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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Don Mossi | 1954 Cleveland Indians Relief Star Dies At 90

Don Mossi, one of the last living members of the Cleveland Indians 1954 American League Championship team, died July 19, 2019 in Nampa, Idaho as per his daughter Linda Mossi Tubbs. He was 90.

Mossi signed with the Indians in 1949 from Jefferson High School in Daly City, California. They immediately placed him with their Class C team in Bakersfield, keeping the California native within the confines of his home state to develop his talent. The move paid off, as Mossi worked his way to the big league club five years later, right in time for a pennant run.

The left-hander joined the Indians in 1954, integrating himself into a dominant pitching staff that included Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Hal Newhouser. Mossi partnered with Ray Narleski to form a relief combo that sealed many of the Indians 104 victories.

“You’ll never have a staff like that ever put together again,” Narleski said in a phone interview from his New Jersey home in 2008. “You had four 20-game-winners. Then you had Art Houtteman and Hal Newhouser; that’s six of ‘em. Then you had Mossi, myself, Hoskins, and Hooper.”

RIP.

 

QLE Posted: July 23, 2019 at 04:11 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: don mossi, indians, obituaries, rip

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   1. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5864162)
Search gave me a SABR bio and this section grabbed my attention: By this time Mossi had appeared on enough bubble-gum cards to have caught the attention of millions of young fans, who marveled at his unusual visage. He did not have the classic country-boy good looks of a Mickey Mantle or the dark, handsome face of a Sandy Koufax. Don was, well, different. He had a long, slightly crooked nose, his eyes were close together, and his ears stuck out to the edges of the cardboard. Indeed, some of his teammates called him Ears. Others nicknamed him The Sphinx. Later, when these young fans grew up, they were less diplomatic. One said he looked like “Mount Rushmore on a rainy day.” Bill James wrote that Don was the “complete ugly player. He could run ugly, hit ugly, throw ugly, field ugly, and ugly for power. He was ugly to all fields.”

I could see this on Twitter blowing up into a thing if anyone posted on a current player
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:45 AM (#5864164)
Bill James wrote that Don was the “complete ugly player. He could run ugly, hit ugly, throw ugly, field ugly, and ugly for power. He was ugly to all fields.”
I have remembered this sentence since the first time I read it, and it was the first thing I thought of when I was the headline.

Which makes me feel a little bit bad, considering the circumstances.
   3. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:02 PM (#5864171)
Yeah, my knowledge of Mossi was pretty much limited to that comment from James. Sad given today's circumstances but really, genuinely funny.
   4. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:13 PM (#5864180)
R-I-P to the man without an alibi.
   5. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5864194)
“You’ll never have a staff like that ever put together again,”


Mike Garcia led the AL in ERA in 1954, at 2.64. The Indians team ERA was 2.78.
   6. Davo Posted: July 23, 2019 at 01:02 PM (#5864208)
   7. DanG Posted: July 23, 2019 at 01:13 PM (#5864210)
Pitchers similar to Don Mossi. Within 1.5 WAR, 5 ERA+, and 250 IP. SP in at least 10% of GP.

Player             WAR ERA+   IP    W    L From   To
Bob Stanley       23.9  118 1707.0 115  97 1977 1989
Orlando Hernandez 23.1  110 1314.2  90  65 1998 2007
Larry Jansen      23.1  112 1765.2 122  89 1947 1956
Frank Sullivan    23.0  116 1732.0  97 100 1953 1963
'Don Mossi        22.6  115 1548.0 101  80 1954 1965'
Jeff Tesreau      22.6  115 1679.0 119  72 1912 1918
Johnny Morrison   21.6  113 1535.0 103  80 1920 1930
Hiroki Kuroda     21.4  115 1319.0  79  79 2008 2014
Al Brazle         21.4  120 1377.0  97  64 1943 1954
Dave Righetti     21.3  114 1403.2  82  79 1979 1995 
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 01:15 PM (#5864211)
Mossi got to pitch in the big leagues for 12 years, made an All-Star team and pitched in the World Series. As far as I can tell from a bit of Googling, he was married for 46 years before his wife died in 1995. They had two daughters and a son. Mossi lived to be 90. I think I would pretty gladly take all of that even if it came with being remembered for being physically unattractive.
   9. Rally Posted: July 23, 2019 at 01:27 PM (#5864215)
I have remembered this sentence since the first time I read it, and it was the first thing I thought of when I was the headline.

