Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Mossi
For most of his career – at least until his arm finally gave out – Don Mossi was effective as a starting pitcher or reliever, depending on his team’s needs at the time.
When the outstanding starting rotation of the Cleveland Indians of the 1950s kept the young Mossi in the Tribe’s bullpen, he excelled there. When he had the opportunity to become a regular starter, first in Cleveland and then with the Detroit Tigers, he had his finest seasons.
Mossi was signed by the Indians in 1949 and spent five seasons progressing through Cleveland’s farm system as a starter. His rookie year was 1954 with Cleveland’s American League championship team … a team with established starters such as Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Early Wynn. Working mostly out of the bullpen, Mossi was 6-1 with a 1.94 ERA and seven saves. Over the next two seasons as an Indians’ reliever, Mossi was a combined 10-8 with 20 saves, appearing in 105 games with a 3.03 earned run average.
In 1957, Cleveland needed Mossi as a spot starter, and he started in 22 of his 36 appearances. He was 11-10 in 1957, and then returned to a reliever’s role in 1958, going 7-8 with a 3.90 ERA.
In November of 1958, the Indians traded Mossi with Ossie Alvarez and Ray Narleski to the Tigers for Al Cicotte and Billy Martin. As a starter for the Tigers, Mossi went 17-9 in 1959. His ERA was 3.36 with 15 complete games and three shutouts. Injuries limited his effectiveness in 1960 to 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA, and then Mossi had his best all-around season in 1961 as part of a dynamic starting rotation that included Frank Lary and Jim Bunning. Mossi went 15-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 12 complete games. He pitched 240.1 innings, which would be his career high. He also had the league’s lowest rates of bases on balls per nine innings (1.88) and the league’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.91).
Time was starting to take its toll on Mossi’s left arm. He could pitch only 180.1 innings in 1962, his record slipping to 11-13 and his ERA growing to 4.19. Arm problems limited Mossi to 16 starts and a 7-7 record in 1963, and he was sold to the Chicago White Sox, where he was 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 1964. He finished his career with the Kansas City A’s, going 5-8 in 1965 with a 3.74 ERA.
Mossi had a 12-year career record of 101-80 with 50 saves and a 3.43 ERA. He was an All-Star in 1957.