Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Donald Arthur Mattingly (nicknamed "Donnie Baseball" and "The Hit Man" and other nicknames Yankee Legend and Mr. Yankee)(born April 20, 1961) is a retired first baseman who played for the New York Yankees of the American League from 1982-1995. He is currently Joe Torre's bench coach for the Yankees.
"Donnie Baseball" is one of the most popular Yankees in the team's storied history. His popularity is comparable to that of Yankee greats like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio. Since returning for the annual Old Timer's Game, Mattingly has consistently received the loudest ovations.
Mattingly grew up in Evansville, Indiana and was one of the nation's top prospects as a high school player at Reitz Memorial High School in 1979, earning a brief write-up in Sports Illustrated magazine. However, most Major League Baseball teams avoided drafting Mattingly, expecting him to attend college before entering professional baseball. Taking a chance, the New York Yankees drafted Mattingly in the 19th round of the 1979 amateur draft and subsequently signed him.
New York Yankees (1982-1995)
All-Star (AL): 1984-1989
Major League Player of the Year (MLB): 1985
MVP (AL): 1985
Gold Glove Award (AL 1B): 1985-1989, 1991-1994
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (MLB): 1993
Batting title (AL): 1984
Silver Slugger Award (AL 1B): 1985-1987
Led AL in Batting Average in 1984
Led AL in Slugging Percentage, OPS, Plate Appearances and Runs Created in 1986
Led AL in hits in 1984 and 1986
Led AL in Total Bases and Extra-Base Hits in 1985 and 1986
Led AL in Doubles from 1984-86
Led AL in RBI's and Sacrifice Flies in 1985
Led AL in At Bats per Strikeout in 1988
Holds Yankees single season record for hits (238 in 1986)
Holds Yankees single season record for doubles (53 in 1986)
N.Y. Yankees Career Leader in Sacrifice Flies (96) and Intentional Walks (136)
Ranks 86th on MLB Career Doubles List (442)
Ranks 33rd on MLB Career Sacrifice Flies List (96)
Ranks 53rd on MLB Career Intentional Walks List (136) Personal
The sweet-swinging lefty immediately proved his worth to the Yankees franchise. In the minors, Mattingly batted .349 in 1979, .358 in 1980, and .316 in 1981. He was hitting .315 for Triple-A Columbus when he made it to the majors late in the 1982 season.
Mattingly spent his official rookie season of 1983 as a part-time first baseman and outfielder, waiting for a full-time spot in the lineup to open up. He played well, hitting .283 in 279 at-bats, but with little power.
Slugger Steve Balboni was the favored organizational prospect at first base, but it became apparent in 1982-83 that Balboni was too prone to striking out and that his ranging right-handed swing was less than ideal for Yankee Stadium. Mattingly quickly surpassed Balboni on the team's depth chart, and Balboni was traded to the Kansas City Royals in 1984.
Mattingly became the Yankees' full-time first baseman and an MVP candidate. He hit .343 and beat out teammate Dave Winfield in a close race for the American League batting title with a 4-for-5 game on the last day of the season. Mattingly also led the league with 207 hits. He developed a power stroke, slugging a league-leading 44 doubles to go with 23 home runs. He was 2nd in the league in slugging percentage (.537) and at bats per strikeout (18.3), 4th in total bases (.324), 5th in RBIs (110), 6th in sacifice flies (9), and 10th in on base percentge (.381). He also batted .400 with runners in scoring position.
Mattingly's back problems flared up anew in 1990; after struggling with the bat, he had to go on the disabled list in July, only returning late in the season for an ineffective finish. His stat line-- a .256 average, 5 home runs and 42 RBI in almost 400 at-bats-- came as a shock. Mattingly underwent extensive therapy in the offseason, but his hitting ability never returned. Though he averaged .290 over his final five seasons, he became more of a slap hitter, hitting just 53 home runs over that timeframe. Mattingly's defense remained stellar, but he was not always physically able to play.
Unluckily, Mattingly made his major league debut in 1982, the year after the Yankees lost the World Series. The team did not reach the postseason in any of Mattingly's first 13 years. In 1995, Mattingly finally reached the playoffs when the Yankees won the AL wild card on the next-to-last day of the season. Their opponents were the Seattle Mariners.
In the only postseason series of his career, Mattingly batted .417 with 6 RBI and a memorable go-ahead home run in Game Two, his final game at Yankee Stadium. In the final game of the series (and of his career), Mattingly again broke a tie with a two-run double. But the New York bullpen faltered and Seattle won in the 11th inning of the decisive Game Five.