Which makes me feel a little bit bad, considering the circumstances.


I had the same reaction. Sure, it was cruel, but without that Bill James line I don't think I would have any idea who Mossi was. He pitched well before my time. I'm actually surprised he was still alive as of a few days ago.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 23, 2019 at 01:54 PM (#5864223)
I had the exact same reaction.
   11. phredbird Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:06 PM (#5864235)

ditto, i thought he had been dead for years.

on a similar note, i was surprised to learn from an article in the new yorker that francoise gilot is still alive, age 97. she was one of picasso's partners, the mother of two of his children, claude and paloma.

   12. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:52 PM (#5864253)
   13. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 23, 2019 at 04:22 PM (#5864287)
“You’ll never have a staff like that ever put together again,”

Mike Garcia led the AL in ERA in 1954, at 2.64. The Indians team ERA was 2.78.

Mostly compiled against AAAA teams. Against the only teams the Indians played that year with a winning percentage over .448, the Indians went 22-26. Most overrated team ever.

But facial features aside, Mossi was a very good pitcher, with a 115 ERA+ over a 12 year career that began and ended as a reliever, with 6 seasons in the middle as a starter.
   14. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 24, 2019 at 01:06 AM (#5864454)
By this time next year, Mossi will be the handsomest he's ever looked.
   15. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: July 24, 2019 at 10:38 AM (#5864518)
The poor guy looked like Basil Wolverton drew him.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: July 24, 2019 at 11:14 AM (#5864541)
Mostly compiled against AAAA teams. Against the only teams the Indians played that year with a winning percentage over .448, the Indians went 22-26.


I'm hoping someday you'll stop foolishly using the winning percentage of teams in a closed system as evidence of their strength. Alas, today is not that day.

   17. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: July 24, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5864556)
16--That's hilarious
   18. Jay Z Posted: July 24, 2019 at 12:43 PM (#5864589)
Mostly compiled against AAAA teams. Against the only teams the Indians played that year with a winning percentage over .448, the Indians went 22-26. Most overrated team ever.


If the 1954 Indians played AAAA teams, who did the 1963 Yankees play? Wow, it's impressive to win 104 games with Mantle and Maris as half time players. But maybe not so much in a league where Frank Malzone is the cleanup hitter in the All Star game.
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 12:55 PM (#5864597)
Mostly compiled against AAAA teams. Against the only teams the Indians played that year with a winning percentage over .448, the Indians went 22-26.

I'm hoping someday you'll stop foolishly using the winning percentage of teams in a closed system as evidence of their strength. Alas, today is not that day.


So what are your criteria?

I'm not saying that the 1954 Indians weren't a very good team. But that 111-43 regular season record is but one part of a much bigger puzzle. Go through the rosters of the 3rd through 8th place AL teams that year, and see how many inner circle HoFers you can find other than Ted Williams. Then see how many star black players you can find. Then maybe you won't be so dismissive of my point.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If the 1954 Indians played AAAA teams, who did the 1963 Yankees play? Wow, it's impressive to win 104 games with Mantle and Maris as half time players. But maybe not so much in a league where Frank Malzone is the cleanup hitter in the All Star game.

