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Mike Mussina (True) Rookie Cards

With the 20th Overall Pick in the 1st Round of the 1990 MLB June Amateur Draft, the Baltimore Orioles selected Mike Mussina from Standford University. Mike Mussina has four true rookie cards with zero parallels.

Mussina Overshadowed Most of His Career

Mike Mussina seemingly has always been overshadowed by an era of baseball dominated by the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux to name a few.

But in our current Sabrmetrics Era, when you do the math, Mike Mussina ranks right up there with some of the greatest to ever play.

Pound for pound he’s in line with another great Baltimore Oriole Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer but his numbers also are comparable to John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.

In a 10 year span (1992-2001) he was considered for the Cy Young Award 8 times! Eleven times he had seasons with 15+ wins and one 20 win season.

Most Memorable Moments

  • May 30, 1997, records 25 straight outs when Sandy Alomar Jr. breaks up his perfect game with a base hit.
  • October 5, 1997, ALDS Game 4 – strikes out 7 over 7 innings allowing just one run on two hits and three walks and the O’s advance. One week later…
  • October 11, 1997; ALCS Game 3 – he pitched seven innings allowing only one run, striking out 15 batters to set an ALCS record.
  • September 2, 2001; Mussina is one strike away from a perfect game and Carl Everett gets a bloop base hit to left-center. (I watched this game and was sick afterward).
  • 2003 ALCS Game 7, throws three scoreless innings of relief pitching. This was a spontaneous decision made by Manager Joe Torre and has been Mussina’s most gratifying moment of his career.

Career Stats & Achievements 

Mike Mussina is a 7x Gold Glover, and a 5x All-Star. His career summary includes 82.8 WAR, 270 Wins, 3.68 ERA, 2813 Strikeouts, and 3562 Innings Pitched.

The primary statistic of Mussina that captures the attention of baseball fans was his success as a pitcher in the PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) Era.

What makes this fact even more incredible was he did it in the most offensively dominated league, the A.L. East. His key pitch was the knuckle curve and it brought him much success.

Another factor for his success was his good health and longevity. Mike Mussina pitched 10 years for the Orioles and 8 years with the New York Yankees averaging 226 innings per season.

These two cards are a good example of a pre-rookie card identifier. Neither one of these cards were properly licensed and did not have National distribution. Also, these cards were released prior to Mike Mussina’s MLB Debut and feature him in non-pro uniform.

1991 Bowman, #97 (RC)

The 1991 Bowman was similar in design to the 1990 set. The complete set is 704 cards large and was released as a single series.

Also, this set is full of Hall of Fame rookie cards Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, and Jeff Bagwell just to name a few. Clean card design and a great portrait photo of Mike Mussina with a nice blue sky background. Is it me or does that Wilson glove look huge?

The card back lacks eye appeal and is very difficult to read. There are no parallels for this set.

1991 Score, #383 (RC)

The complete set of 1991 Score was a very large one, it showcased 893 cards and was split up into two series. This “1st Round Draft Pick” was a subset within the set and was featured on cards 380-391 & 671-682.

The card front gives us another great portrait photo of Mike Mussina a bit bright on the colors but overall a very clean card design.

The card back zooms in on the photo and gives us some commentary but lacks an on-player bio. There are no parallels for this set.

1991 Ultra Update, #U4 (RC)

This 120 card set was produced in shorter print runs than other subsets in 1991. It has held its value over the years indicating it is a collector must-have.

I have much respect for this premier issue of Fleer’s Ultra brand. This set offered a quality product with quality photography for a decent price, giving collectors the best of everything.

The card front gives us a full action photo with gray borders at the top and bottom. The card back is a step above the rest. Beautiful multi-photo, dual-colored background. Player bio and stats are given. There are no parallels for this set.

1991 Upper Deck, #65 (RC)

For the third year in a row, Upper Deck releases a high-quality set using great photography and card materials.

They feature Mike Mussina in his Standford University Suns college uniform. This “Top Prospect” card is a subset within the set and can be found on cards #’d 50-76 respectively. I appreciate the half torso, humble photo of Mike but the card back is a bit bland for me.

There are no parallels for this one neither.

1991 Leaf Gold Rookies, #BC12 (RYC)

This insert card could be found inside packs of 1991 Leaf baseball. At first it was released in error when the card number on the back was issued with base set numbers 265-276. Printing quickly rectified the problem but some copies made it out, warning, they are rare and hard to find.

This was one of the early insert sets that entered the hobby. It is a 26 card set and the first 12, including this one of Mike Mussina, were inserted into series one packs.

The set highlighted the rookies and so the hobby was challenged with a question. Are insert cards of rookie players considered rookie cards? It took a couple years to iron out the details but the hobby decided in the early 90s that insert cards should not be considered rookie cards, and so it was.

To this day the majority of collectors do not view insert cards as true rookie cards. Standing on that principle this card of Mike Mussina is not a true rookie card. Now a fantastic card to own due to its historical standing within the hobby but a more accurate identifier is rookie-year card.

These cards also can be identified as rookie-year cards. Here we have 1991 Classics which were licensed by both the League and the Players Association but these were included into a board game so they don’t qualify due to their distribution method.

Also, minor league and/or prospect cards have regional distribution methods, and are not licensed properly so they are given the RYC designation as well.

1992 Topps ’91 MLB Debut, #130

Another early card of Mike Mussina that is often times referred to as a “rookie card” is this one. It has a Major League Debut which I refer to as a post-rookie theme card. However, it’s a 1992 release which is the year after his rookie year.

Something to Consider 

When shopping for these rookie cards of Mike Mussina perhaps you’ll notice the low monetary value. This is largely in part to the era these cards were printed.

In 1991 cards were mass-produced by all card manufacturers. Demand was high and the printers kept printing. The result? Supply met demand and so the natural consequence is lower card values.

Monetary value aside I can appreciate the fact that these are rookie cards of a Great Hall of Famer. And for those reasons, these cards will be a part of my collection.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.


Mike Mussina Stats | (Accessed April 6, 2019).