Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Man After My Own Heart

Three of my favorite life activities are: watching the New York Yankees, doing the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, and eating candy and/or ice cream. While my irrational heart may favor baseball beauties like Robbie Cano and Grady Sizemore, my logical brain dearly loves Mike Mussina.

Born in Williamsport, PA in 1968, Mussina missed being his high school's valedictorian by a few decimal points. (It's been suggested that he intentionally underperformed in one class so as to avoid having to give a commencement speech.) After his graduation in 1987, the Baltimore Orioles offered Mussina a $300,000.00 signing bonus. Instead, he chose to attend Stanford University, where he finished an undergraduate degree in economics in just three years.

You know that my dad's an economist, right?

After eight years with the Orioles, Mussina joined the Yankees in 2000. In 2008, he became the oldest pitcher to win 20 games in one season. I listened to his 20th win against the Red Sox live on the radio...IT WAS SO EMOTIONAL! At that point, despite a stirring late-season rally, the Yankees had already been shut out of the playoffs and had no real reason to exert themselves (because, fine, sometimes they just don't try that hard. I can acknowledge that. They are lazy). BUT THEY WON THE GAME JUST FOR MOOSE. I almost cried.

Deciding to go out on the top of his game, Mussina promptly retired. I almost cried then, too.

Goodnight, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

And so, in 2008, Mussina was playing for his legacy. He was also playing for ice cream. Here's the abbreviated scoop from the New York Times Bats blog:

The Yankees went on a health kick when Joe Girardi was named manager, prohibiting ice cream from the players’ lounge. Now the ice cream has returned, because the loudest critic of the policy, Mike Mussina, has reached 10 victories. It happened much quicker this season than last.

“It took me till September last year,” Mussina said. “They must have thought this was a lock-solid bet.”

He also created a special candy bar to help children. Apparently, it tastes good! I'm not sure if it's still being manufactured, but if it is, I WANT TO EAT IT.

Okay, enough with the sweets. I mostly love Mike Mussina for his strong intellectual ability. Moose's affinity for the New York Times crossword has been highly documented, including in the 2006 film "Wordplay." Someone also wrote a humor article about it. Washed-up pitcher, my ass! We'll talk about that when he (possibly) gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Here's Mike Mussina talking about Stanford and drinking and crosswords (later he talks about ketchup and hot dogs and hamburgers and the recession):

Q: You finished your degree in 3 1/2 years. Did you not drink a single beer in college?
Um... how do I answer that? Yes I did, "drink a single beer."
Which crossword is most challenging?
Sunday Times [the incredulous look returns]. Sunday New York Times.
Are you much for Sudoku?
No. 'Cause it only has to be 1-9. Your options are limited. There's 40,000 words or more in the English language. Sudoku's 1-9.
I don't know half of 'em.
One-through-nine or half the words in the English language [laughs]?

What's another word for, "I'm too smart for this?"

I was recently told that the Sunday puzzle isn't the hardest one in the Times (I almost cried THEN, too), but I don't care. Mike Mussina is awesome. See you at the Old Timer's game!

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