It will be an intriguing weekend around Oriole Park. Not only are the Orioles fighting for their first playoff berth in 15 years, but the team will be honoring Mike Mussina.On Saturday, Mussina and Rich Dauer will be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. Dauer was a classy second baseman, who played his entire career with the Orioles and was a member of the 1983 World Series champions.Mussina had a remarkable Orioles career, but left after 10 seasons for New York. He had eight outstanding seasons with the Yankees.There are many ways to describe Mussina. Brilliant, outspoken, thoughtful, condescending, polarizing and elitist all come to mind.He sped through Stanford, graduating in three years. Drafted in 1990, he was in the big leagues to stay in Aug. 1991, and what a time it was.Mussina won 147 games with the Orioles, behind only Jim Palmer and Dave McNally. His .645 winning percentage was even better than Palmers. After he won his 20th game for the Yankees in 2008, Mussina retreated to his haven, Montoursville, Pa., where hes spent his whole life. Hes hardly been heard from since.When I learned that Mussina had been elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame, I wondered how hed accept the news. On a conference call following the announcement, he was gracious and humble. That was a surprise.Mussina played on some excellent Orioles teams, the ones that won in 1996 and 1997, and some earlier ones that did well, too. He also played on some poor teams, and after the 2000 season with the team in a clear rebuilding mode, Mussina accepted a better offer from the Yankees.He was overshadowed by Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson during the good times, and his smartest guy in the room attitude was just fine when the team won.In Mussinas final years, he had some sour teammates: Albert Belle, Delino DeShields, Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson. When the team made massive changes at the trading deadline in 2000, it was time for him to go.Some thought he was comfortable with the Orioles, so comfortable that he wouldnt leave. In New York, he didnt have to be a lightning rod, a polarizing figure. He had many teammates who were of more interest to the media. Mussina could concentrate on pitching.He did well for the Yankees, pitching in two World Series, but never winning it. Mussina missed being a World Series winners by a year. The Yankees won it in 2000, the year before he came and in 2009, just after he retired.Mussina didnt have second thoughts about retiring. He squeezed all he could out of his talent. After winning 19 games twice and 18 three times, he was resigned to never winning 20. When asked why he thought hed never win 20, he answered: Just because.Mussina had decided to retire, and won his 20th in the final game of the 2008 season, the year the Yankees didnt make the postseason. With 270 wins, Mussina was asked why he hadnt tried for 300.He didnt want to end his career with mediocre seasons, he said. Didnt want to have seasons with records of 10-14 or 9-12. He was too proud.Sixteen months from now, voters will decide if Mussina belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His statistic lines are similar to those of Palmer and Juan Marichal. Orioles fans should remember the good times, the nearly perfect game, the 15 innings of 25 strikeouts and just four hits against Cleveland in n1997 and his dependability.Rarely hurt, Mussina had six straight seasons of at least 200 innings with the Orioles.Some fans will remember his warming up in the bullpen in the latter stages of the 1993 All-Star Game. AL manager Cito Gaston was booed for not pitching him at home, but that was prearranged, Gaston insisted. For years, Gaston harbored resentment toward Mussina. Not a warm or gregarious person, Mussina wasnt antagonistic, but when he thought a question was a bad one, hed glare and belittle the reporter. In good times, and there were many, he could give a clinic on pitching.
Hell talk about the good times this weekend, about Cal and Brady and Hoiles. That was when the ballpark was packed every night and the Orioles won.The crowd should cheer Mussina, and Im betting that his speech at Fridays Hall of Fame luncheon will be a warm one. The good times are back now for the Orioles, and so is Mussina.