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At Hall of Fame tour, former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina still soaking in 'surprise' election

Two months after he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Mike Mussina still had a hard time believing his good fortune.

“Gratifying is a good word,” Mussina said Thursday after touring baseball's shrine to prepare for his July induction. “I'm an example of someone that didn't win a ton of individual awards, I never won a World Series, and I never won 20 games in one season as a starter until the very last season.

“There's a lot of players out there who are going to play their careers similar to mine, so it's an example of the fact that you don't have to win five Cy Young Awards and strike out 4,000 people as a pitcher to be able to be thought of as one of the best that ever played.”

Mussina, who was born in Williamsport, Pa., split his career between the Orioles and New York Yankees and finished his career with a 270-153 record.

“I did a lot of almost stuff, but now I get to say that I went to the Hall of Fame instead of almost going to the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Winning 19 games a couple years and being runner-up in the Cy Young and being in the World Series and not winning the World Series, I wish those things turned out differently. Those things didn't happen, but things turned out OK.”

Also elected in January were pitchers Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera and designated hitter Edgar Martinez. Lee Smith and Harold Baines were elected in December by a veterans committee.

The 50-year-old Mussina received 76.7 percent of the vote in his sixth year on the ballot, just above the 75 percent threshold.

“I haven't really figured it all out yet. To be honest, the whole thing was a surprise this year,” Mussina said. “When they called me at the end of basketball practice, I was still in the gym. The phone rang and it said `New York' on my phone. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is it.’ It was just surprising to me. I wasn't really mentally ready for it, so it's been a little chaotic and crazy.

“It's exciting and I'm really looking forward to it, coming back in July and being a part of it.”

Mussina, a right-hander, pitched for 18 major league seasons, the first 10 spent with the Orioles. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, he won at least 10 games 17 times. His 2,813 strikeouts ranked 19th on the all-time list when he retired and he became the oldest first-time 20-game winner when he reached the milestone at age 39 in 2008, his final season in the majors.

“I played in an era when there was a lot of good pitchers, and I pitched against a lot of guys that have plaques that are already here, and I probably pitched against guys who are going to have a chance to be here,” said Mussina, who was accompanied by his wife, Jana. “I'm fortunate that I played in that era, that I played with guys that have achieved a lot in this game. I'm just proud and honored to be considered one of them.”

Asked about his induction speech, Mussina smiled and said: “It's going. It hasn't gone very far. I've got four months. I might be a college guy and study late or cram for it. I'm not allowed to wing it, I will tell you that. I can't show up and just talk. They won't let me do that.

“I don't know really how it's going to go, how I'm going to be, how I'm going to feel. Am I going to laugh the whole time? Am I going to cry? I just don't know.

“We'll see.”

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