Friday, July 30, 2010

"Tales from the Dugout" #2: Don Mossi

Continuing on with the “Tales from the Dugout” series, here is a tale about the legendary (looking) pitcher Don Mossi. Enjoy!
Don Mossi is one of those players that fans of the baby boomer generation remember most fondly. Mossi was a pretty good left-handed pitcher who compiled a 101-80 lifetime record over 12 seasons, mostly with the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, but it wasn’t his record that endeared him to us. It was his face. An angular face made unforgettable by bushy eyebrows, a perpetual five-o’clock shadow, and a pair of ears that seemed attached to the sides of his head like the handles of a loving cup trophy.

Although Mossi had no Cincinnati connection, he became in the mid-1970s the focal point of a huge, long-running Cincinnati Hot Stove League baseball party hosted by two Cincinnati Reds front-office employees, Tom Jackson and Doug Bureman. Here is Jackson’s account of how Mossi’s cult status in Cincinnati came to be.

“The whole thing started in November of 1974. Doug and I were young bachelors in our late twenties at the time, and we tried to party every chance we got. We were sitting around one day looking at some baseball cards tat were on the coffee table, and a card of Don Mossi just stood out from all the rest. We saw that his birthday is January 11, so we figured why not have a birthday party on that day in Don’s honor? It turned out that the coming January 11 fell on a Saturday, so it worked out perfectly.

“We had the party at Doug’s split-level town house, and about 80 people showed up. Some of the girls made a cake that accentuated Don’s most prominent facial features, his ears, and at the height of the evening’s festivities we called Don at his home in Ukiah, California, to wish him happy birthday. At first he didn’t believe we were having a party in his honor, but we told him it was for real. It turned out to be a pretty crazy party, and it just took off from there. We wound up having our Don Mossi party for 12 straight years, and from the second year on we moved the party to a rental hall. The attendance peaked at over 340 people a year, two years in a row.

“The whole thing got to be pretty elaborate. We printed up admission tickets, made up T-shirts that we sold at cost- one showed Don in a cowboy outfit and said, ‘Mossi’s Posse’- and one year we even had a Don Mossi ice sculpture. We charged people three or four bucks to get in to help pay for the ‘all-you-can-drink’ beer we served, and each year the highlight of the evening was the long-distance phone call to Don. We gave out door prizes, and the best prize, which three people won each year, was the privilege of talking to Don for one minute.

“The party started out mocking Mossi, but as it went on year after year he became a hero, sort of a folk hero. We found out that he is a very decent guy, a real dedicated family man. Eleven out of the 12 years we called him to wish him happy birthday, he was at home, just sitting around the house with his wife and two daughters. He’s never been to another major league baseball game since he retired, even though he lives only a hundred miles north of San Francisco. He likes to hunt and fish, and he works as a supervisor in a Masonite factory. Don’s also a very, very quiet guy. He never says much at all. I actually visited him at his house in 1979. In the 20-minute conversation I had with him, I must have all the talking for 18 minutes, and I’m a terrible conversationalist.

“In Don we picked the perfect guy for our party without knowing it beforehand. A lot of guys would have gotten mad and blown us off, but to Don it was no big deal. He even sent us stuff for our Don Mossi Museum, which was on display at the party each year. He sent us game-worn caps from all four major league teams he played for, some Don Mossi photos, an autographed baseball, and an instructional pitching film he ‘starred in.’ The film was woefully outdated- it just showed Don throwing off a mound for five minutes or so- but we showed it each year, and people went wild. Since we worked in baseball, we were able to obtain some legitimate Don Mossi items ourselves from the Indians and Tigers, but we also had some gag items in the Mossi Museum: Don’s World Series ring- a cigar band- and his scrapbook, which was completely empty.

“One Don Mossi occurrence I’ll never forget involved a guy named Brian Hunterman, who came to Cincinnati in 1979 to work for the Reds. Brian had no previous contact with any of us nor any previous clue about the party, yet when someone told him about the party and asked him if he wanted to go, he reached into his back pocket for his wallet and then pulled a Don Mossi baseball card out of it- providing that Don was a legend independent of our party. Needless to say, Brian became a regular at the parties.

“The twelfth party was our last. It was a heck of a lot of work to put on, and we got a little tired of it. We rationalized that it was appropriate to stop after 12 years because 12 years was the length of Don’s major league career. We had wanted to fly Don in for an appearance at a party, but we could never convince him to come. He was just too modest to do it. Our only regret was that Don never came to Cincinnati to meet his adoring public. Other than that, our Don Mossi parties were nothing but a whole lot of laughs.”


  1. Awesome story about Mossi. Thanks for sharing that!

  2. Agreed. Great card, great story, nice guy.

  3. I'm am his grand daughter love the story. Live my grandpa too. I was born in 1979