Orioles Top Ten All-Star Moments #7: Mike Mussina Gets Snubbed

Mike Mussina was an All-Star five times in his career, all with the Orioles, but he'll always be remembered for the appearance he didn't make. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

First let me say that you should probably not pay much mind to these rankings. I did my best with them, but I chose this event to be #7 so that it could post on the same day as Bluebird Banter's article on the same subject.

The All-Star game in 1993 was held, as most of you I'm sure know, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was only the second year that Camden Yards was open, so everything was still shiny and new and people couldn't stop going on about how beautiful it was. Two Orioles made it that year; Cal Ripken was the starting shortstop, and twenty-four year old Mike Mussina was making his second consecutive all-star appearance in his third season in the majors. Left off the roster was the Orioles closer Gregg Olson, who was in the midst of an absolutely filthy season. 

Managing for the AL All-Stars that year was Cito Gaston of the reigning world champion Toronto Blue Jays. Three Blue Jays had been voted into the game that year: Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar and John Olerud. Gaston supplemented the roster with four more: Devon White, Pat Hentgen, Paul Molitor, and Duane Ward.

The National League jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning, but from then on it was all American League offense. The AL scored nine times in the first seven innings and took a healthy six-run lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Gaston had worked through his list of pitchers, using Mark Langston, Randy Johnson, Jack McDowell, Jimmy Key, Jeff Mongomery, and Rick Aguilera.

Options for the ninth inning were Mussina, the home town ace, and two Blue Jays: Duane Ward and Pat Hentgen. Gaston opted not to use Mussina, and when Mike found out, he got up and began throwing in the bullpen. This got the hometown crowd riled up, which of course was exactly what Mussina wanted. He'd say later that he was simply getting his throwing in because that was his schedule, but Mussina was playing the crowd.

When Gaston opted to bring in his closer, Ward, instead of Mussina, the crowd went nuts. They chanted "We want Mike!" But Mussina wouldn't enter the game. This spawned a hatred of Cito Gaston that lasts until this day. You couldn't go anywhere around the Baltimore area without seeing a shirt that looked kinda like this. The most popular of these shirts said "Cito Sucks" on the front and "Kill the Blow Jays" on the back. 

Much has been made of this incident, and while it's true that Mussina was in all likelihood trying to rile up the crowd as a way to get back at Gaston for not using him, the simple fact is that there is no reason why Mussina shouldn't have been used in the first place. The All-Star Game is an exhibition and a celebration of the game (especially back then when there were no postseason implications), and there would have been no better way to celebrate in Baltimore than for Mike Mussina to close out a win at Camden Yards. There's nothing wrong with saving a few pitchers in case the game goes into extra innings, but by the time Gaston needed to make a decision on the ninth inning the game was in hand. He chose Duane Ward because he wanted to play his own player, and while that decision is understandable on a personal level, the All-Star Game is bigger than Cito Gaston. He knew that, he ignored it, and he deserved the ire that was piled upon him.

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