Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#32 Don Mattingly

About the Front: This is a horizontal photo done right. Donnie Baseball was known for his smooth defense at first base (he won nine Gloves in a ten-year span), and here we see him stooping low for a pickoff throw as Herm Winningham of the Red Sox dives back to the bag. One of my silly little pleasures in card collecting is being able to identify players who are making "cameos" on another player's card. It's even better when I can harness the powers of Baseball Reference to pinpoint the game in which the pictured was taken. In this case, there was only one Boston-at-Yankees game in 1992 that met the criteria of (1) Mattingly playing the field and (2) Winningham reaching base. It was Thursday, August 6, and the Red Sox eked out a 3-1 victory. Frank Viola allowed four hits and four walks and came without an out of a complete game, and Jeff Reardon retired Roberto Kelly with a runner on first base to earn the save. Winningham singled with two outs in the top of the fifth, but was not successfully picked off; he was stranded when Phil Plantier flied out to center field. Piece of cake, huh?

About the Back: This is the first appearance by a Yankee in the 1993 Topps set. Could you ever see the Bronx Bombers getting shut out until card #32 these days? The horrors. As for "Mattingly's 23", Don closed its doors in 1996, citing escalating expenses and increased competition from chain restaurants.

Triple Play:

1. Don hit home runs in eight straight games, July 8-18, 1987, tying Dale Long's major league record. Ken Griffey, Jr. also tied this mark in 1993. Mattingly batted .459 (17-for-37) and slugged 1.324 with two doubles, 10 HR, and 21 RBI during his torrid streak, but the Yanks went 5-3 in that time.

2. I will gladly take any chance to mention the 1992 Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". For the uninitiated, Mattingly and eight other star major leaguers (lending their voices in guest starring roles) are recruited by Springfield Power Plant owner Mr. Burns to play as ringers on the company softball team. On the show, Burns kicks the first baseman off of his team for refusing to shave his sideburns. He later said that he realized how many people actually watched that show when fans at the ballpark started heckling him about his sideburns.

3. Don served on Joe Torre's coaching staffs with the Yankees and Dodgers, and took over as L.A.'s manager in 2011 after Torre retired. As of this writing, the Dodgers have struggled to a 43-45 record in an injury-plagued season. Because of the team's high payroll and lack of results, Mattingly is perceived to be on the hot seat.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: A bit of a second-hand story here. My uncle's mother-in-law used to be an avid autograph collector. She claimed that Mattingly was one of the nicest players she ever met.

Bill James Said: "In his best year, 1986, he was 88% better than the average American League hitter. Last year he was 20% better." If you look at the eye-popping stats on the back of Don's baseball card, it's hard to believe that he never made an All-Star team after 1989. The guy's body just broke down on him.

On This Date in 1993: July 9. Moises Alou hits two home runs in a 6-1 Expos win over the Padres. Each of his last six hits (spanning four games) has been a homer; the last of these sets a new record for most consecutive hits that are home runs.


  1. I don't remember Viola with Boston at all. But I checked and he was there for three seasons. Hmmmm

  2. Bob - Well, he got injured in 1994, so it was more like two seasons and a bit of a third. I have those sort of blanks with a lot of the player movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

  3. Your identification of the action on cards is a gift and a sickness. Bravo.

  4. Why thank you, sir! With Baseball-Reference game logs and the Play Index, it's easier than you might think.