You must be under the mistaken illusion that my point about the '54 Indians reflected only my Yankee fandom. Far from it, and the same point could be applied to the 1963 Yankees, who also dominated an inferior league and were swept in the World Series by a Dodgers team from a much better league. If you're looking for an underrated Indians team, try 1948, beginning with their infield and a pitching staff with an ERA over a full run lower than the overall AL----one of only 2 or 3 times in history that's happened.
   20. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: July 24, 2019 at 12:58 PM (#5864601)
If the 1954 Indians played AAAA teams, who did the 1963 Yankees play? Wow, it's impressive to win 104 games with Mantle and Maris as half time players. But maybe not so much in a league where Frank Malzone is the cleanup hitter in the All Star game.


Heck, if the 1954 Indians played AAAA teams, then who did the 1954 Yankees play?

edit: The Indians went 11-11 against the Yankees, and 11-11 against the White Sox. And, 20-2 against the .448 winning percentage Red Sox.
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 01:11 PM (#5864607)
And when did I ever say that the 1954 Yankees were a great team? Obviously they weren't even as good as the Indians, so what's your point?
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: July 24, 2019 at 01:15 PM (#5864611)
So what are your criteria?


The same way we measure league strength now, though obviously we didn't have quite as much evidence than as we do now.

How did the players who switched leagues perform (a problem, since switching wasn't as prevalent)?

WS results.

Surrounding seasons can give us a sense of how strong the Indians were, though it doesn't help with league strength.

I've never made any kind of claim about how good the 1954 Tribe really was (in fact, I assume your conclusion that they were very overrated is on the money, given the AL's slower adoption of integration compared with the Senior Circuit).

All I've said is that the W-L records of their opponents tell us absolutely nothing. The 1954 AL teams had a winning percentage of .500, the same as the 1932 AL and the 1973 NL.

Look at it this way. The 1954 AL had two teams with 100-plus wins and another with more than 90, and five with fewer than 70. How could the league manage that?

Well, it could be done by having three historically great teams, and five average teams who were absolutely beaten up by the great teams.

Or, they could have three decent teams and five historically awful ones, with the ability to play 88 games against fellow disasters allowing the bottom to win more games than would have if they found themselves in a stronger circuit.

Each of these scenarios could deliver the wins distributions we saw in 1954. So we can't know how the 1954 AL circuit stacks up by looking at the W-L records of the participants.

Until interleague play, W-L records were completely useless in helping us identify league strength.
   23. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: July 24, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5864612)
He could run ugly, hit ugly, throw ugly, field ugly, and ugly for power. He was ugly to all fields.
I often use this line, changing the descriptor to fit the situation.
   24. Sweatpants Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:08 PM (#5864645)
The Indians went 11-11 against the Yankees, and 11-11 against the White Sox. And, 20-2 against the .448 winning percentage Red Sox.
No one's ever going to call a 69-85 team good, but the Red Sox had a winning record against non-Cleveland opponents that season - 2-20 vs. the Indians, 67-65 vs. everyone else.
   25. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:20 PM (#5864647)
But maybe not so much in a league where Frank Malzone is the cleanup hitter in the All Star game.


The AL had Mantle, Yaz, and Killebrew on the bench, plus Brooks Robinson. Not sure who was picking the lineup there - probably someone trying to go with players who had hot first halves.
   26. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:26 PM (#5864649)
No one's ever going to call a 69-85 team good, but the [1954] Red Sox had a winning record against non-Cleveland opponents that season - 2-20 vs. the Indians, 67-65 vs. everyone else.

That "67-65 vs. everyone else" was 9-13 against the 2nd place Yankees, 5-17 against the third place White Sox, and 53-35 against the 4 teams in the second division. The bottom 5 teams in that year's AL (the Red Sox, Tigers, Nats, Orioles, and A's) were just a sorry sack of ####. The Red Sox were just better than the 4 teams below them.
   27. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5864654)
The AL had Mantle, Yaz, and Killebrew on the bench, plus Brooks Robinson. Not sure who was picking the lineup there - probably someone trying to go with players who had hot first halves.

