In a season when so little has gone right for the Baltimore Orioles, outfielder B.J. Surhoff and pitcher Mike Mussina have distinguished themselves with both their daily professionalism and productivity. Today, both were rewarded for their efforts by being named to the American League all-star team by New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
Surhoff and Mussina will join third baseman Cal Ripken in Tuesday's contest at Fenway Park, giving the Orioles three representatives for a second consecutive season.
For Surhoff, 34, it will be his first all-star appearance. It comes midway through his 13th season and is another honor for a player who had long ago established a great reputation for work ethic and dedication.
This season, he has been one of the game's best hitters. Before tonight's game, he was hitting .337 with 54 runs, 19 doubles, 20 home runs and 69 RBI. He was among the league leaders in hits, total bases and a slew of other offensive categories.
In a season of remarkable consistency, he had at least one hit in 70 of 82 games, including a 21-game hitting streak. He also has played in 243 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the majors.
He began an afternoon news conference by thanking his teammates, coaches, trainers, public relations officials and a host of others before discussing what the honor meant to him.
"The years run together," he said. "To be perfectly honest, this is the type of thing I thought I could do when I first came in the league. My first year went fairly easy [hitting .299 for Milwaukee]. I expected to do so much more my second and third years, and they were basically disasters [hitting .245 and .248]. After that, I made some adjustments. Those two years helped in my education of the game and how I feel about the game. I learned to deal with the good and the bad."
One of the franchise's most active participants in community and charitable work, Surhoff said his marriage and the birth of his children contributed more to his success than he could describe.
"Even though it may not look like it as much, it's not as much life and death as it once was," he said. "Not that it's not important to me. Realistically, once I had a family, things started to get better for me. When I went home, it didn't consume me all the time."
Mussina, a five-time all-star, was selected for the first time when he was 23. Now 30, he said the thrill hadn't decreased, but admitted this season was special.
"I look at the fact that 13 months ago I got hit in the face with a ball," he said. "Now, I'm going back to the all-star game. It could have been a very different scenario. I feel fortunate I'm still able to play and perform."
Mussina was struck in the face by a line drive hit by Cleveland's Sandy Alomar on May 14. He still has a scar over his right eye from the accident and admits that the seriousness of that injury had made him appreciate his career more than he once had.
"I think being able to come back from that injury changed my perspective on the game," he said. "I know how lucky I am to be able to do this. It was a traumatic thing, but I was very lucky."
Boston's Pedro Martinez has been baseball's dominant pitcher this season, leading the American League in victories (15), earned run average (2.02) and strikeouts (170). But Mussina is 10-4 with a 3.61 ERA and three complete games. He might have three more wins, but the Baltimore bullpen has blown three late leads for him.
With a career record of 128-63, Mussina has a .670 winning percentage, trailing only Martinez (.673) among active pitchers.
"I'm not voted on by the fans," he said. "I'm selected by one of my peers -- or a group of my peers -- based on my performance in the first half of the season. It's not a popularity contest. Either you earn it or you don't."
1999 All-Star Reserves
P. Martinez, Bos.
Rivera, N.Y. -- x
A. Gonzalez, Fla.
L. Gonzalez, Ari.
V. Guerrero, Mon.
CAPTION: Mike Mussina, named to his fifth all-star team, has a .670 (128-63) career winning percentage, second to Pedro Martinez among active pitchers.