I have a problem when it comes to 1990s aces and their rookie cards — specifically, I always confuse Mike Mussina with Andy Pettitte.

I mean, not facially — these guys look sorta different.

But, like, accomplishment-ally. Which one of these guys won twenty games only once, for instance?

Well, yeah, both of them.

But which one was sort of the ace of the Yankees pitching staff, and also starred for another team.

Hmmm. That’s both of them, too

And who does Baseball Reference list as Mussina’s closest career comp?

Uh … that would be Pettitte.

OK, so maybe there is some cause for my confusion.

But hear this — Mussina started Major League life with the Baltimore Orioles, and he might have stayed there forever if they had won some stuff.

And this is worth hearing, too — Mussina is in the Hall of Fame, while Pettitte is still, well, not as of this writing.

So …

You can tell their rookie cards apart because Mike Mussina rookie cards show a Hall of Famer who went to Stanford, spent a little time in the Orioles’ minor league system, fronted the O’s rotation, then won championships with the Yankees.

If you want a bit more information on that front, here is a rundown of those rookie cards.

1990 Classic Draft Picks Mike Mussina (#20)

1990 Classic Draft Picks Mike Mussina

A snippet of circular/meta trivia to start with — the 1990 Classic Draft Picks set was the first Classic set not issued as part of a trivia game.

Hmmm.

Also, this set featured most of the first-round picks from that June’s MLB Draft, including highly-touted dudes like Todd Van Poppel, Chipper Jones, Marc Newfield, and Carl Everett.

Missing from the lineup were #2 pick Tony Clark and #22 pick Steve Karsay, but Classic sort of made up for that by giving us a bonus Van Poppel card as a promo, #P14.

Anyway, Chipper did well as the #1, and so did Mussina at #20 — both dudes ended up in Cooperstown.

For his part, Moose shows up here in his Stanford uniform and tossing a ball in the air — and looking pretty bored with the whole thing.

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1991 Bowman Mike Mussina (#97)

1991 Bowman Mike Mussina

In 1991, Topps was still trying to figure out what to do with its resurrected Bowman line.

They started off with an oversize offering in 1989 that was nostalgic but not all that popular — decent player selection helped, but they didn’t fit, physically, with any of our other cards.

The 1990 issue shrunk down to standard size cards (2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″), and they were pretty good looking, with big photos and plenty of rookies — Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Juan Gonzalez, and others.

Topps continued that theme in 1991, with a set that added a couple more design elements and a ton of RCs — Jim Thome, Carl Everett, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Conine, Tim Salmon, Bret Boone, and many others had collectors filling up our rookie binders.

Mussina was there, too, appearing in his Orioles uniform against a perfect blue sky.

Within a couple of years, Moose would be a star, and Bowman would be THE place to go for rookie cards.

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1991 Classic Mike Mussina (#T17)

1991 Classic Mike Mussina

Technically, this card is from the “Blue Travel” edition, or the Update 1 set, an add-on to the original 200-card 1991 Classic set.

That one was the one that came with a game board and the whole shootin’ match and was “limited” to 100,000 copies.

This one has blue borders and shows young Mussina in his Stanford uniform (again), but in an action shot, and he seems pretty interested in the result of his upcoming pitch.

Solid card, if confusing.

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1991 Classic Collector’s Edition Mike Mussina (#146)

1991 Classic Collector's Edition Mike Mussina

You might have deduced from the discussion of the blue-bordered Mussina above that this one — the Collector’s Edition version — is the Mussina card from the base, game release of 1991 Classic.

And you’re right.

This purple-bordered entry is also the first Classic card to feature Mussina in an O’s uniform, so you have to have it if you’re collecting all of his RCs.

Luckily, there should be plenty of them out there (like a hundred thousand).

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1991 Leaf Gold Rookies Mike Mussina (#BC12)

1991 Leaf Gold Rookies Mike Mussina

Depending on your point of view, the hobby was starting to get really interesting, exciting, or confusing by the time the 1991 sets hit retail and hobby outlets.

Maybe all three.

The 1991 Leaf issue was a good example, as it debuted with a lot of hype in the premium arena after the success of Donruss’s initial Leaf entry in 1990.

While the base cards were attractive and garnered plenty of collector attention, we found out before too long that they weren’t quite as scarce as the 1990s (which probably weren’t all that scarce, either, as things turned out).

But 1991 Leaf also brought us some early inserts and helped bridge the hobby from the 1980s to today’s era.

Among those inserts was a 26-card set of Gold Leaf Rookies that featured prospects all done up with gold foil trimmings. Twenty-four of them, anyway, because the final two cards were dedicated to the exploits of Nolan Ryan (7th no-hitter) and Rickey Henderson (taking down Lou Brock as the stolen base king).

Inserted randomly in packs of Series One and Series Two cards, the Gold Leaf Rookies included hot names of the time like Mo Vaughn, Gary Scott, Van Poppel, Roger Salkeld, Andujar Cedeno, Kirk Dressendorfer, and others.

Mussina checks in at number 12, pitching in his dark brown/black Orioles uniform.

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1991 Score Mike Mussina (#383)

1991 Score Mike Mussina

This is one of just three cards on this list (with Bowman, above, and Upper Deck, below) that collectors could reasonably expect to pull from packs they bought at the local drugstore back in 1991.

By the time Score cards hit retailer shelves for their fourth year, they were an established part of the hobby landscape and had adopted a decidedly available spot with their base product.

You knew what you were going to get with Score — good photography, lots of cards per set, special subsets, a bit of gaudy design, rookies, and ease of acquisition.

This 1991 Mussina lives up to all of that, showing the youngster in a posed shot, wearing his Orioles home whites and bird hat against a fiery orange background.

These have never been too hard to come by but still make for a solid addition to any Moose collection.

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1991 Ultra Update Mike Mussina (#U-4)

1991 Ultra Update Mike Mussina

Fleer jumped into the upscale cardboard neighborhood in 1991 with their Ultra issue.

Those cards featured a sleek design with subdued gray/silver design elements and high-quality photos on card fronts and backs — three photos on each card back, in fact!

The set was well-received by collectors and evidently sold well enough to convince Fleer they needed an Ultra Update set that fall.

So they produced one to go alongside the yellow-bordered base update set.

Ultra Update featured 119 rookies or traded players, with Mussina popping up near the top, on card #U-4.

As Fleer’s only Mussina card of 1991, it at least got them in the ace-to-be game, and won’t break the bank today.

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1991 Upper Deck Mike Mussina (#65)

1991 Upper Deck Mike Mussina

Of course, you can lay pretty much all the blame for the push towards premium cards, super premium cards, freaking MacGyver cards at the feet of Upper Deck.

I mean, once UD let the hologram genie out of the bottle in 1989, the die was cast. Our hobby fate was sealed, in Mylar packs.

So no surprise that Mussina scored (heh-heh) a rookie card here in Upper Deck’s 1991 base set (which coincidentally looks almost exactly like their 1989 and 1990 sets).

But this one is at least different than the rest on this list, as it shows Mussina not with Stanford and not with the Orioles, but with the Double-A Hagerstown Suns.

If you’re looking for something familiar here, though, at least Mussina still seems pretty bored. The inertia of ennui is tough to overcome.

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1991 Upper Deck #65 MIKE MUSSINA Rookie RC (Orioles) HOF

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