Career decline: 1990-1995
Mattingly finished his career with 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI, and a .307 lifetime average. He had particular success against Scott McGregor, batting .500 against him with a .938 slugging percentage in 32 at bats. He is commonly cited as the best Yankee player to have never played in a World Series. His career had bad timing, as the Yankees lost the World Series the year before he broke into the big leagues and they ended up winning the World Series in the first year of Mattingly's retirement. Ironically, this World Series drought (1982-1995) was the longest in Yankees history since the Babe Ruth era.
The Yankees retired Mattingly's number 23 and dedicated his plaque for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 1997. The plaque calls him "A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever."
After retiring as a player, Mattingly spent seven seasons as a special instructor during Yankees' spring training in Tampa, Florida from 1997-2003.
Following the 2003 season, the Yankees named Mattingly the hitting coach. He spent three seasons in that role, receiving much praise from the Yankees organization and his players. Under Mattingly the Yankees set an all-time franchise record 242 home runs in 2004.
On October 26, 2006, Mattingly was promoted to being Joe Torre's bench coach, replacing Lee Mazzilli.
Back with the Yankees
The New York Yankees won the American League pennant in 1981. In 1982, the team called up Don Mattingly from the minor leagues. The Yanks failed to win a pennant for his entire career. His last season as an active player was 1995. The Yankees won the World Series in 1996. Despite such achievements as the American League's batting title in 1984, its Most Valuable Player Award in 1985, and a team record for most hits in a season in 1986, with 238, Mattingly never appeared on a pennant-winning team.
The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, the first year Mattingly wasn't in uniform since they won the pennant without him in 1981. In 1997, the Yankees retired Mattingly's uniform number 23 and dedicated a plaque in his honor that would rest in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. That season, the Yankees finished second in the American League Eastern Division to the Orioles, and it remains the last season (through 2006) in which the Yankees did not win the division title. The next season, 1998, the Yankees began a run of five American League pennants in six seasons, ending with the 2003 World Series. Despite losing in the World Series, the Yankees dramatically won the AL pennant in 2003 in an extra inning Game 7 against the Boston Red Sox.
In 2004, Mattingly was hired as the team's hitting instructor. The Yankees were one game away from winning the American League pennant, when they had a historic meltdown, being the first team in Major League history to lose a 7-game series after being up three games to none to the Boston Red Sox, thus setting the stage for the Sox to end the Curse of the Bambino against St. Louis in the World Series. In the next season on the job, the Yankees again failed to win the pennant despite winning their division and having the highest payroll in baseball.
This has led to the suggestion that the Yankees will never win a pennant as long as Mattingly is in uniform. Between their first pennant in 1921 and 1981, and again from 1996 to 2003, a total of 69 seasons, the Yankees won 39 American League pennants, or 56 percent of the available pennants. In the 16 seasons in which Mattingly has been in a Yankee uniform (1982 to 1995 and 2004 to 2006), the Yankees have never won. Unless, of course, you count in the 2000 season, when Mattingly returned to Yankee Stadium to play in his first Old Timer's day.
Despite this supposed curse, Mattingly remains immensely popular among Yankee fans for standing as the man who upheld the Yankee legacy through a dark period in team history in terms of competitiveness and front-office upheaval. Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay has said, "Don Mattingly may be the most popular athlete in New York City history."
The Curse of Donnie Baseball
In 2005, Don launched his new baseball and softball equipment company, Mattingly Baseball. The company is based on the patented V-Grip baseball and softball bats. After watching his kids and their friends struggle with maintaining the proper hitting grip, Don, along with co-inventor Jim Wells, created the V-Grip as a way to ensure the proper alignment of the hands and to keep the bat out in the hitter's fingertips. A third founder, Skip Shaw, was brought in to grow the company into a meaningful player in the baseball and softball equipment marketplace. The V-Grip bats have been approved for game play by all of the major leagues and associations including Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth including Ripken Baseball, Pony League, Dixie Youth, AABC, ASA, USSSA, National Federation of High Schools and the NCAA.
It is rumored that Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has already picked Mattingly as his choice to replace current manager Joe Torre, whose contract expires after the 2007 season. In fact, Michael Kay, the lead play-by-play man for the YES Network says:
"From everything that I have heard the Yankees are absolutely blown away by how great Don Mattingly has been as the hitting coach, his work ethic and his level of preparedness. I think when Joe Torre leaves, the next manager will be Don Mattingly."
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has praised Mattingly as someone who "understands what it is to be a Yankee" and said he "could possibly" become the Yankees' manager.
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Posted by allenwoow at 11:03 AM