Mike Mussina wrapped up a postgame television interview on the field then returned to the New York Yankees clubhouse.
In a season with little to celebrate, his teammates gave him a rousing welcome — one he had waited his entire 18-year career to receive. Mussina had just become the oldest pitcher to win 20 games in a season for the first time as the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 6-2 Sunday in the opener of a rain-delayed day-night doubleheader.
"This is one of those things that I think will take a while to sink in," said Mussina, who has won at least 18 games five other times.
Less than three months before his 40th birthday, Mussina (20-9) gave up three hits in six shutout innings in his final start of a season in which the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. He did return to the field to bring out the lineup card for the second game.
"I'm proud of myself to be able to do this after last year," he said.
Last year he had the highest ERA of his career (5.15). This season, it was 3.37 after he allowed one earned run in 16 innings over his last three starts.
Previously, the oldest first-time 20-game winner was Jamie Moyer, who was 38 when he went 20-6 for Seattle in 2001. Mussina, who hasn't committed to playing next season, could be the first pitcher to retire following a 20-win season since Sandy Koufax.
"I just had a lot of fun playing this year," Mussina said.