Don Mattingly

From Academic Kids

Donald Arthur Mattingly ("Donnie Baseball") (born April 20, 1961) was a star left-handed baseball player (first baseman) for the New York Yankees in the 1980s.

He 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, even earning a brief write-up in Sports Illustrated magazine. However, most Major League Baseball teams were sure he was going to college, and didn't draft him. The Yankees took a chance, and were able to sign Mattingly after selecting him in the 19th round of the 1979 amateur draft.

The sweet-swinging lefty immediately proved it was a wise decision, terrorizing pitchers in the Yankee farm system. He batted .349 in 1979, .358 in 1980, .316 in 1981 and made it to the majors late in the 1982 season after batting .315 for Triple-A Columbus.

He spent his official rookie season of 1983 as a part-time first baseman and outfielder, waiting for a spot to open up. Mattingly wore number 46 during his rookie season. He played well, hitting .283, but with little power.

That part of his game arrived in 1984, when he was an MVP candidate. He beat out teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title on the last day of the season, with a mark of .343, while hitting a league-leading 44 doubles to go with 23 home runs and 110 RBI.

He followed that up with a spectacular 1985 season, winning the MVP award in the American League; he batted .324 with 35 home runs and 145 RBI, the most by a major leaguer since the 1950s. He may have been even better in 1986, when he hit .352 with a league-leading 238 hits and 53 doubles. He was beat out in the American League MVP voting by a pitcher named Roger Clemens. Clemens also won the CY Young award that year. This was a big argument whether a pitcher should win both awards. Don Mattingly was certainly the best hitter that year. In 1987, he tied a major league record by hitting home runs in eight consecutive games.

Mattingly remained among the game's best players throughout the 1980s, winning the Gold Glove Award for his fielding each year and a spot on the American League All-Star team. As late as 1989, he seemed to be on pace to shatter several career hitting records.

It all came crashing down in 1990, when Mattingly suffered from severe back problems. He tried to play through it, but struggled with the bat and had to go on the disabled list in July. He came back late in the season but was still ineffective. He underwent extensive therapy in the off-season and made it into the lineup in 1991. He was still an above-average hitter, but the injuries had robbed him of much of his power. He played five more seasons, but never again batted higher than .304 or hit more than 17 home runs.

In 1995 his dream came true. He finally made it into the post-season. He proved he was a big time player by providing dramatic hits. The Yankees lost the series in five games (after being up 2 games to 0) in Seattle to the Mariners. Mattingly described the plane ride home as a "flying funeral". No one on that Yankee team could believe they lost. He retired after that season with 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI and a .307 average, never winning or playing in a World Series. Ironically, the Yankees won the Series the following year in 1996. Mattingly remains a strong - if controversial because of his short career - candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but as of 2004 had not been elected. Almost all baseball fans and experts do agree that he is the best Yankee player to have never played in a World Series with the team.

After the 2003 season, he was hired by the Yankees to be their new hitting coach.

He married Kim Sexton on September 8, 1979. They have 3 sons: Taylor, Preston, and Jordan.

The Yankees retired his number 23 on August 31, 1997.

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