Why Is Baltimore Rookie Adley Rutschman Wearing Hall-of-Fame Oriole Mike Mussina’s Number?

The answer involving Mussina, who pitched for the New York Yankees after a decade with the O's, might surprise you

Adley Rutschman of the Orioles runs the bases against the Rays. Why is he wearing Hall of Famer Mike Mussina's number? We look into the matter.
Adley Rutschman of the Orioles runs the bases against the Rays...in Mike Mussina's number.
G Fiume/Getty

Well below .500 and unable to qualify for the playoffs for the past five seasons, as well as sitting in last place a quarter of the way into this year, the Baltimore Orioles don’t have a lot to hang their hats on. But at least they’ve got spite and rookie catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Called up to the big leagues last week from Triple-A Norfolk, Rutschman made his major league debut Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. Rutschman, who batted sixth and had a stand-up triple in the seventh inning for his first major league hit, wore No. 35, the same number Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Mussina wore when he toed the rubber for the Orioles for a decade.

If it seems odd that the O’s would hand out a Hall of Famer’s number to an unproven rookie, that’s because it is.

In fact, Paul Hembekides of ESPN dug into the matter and uncovered that Mussina is the only Hall of Famer who was voted into Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who does not have his number retired by his first organization after spending at least his first 10 seasons with that team.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, Mussina elected to go into Cooperstown without a logo on his cap as his 18-year career was split nearly evenly between the Orioles (10 years) and New York Yankees (eight years). “Both the Yankees and the Orioles were instrumental in my reaching Cooperstown,” Mussina said of his decision. “I am proud to have played for these great organizations, in front of the tremendous fans in Baltimore and New York, and I am honored to have the opportunity to represent them both in the Hall of Fame.”

The Orioles, who saw Mussina go 147-81 and make five American League All-Star teams during his decade in Baltimore, may still be salty about him joining the Yankees as a free agent in 2001 for an $88.5 million offer and going on to amass a 123-72 record in New York before finishing his career in 2008.

Maybe Baltimore will end up retiring No. 35 someday, but it’ll be for Rutschman or someone else — not Mussina. A borderline Cooperstown candidate who was lucky to get voted in, Mussina really has nothing to complain about.

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