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Mussina, Zimmer return to Yankees

7/19/2009

NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina enjoyed kidding around with some of his former teammates Sunday. He appreciated the warm ovation and chants of "Mooooose" when he was introduced at his first New York Yankees Old-Timers' Day.

And when it was over, he was ready to get back to his full-time job as Little League coach for his two sons and any other Montoursville, Pa., youngster interested in his help.

"I'm enjoying it. I really am," said Mussina, who retired last year at 39 after becoming the oldest pitcher to win 20 games for the first time. "People tell me, 'Well, you're going to have to find something to do and you're going to get bored with it.' Well, maybe someday I will.

"But right now, with two boys under 11 years old, there's a lot of stuff I've got to do so I'm really good with being retired."

Mussina was one of eight newcomers for the 63rd annual Old-Timers' Day and first at the new Yankee Stadium. Don Zimmer, the bench coach for four World Series championships with New York, wore pinstripes for the first time since an angry split with owner George Steinbrenner following the 2003 season.

"It's fun to see the guys, see the ballpark," said Zimmer, a senior adviser in Tampa Bay's front office now in his 61st year in baseball.

The 78-year-old Zimmer wasn't sure who invited him, saying "four kids, young guys with suits on" from the Yankees' front office asked during the Rays' last trip to the Bronx if he would attend the ceremonies. With Tampa Bay on a road trip, he was free.

"I've moved on since that night," said Zimmer, referring to his abrupt departure after the Yankees' loss to Florida in the 2003 World Series. "I feel bad about the Boss, the shape he's in. I feel very bad about it."

Steinbrenner has attended few games in New York since becoming increasingly frail but he spent three hours in his office at the team's complex in Florida on Thursday and said he was feeling well. Zimmer said he hasn't talked to him since he left the Yankees.

Mel Stottlemyre, who said he was tired of Steinbrenner's criticism when he left his position as New York's pitching coach in 2005, also made an appearance.

"Best day of the year," Hall of Fame left-hander Whitey Ford said.

Ford stayed close to Yogi Berra, his former catcher, as he made his way around the Yankees' clubhouse, unsure of his way in the new ballpark. Dwight Gooden, another first-timer, also got a lot of attention, signing a Sports Illustrated cover for right-hander A.J. Burnett and a baseball for outfielder Nick Swisher.

"It's nice to come out here again and get on the field and put the uniform on and have fun," Mussina said before the Yankees' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. "It was nice to be invited back and it was nice to get out there with the guys and play a little baseball."

Mussina brought along his 10-year-old son, Brycen, who threw with former Yankees right-hander David Cone while dad caught up with the rest of the old-timers before the game.

It was Mussina's first time in a major league uniform since he tossed six shutout innings at Fenway Park on Sept. 28 to beat Boston and finish 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA last season. The right-hander went 270-153 with a 3.68 ERA in 18 seasons with Baltimore and New York.

Mussina knew all last season that it would be his final year but didn't announce his retirement until November. There was no grand send-off -- exactly the way he wanted it.

"There's not a better way for me to step aside and let somebody else do it than the way I did it," he said. "Baseball's been great, and I've loved every year of it, but you reach a point where it's time to go home."