All-Time Indians: Don Mossi

Name: Donald Louis Mossi Position: Relief Pitcher
Nick Name: Ears Number: 12
Tribe Time: 1954-1958 DOB: 01/11/1929
Accolades: 1957 All-Star, Top 25 MVP 1955
Stats W L W% ERA G GS SV IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP K/9 BAA
Best Season (1954) 6 1 0.857 1.94 40 5 7 93.0 56 20 5 39 55 1.02 5.3 .167
Career 34 27 0.557 3.34 224 36 32 523.0 487 194 37 177 335 1.27 5.8 .237

In 1949, the Cleveland Indians signed a 20 year old starting pitcher with giant ears named Don Mossi as an amateur free agent. Just five years later, with a change of role to relief pitcher and the Indians had a superstar reliever, just when the needed him. In 1954, the Indians went to the World Series on the strength of a good offense (featuring Larry Doby and Al Rosen), a Hall of Fame rotation (including Early Wynn and Bob Lemon) and one of the best bullpens in team history. In his rookie year, Mossi was the star of that bullpen, leading all relievers in ERA, innings pitched, BAA and WHIP. As the primary set-up man, Mossi pitching into or after the eighth in 26 of his 35 relief appearances including a stint as the closer in August.

In the World Series (that saw the Indians get embarrassingly swept by the Giants), Mossi was excellent, throwing four innings in three games without allowing a single run and just three hits. While the Indians didn’t fare well against the Say Hey Kid, Don Mossi had cemented his legacy in just one year.

The following season, 1955, Mossi continued his great start with an ERA of 2.42, a decrease in walks and increase in strike outs. These changes could have been caused by a decrease in use as starter to just one game as the Indians have found his strength. Mossi also picked up a couple more saves (9) that season and finished 27 games overall. His 57 appearances that year were the most ever in his career.  Some combination of his great 1955 and his World Series appearance the year before helped Mossi earn an MVP vote as a set-up man, a very rare feat in baseball.

Things never got better for Mossi as he peaked incredibly early, dropping off slightly every year after 1954. In 1956, his ERA jumped to 3.59, but his veteran status earned him a few more opportunities and he set a career high with 11 saves. In 1957, with the struggles of Herb Score, Wynn and Lemon, the Indians couldn’t afford to keep as great of an arm as Mossi’s in the bullpen any longer. As a starter, Mossi found himself in his first and only All-Star game, where, ironically, he was used as a reliever and picked up a hold in the American League win. He finished the season with the worst ERA in his career to that point (4.13), but set career highs in innings pitched (159), strike outs (97) and wins (11).

After his below average entrance into the rotation, the Indians replaced him with the former closer, Ray Narleski and moved Mossi back into the bullpen. Despite the fact that Narleski was no longer keeping him out of the closers role, it was Hall of Fame closer, Hoyt Wilhelm, selected off waivers by the Indians the season before, who took the job. This would be Mossi’s final season in Cleveland and he returned to form as a serviceable reliever, throwing 101.2 innings in 43 games.

At the end of the 1958 season, Mossi became the latest victim of the Indians extreme over haul as he was sent, along with his bullpen partner Narleski, to the Tigers in exchange for Al Cicotte and Billy Martin. This was one of many terrible trades in the late 1950’s that also saw the departure of Score and fan favorite Rocky Colavito. After leaving Cleveland, Mossi pitched five seasons in Detroit, mostly as a starter. He threw two final years in Chicago and Kansas City as a reliever, before finally calling it quits in 1965. While he was a very good starter during his tenure in Detroit, nothing compare to his amazing rookie season when he became one of the greatest relievers in Indians history.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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