One of the few remaining members of the 1954 Indians pennant-winning team – and the last major contributor – has died.
Pitcher Don Mossi, who went 6-1, mostly in relief, with a 1.94 ERA for the team that won 111 games but was swept by the Giants, died Friday in Idaho at the age of 90.
Mossi, a California native, was signed by the Indians at the age of 19, and he made his professional debut with their minor league affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif., in 1949. He toiled in the minors until 1954, when he was invited to spring training. Rules at the time indicated that he either had to be released or promoted to the parent club, and it looked like a daunting task, since the Indians had a starting rotation of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Early Wynn.
Manager Al Lopez stashed Mossi in the bullpen. Lopez became one of the earliest devotees of a designated relief corps, which included Mossi, Ray Narleski and former Tigers ace Hal Newhouser, who’d been snapped up by general manager Hank Greenberg when he was released.
Mossi was mostly a relief pitcher, but in 1957, with the great Indians rotation just three years earlier all gone, he was pressed into the starting rotation. He went 11-10, making 22 starts, and was named to his only All-Star team.
Following the 1958 season, he was dealt to the Tigers, where he was used as a starter. In 1959, he went 17-9, throwing 15 complete games, and in 1961, the year the Tigers won 101 games – but just couldn’t catch the Yankees – he went 15-7. He was traded to the White Sox for the 1964 season, and spent the next year – his last in the majors – with the Athletics in Kansas City. He was sent a new contract for the 1966 season, but refused to sign it, opting instead for retirement.
Mossi returned to his native California and had lived in Idaho since 2000.
Photo: 1956 Topps baseball trading card