The 1985 season proved bittersweet for the Harvard baseball team and its star pitcher Jeff Musselman `85. Powered by Musselman's nasty slider and tireless left arm, the Crimson mounted an amazing comeback, winning 13 straight games to finish the regular season with a 15-3 league record and force a one-game playoff with Princeton for the conference title.
The Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League named Musselman its pitcher of the year for his 9-2 record, and a few weeks after the season the Toronto Blue Jays picked the southpaw in the sixth round of the draft.
But Musselman was also on the mound for that one-game playoff against Princeton, and he gave up 11 hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings as the Crimson lost the game and the crown, 5-1.
Eight years and a life's worth of struggles, defeats and triumphs later, Musselman made another bittersweet comeback when he returned to Dillon Field house last week to speak with current Harvard athletes and coaches.
Dressed casually in a collared shirt and slacks, Musselman looked thoroughly at ease in the sports complex that he had called home for four years in the early 80s. His charismatic eyes and disarming smile drew his listeners in almost as much as the story he told.
Musselman told his story, a story he hoped would help people today learn about the ever-present and insidious danger of alcohol abuse.
After graduating with a degree in economics, Musselman moved through the Toronto organization and, at the age of 24, complied a 12-5 record with three saves for the Blue Jays in his rookie season in 1987.
Alcohol forced him into a treatment center in the middle of the next season. Musselman lived through the fight and made his way back to Toronto, but was traded to the New York Mets in 1989 in the Mookie Wilson deal.
After an unexplained heart attack unrelated to his drinking came minutes away from ending his life at the age of 29, Musselman has resigned himself to the fact that his baseball days are over, and his return to Harvard reflects a change in his priorities.
"Everyday, I get the itch to throw," Musselman said. "I have some great friends who just won the World Series, but I just had to retire."
In addition to working with his attorney in the negotiation of sports contracts for baseball players, Musselman provides counseling for athletes with alcohol problems.
It is this work with individuals with problems that is really important to him.
"It's a gift that I like to pass on," Musselman said.
Musselman presented Harvard students, coaches and administrators with this gift when he fielded questions from athletes and met with heads of the Harvard's Project ADD (Alcohol and Drug Dialogue) as well as the Bureau of Study Counsel to discuss what more can be done to help students with abuse problems.
"The disease is all about denial," Musselman said. "It's the mastery of self-deception."