Remembering Orioles fan favorite Mike Mussina's forgotten near-perfect game

The Orioles have zero perfect games in their history, and Mike Mussina almost put their franchise in history books.
Mike Mussina
Mike Mussina / Doug Pensinger/GettyImages

For one day, in 1997, Mike Mussina almost made history. The best Orioles pitcher in 1990s dominated Cleveland with 25 consecutive outs to start the game until Sandy Alomar stepped to the plate.

This game happened on May 30, 1997. It was a Friday night game against a great Cleveland team that featured names like Jim Thome, Matt Williams, David Justice, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar and Omar Vizquel. The Orioles had just beaten Cleveland in the Division Series in 1996, and they faced off for the fourth time in '97 on this particular evening.

One week prior, Baltimore had lost the year's first series between the two clubs in Cleveland. The only win came with Moose in charge (7 IP, 9H, 9 K).

Remembering Orioles fan favorite Mike Mussina's forgotten near-perfect game

The 35-15 Orioles featured the same core from 1996 without Eddie Murray. Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken Jr., B.J. Surhoff, Chris Hoiles and Mike Bordick were in the lineup that night. Mussina started with a 1-2-3 inning (strikeout, groundout 6-3, strikeout) in support of his bats.

Baltimore struck first in the bottom of the first. It began with a double by Anderson, a single from Alomar, and a Palmeiro RBI. Three up and already 1-0 O's. Cleveland's pitcher Charles Nagy recovered, retiring three of the next four batters.

The game had some action in the bottom of the third. Until then, Mussina had retired nine straight, with a three groundouts in the second and two strikeouts and a flyout in the third. Baltimore struck against Nagy when Tony Fernandez made an error that sent Alomar to second base. Two groundouts later and he scored the second run, driven in by Ripken. 2-0 O's.

Mussina was great, maintaining his perfecto with two similar innings (two groundouts and a strikeout). The Orioles could put this game out of a reach in bottom 5th, but they couldn't capitalize on a bases-loaded situation with two outs.

Mussina got through the top of the sixth easily, retiring 18 in a row (popout and two strikeouts). If we had social media almost 30 years ago, your device would've pinged you about a game in Oriole Park. Nagy returned for the sixth and he suffered again. This time, Hoiles reached second after a Vizquel error. With one out, he was driven in for another insurance run to make it 3-0.

But all the eyes were on Mussina. Top of the seventh: flyball and two groundouts. Top of the eighth: popout and two flyouts. 24 up, 24 down. Three outs away from history. The crown jewel of MLB stadiums deserved a perfect game, and nearly got one.

Well, after another groundout, Sandy Alomar strode to the plate. After a 1-1 count, he smacked a base hit to left. The perfect game was vanquished. A standing ovation in OPACY was given to Moose, who finished the shutout and took the win, 3-0.

Mussina's line: 9 IP, H, 10 K. If you want to see this masterpiece, the full game is available here on the Orioles' YouTube channel.

After that, Baltimore finished that season with 98-64, won the AL East crown, beat Seattle in four games in the ALDS and faced Cleveland again in the ALCS. Mussina had a masterpiece of a series, but that story is for another day.

For Moose, he'd be almost perfect in another two games, both with the New York Yankees. Oriole Park has only featured one no-hitter in 32 years, courtesy of Hideo Nomo (Boston Red Sox, 2001). Baltimore hasn't thrown a no-hitter at home since 1969.

For curiosity's sake, it's worth noting the Orioles were on the wrong side of a perfect game bid in 2019 against the Tampa Bay Rays. At OPACY, the Rays nearly became first team in MLB history with a collective perfect game until Hanser Alberto saved Baltimore in the bottom of the ninth. The lefty killer, who is no longer in MLB, hit against the shift to preserve Baltimore from joining the history books.