Mantle was on the DL. Here's the 1963 AL team's starting lineup, consisting of one solid HoFer (Kaline), one average HoFer (Fox), and 7 players that few fans under the age of 60 are likely to be familiar with:

1 Nellie Fox 2B
2 Albie Pearson CF
3 Al Kaline RF
4 Frank Malzone 3B
5 Leon Wagner LF
6 Earl Battey C
7 Joe Pepitone 1B
8 Zoilo Versalles SS
9 Ken McBride P

EDIT: Here are the AL's reserves:

Norm Siebern 1B
Bobby Richardson 2B
Brooks Robinson 3B
Elston Howard C
Don Leppert C
Mickey Mantle CF
Harmon Killebrew LF
Bob Allison OF
Tom Tresh OF
Carl Yastrzemski OF
Luis Aparicio SS
Steve Barber P
Jim Bouton P
Jim Bunning P
Mudcat Grant P
Bill Monbouquette P
Juan Pizarro P
Dick Radatz P
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5864655)
And by contrast, here's the NL's starting lineup, along with their reserves:

1 Tommy Davis LF
2 Hank Aaron RF
3 Bill White 1B
4 Willie Mays CF
5 Ed Bailey C
6 Ken Boyer 3B
7 Dick Groat SS
8 Julian Javier 2B
9 Jim O'Toole P

Orlando Cepeda 1B
Bill Mazeroski 2B
Ron Santo 3B
Johnny Edwards C
Joe Torre C
Stan Musial LF
Roberto Clemente OF
Willie McCovey OF
Duke Snider OF
Maury Wills SS
Ray Culp P
Don Drysdale P
Larry Jackson P
Sandy Koufax P
Juan Marichal P
Warren Spahn P
Hal Woodeshick P

Not too surprisingly, that 1963 All-Star game started the NL on a streak where it won 8 straight games and 19 of the next 20.
   29. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5864656)
few fans under the age of 60 are likely to be familiar with:


*harumph* I'm under 60 for another 8 weeks or so.
   30. Itchy Row Posted: July 24, 2019 at 02:41 PM (#5864657)
I'm familiar with baseball at an age-60 level!
   31. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 24, 2019 at 03:37 PM (#5864686)
I'm not saying the AL wasn't the decidedly weaker league in 1963. It clearly was. But they sure had better cleanup options than Frank Freakin' Malzone. I don't know what the selection process was at that point, but the fact that their starting pitcher was Ken McBride (!), as opposed to Jim Bunning or Whitey Ford (who didn't even make the team), tells you that somebody didn't know what they were doing.
   32. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 24, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5864692)
Malzone made the AL All-star team six times in eight seasons from 1957 to 1964.
   33. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 24, 2019 at 03:59 PM (#5864693)
Don had a facebook page apparently run by his kids.

Looked like he was enjoying life in his later years. And had a large brood. We should all be so lucky.
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 24, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5864715)
I'm not saying the AL wasn't the decidedly weaker league in 1963. It clearly was. But they sure had better cleanup options than Frank Freakin' Malzone. I don't know what the selection process was at that point, but the fact that their starting pitcher was Ken McBride (!), as opposed to Jim Bunning or Whitey Ford (who didn't even make the team), tells you that somebody didn't know what they were doing.

Ford probably wasn't picked because he'd pitched in relief two days earlier and was scheduled to start two days later. It was Ralph Houk's choice, and he chose pennant race over league glory. And Bunning threw a complete game on Sunday and wouldn't have been used even if he'd been picked.

And while one game's outcome doesn't prove much, a roster with a rotation of Koufax, Marichal, Spahn, Drysdale and Larry Jackson would've been a clear favorite over the long run against a rotation which featured Ford, Bunning, Jim Bouton, McBride and Steve Barber.

------------------------------------------------------------

*harumph* I'm under 60 for another 8 weeks or so.

Don't worry, 60 is the new 59.
   35. Rennie's Tenet Posted: July 24, 2019 at 06:06 PM (#5864727)
I think everyone over 30 remembers Joe Pepitone Day.

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