back. A photo ran in the local newspaper.

They sent flowers and a beautiful card to the funeral home in Ford City after he passed away. I always wanted to thank Kris in person and finally got the chance in spring training after the Orioles traded for him in January 2006.

Mike Bordick already was easy to get along with, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet in baseball. It didn't take a lot of effort. But we had something else in common besides the Orioles.

His grandmother lived in the same small town in western Pennsylvania, Ford City, as both sets of my grandparents. It's also where my parents grew up. My father was an offensive lineman on the high school football team.

My grandmother on my mom's side of the family would speak with Bordick's grandmother, who lived "up on the hill," and she'd worry that he wasn't eating or taking good care of himself. So I'd walk over to Bordick's locker and suggest that he call and ease her concerns.

If I just had a little more time with Carlos Méndez ...

* Chris Davis' charitable reach keeps expanding.

Davis is counted among more than 50 players in the majors participating in a league-wide initiative that's raised nearly $1 million and provided more than four million meals to support childhood hunger prevention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a release issued by Major League Baseball, players collected donations as part of the "Home Plate Project," a partnership between the league, country music artist Garth Brooks' "Teammates for Kids Foundation" and "Big League Impact," founded by Adam Wainwright and now led by the Cardinals pitcher and Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson.

Each team is represented by at least one player ambassador. Here's the list:

ARI: Luke Weaver
ATL: Mark Melancon
BAL: Chris Davis
BOS: Nate Eovaldi, Mitch Moreland
CHC: Daniel Descalso, Steven Souza Jr.
CWS: Steve Cishek
CIN: Sonny Gray, Michael Lorenzen
CLE: Brad Hand, Shane Bieber, Nick Wittgren, Jake Bauers
COL: Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story
DET: Matthew Boyd, Ron Gardenhire
HOU: Justin Verlander
KC: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal
LAA: Albert Pujols, Jason Castro
LAD: Clayton Kershaw
MIA: Corey Dickerson, Sean Rodriguez
MIL: Brent Suter
MIN: Marwin González
NYM: Steven Matz, Michael Wacha
NYY: DJ LeMahieu, Brett Gardner
OAK: Stephen Piscotty
PHI: Aaron Nola, Neil Walker
PIT: Trevor Williams
SD: Brian Dozier, Tommy Pham
SEA: Marco Gonzales
SF: Hunter Pence
STL: Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Wainwright
TB: Charlie Morton, Joey Wendle
TEX: Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos
TOR: Chase Anderson, Randal Grichuk
WSH: Yan Gomes

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