Jones picked No. 1 in 1990 Draft; Mussina quickly follows
On June 4, 1990, two future Hall of Famers took their first steps toward Cooperstown.
Chipper Jones grabbed the headlines as the first overall selection in the 1990 MLB Draft – and 19 picks later, Mike Mussina joined him when he was drafted 20th overall.
The Braves had reportedly been targeting high school pitcher Todd Van Poppel for their No. 1 overall pick, but when Van Poppel stated that he would attend the University of Texas rather than start his professional career, Atlanta pivoted to Jones.
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As soon as he got word that the Braves had selected him around 1:20 p.m., Jones donned one of the three Braves hats he had stashed at his parents’ home in Pierson, Fla.
“I know there are some people who will say I was the Braves’ second choice,” Jones told the Atlanta Constitution. “But that’s better than being their ninth or 10th. If Todd Van Poppel doesn’t want to play for the Atlanta Braves, I’ll be more than happy to take his place.”
Bobby Cox, the Braves general manager at the time, had made four visits to Jacksonville, Fla., to see Jones play at The Bolles School. For his senior season, the 6-foot-3 shortstop batted .488 with five homers and 25 RBI.
“We liked about three guys really well,” Cox said. “But this kid is definitely going to be in the big leagues as a shortstop. We wanted to tighten that spot up, and we feel we’ve gotten the perfect player to do so.”
Of course, as it turned out, Jones would rise to greatness at third base instead, serving as the Braves’ mainstay at the hot corner for nearly two decades.
The Braves wasted no time coming to an agreement with Jones: The day of the draft, Atlanta signed him to a $275,000 bonus – the most lucrative contract ever given to a high school player at the time.
Though he had suffered a fractured hand only a month earlier, Jones believed he would be ready to join the Braves’ rookie league club in Bradenton, Fla., by the start of the season.
“The league starts in three weeks, and that’s about how long I’ll need for my hand to be 100 percent,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, the Orioles also acquired a future Hall of Famer that day, when they selected right-hander Mike Mussina – for a second time. Three years earlier, Baltimore had drafted Mussina in the 11th round of the 1987 draft out of Montoursville High School. Though Baltimore reportedly attempted to lure him with what they deemed “first-round money”, Mussina opted to attend Stanford University instead.
But the Orioles got another shot at him and jumped on the chance to select him, having expected him to last no later than the 10th pick.
“[Mussina] was a lot higher than 20th on our list,” Orioles scouting director John Barr told the Baltimore Sun. “He has three-plus pitches, and we see him as a starter some day for the Baltimore Orioles.”
In his junior season at Stanford in 1990, Mussina went 14-4 with a 3.35 ERA and nine complete games.
When he received word that he had been drafted, Mussina was in Omaha, Neb., pitching in the College World Series, where his Stanford Cardinal would reach the semifinals before falling to the eventual champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Mussina reached an agreement and signed with the Orioles on July 28.
“I think this is my best opportunity,” Mussina told the Evening Sun. “I’m very excited about the chance to pitch for the Orioles. My initial feeling is one of relief that the whole deal is over.”
Both players would become legends with their respective clubs, as Jones spent 19 years with the Braves, while Mussina pitched for the Orioles for a decade before playing the last eight years of his career with the Yankees.
Jones was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018, and just as he had in the draft, Mussina followed closely behind, earning election in 2019.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum