When Donnie Baseball was the best


On Jan. 12, the Hall of Fame will unveil its class of 2009, and yet again, Don Mattingly, despite the beliefs of many a fervent Yankee fan, will not make the Hall of Fame. His career was cut short by a bad back, and he never put up the totals that the voters like to see from the Cooperstown bound. For a few years, however, in the late 1980s, Donnie Baseball was quite literally the best player in baseball, and in interesting glimpse into Yankee history, Larry at wezen-ball has explored what the press had to say about Mattingly in the 1980s. Year after year, the Athlon and Street & Smith previews heaped praise upon the Yankee Captain. It’s a shame back problems robbed him of what otherwise would have been a Hall of Fame career.

Categories : Asides


  1. D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:


    (head expoldes)

    • Nady Nation says:

      Don’t worry. Bernie’s still got an outside shot at the Hall! (Don’t chop my head off – kidding)

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

        I actually think Bernie does have an outside chance at the Hall. I would not vote for him but I also would not vote for a lot of people who get tons of votes and even quite a few guys in the Hall.

      • Matt says:

        Jorge should get some real consideration when his time comes. He’s been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball–if not the best–since he came up in 95.

        • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

          I think the only thing that keeps Jorge out is if he hangs on for too long and does not play well. If he has another year or two of top offensive numbers for a catcher, I think he is in easy.

          • Matt says:

            I don’t know about easy. I have a bad feeling he’s gonna get overlooked but if he wins another SS and has some strong offensive years, he SHOULD get in. Jeff Kent is going to be rewarded for being a great hitting 2B so why shouldn’t Posada be rewarded for being a great hitting catcher? Maybe this will be my next HOF campaign quest if Blyelven doesn’t get in this year. I also still have my anti-Biggio arguments as well.

    • I absolutely promise, I will not start any shit.

      Donnie was indeed the man.

      Fun Fact of the Day #2:
      Assuming he remains the starter through the end of his 8 year contract, with Mattingly to Tino to Giambi to Teixiera, the Yankees “starting” first baseman (not counting injury replacements or DH experiments) will now have worn either #23, #24, or #25 for 34 straight years (1983-2016).

    • Nady Nation says:

      DBHOF – out of curiousity, did you like Tino? I know your feelings on Giambi. How did you feel about Donnie’s immediate replacement?

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

        I was a fan of Tino, yet it still pained me to see him out there instead of Donnie, especially the first few years. Tino’s drop off on D was not very much as he was one of the better glove holders in the league at his potion in my opinion. My only knock on Tino was he was not as solid of an all around player and hitter as Donnie, and had to be the slowest man this side of Wade Boggs. But I really did and still do like Tino.

        Also Tino had respect for Donnie, and understood and respected his place (his and Donnie’s really) in the teams history. Tino actually from a lot of things I heard tried to get Donnie to come back in some way to possibly share some time at first and or DH. Tino is a good guy, had a very good glove, and had some great seasons at the plate for the Yankees.

        Off tipic but I also really liked the Tino / Fake George Steinbrenner / Don Zimmer Devil Rays commercial they had the year Tino went to the Rays.

        Also just FYI I do not HATE Jason Giambi. I just hate the stain he put on the game. I know many others have put a huge stain on the game as well, countless others, but that does not let me forgive him for what he did. I did think Giambi should have been released, especially when Pena was in AAA and he had that out he did eventually use.

        I am not the biggest fan of Tex, but I am very happy we will have a guy who can actually man the position well. I share some similarities to Tex in our upbringing and obviously our favorite player is the same man so I am rooting for him to be a success for quite a few reasons other than just being on the Yanks. Did not see the press conf today, but I hope to catch it online somewhere.

  2. Ryan S. says:

    Mattingly was definitely my favorite player growing up as a kid. I’m glad Donnie is getting into coaching, hopefully he wins a few rings and creates a HOF-worthy career as a manager.

  3. jsbrendog says:

    anyone who was a yankee fan during the “dark years” after the whole winfield/steinbrenner thing when the boss was out of baseball and says they were nto or are nto a donnie baseball fan are liars. downright scoundrels.

    he provided a ray of light and hope during dark times.

    unfortunately, one can sit here and name players who exhibited possible hall of fame careers only to be cut short by injury until they are blue in the face and have a long grey beard. Unfortunately, what this means is that he is just one of many who have come and many who will come after who were derailed by injuries/issues/etc. Sucks, but it is a truism.

    • christopher says:

      what about steve sax, mike leggo gallego, pags, rags

      those stars all shined brighter than donnie

      in all seriosness, it was and still is heartbreaking to all of who lived through those years and especially those of us who became fans in those years in large part because of donnie, that he never got to win a series and retied right before the dynasty and then came back as a coash and didnt get to win.

      one of my favorite yankee memories of all time was the call in the wild card series with the mariners -

      “Hold onto the roof”

  4. The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

    Thanks for linking to that, Ben, I wasn’t familiar with that website. One thing that I feel unfortunately gets lost when we (or others) discuss Mattingly is just how good he was during his peak, both offensively and in the field. His overall numbers might not stack up with the best of the best because his peak (and career) was shortened due to injuries, but the guy was arguably the best player in baseball for a few years. And, add to that the fact that his pre-injury “peak” came from ages 23-28. His career often gets discussed through the prism of the HOF discussion and we often lose sight of how good he was, and the ages at which he put up those great seasons. It’s nice to take a look back and remember how good he was and how his career was perceived pre-1990.

    • Balls Deep says:

      That 5 year stretch was awesome; just not long enough and was sad to see him playing hurt and every weak swing that ended with a popup to short left field. How about Albert Belle… another prolific hitter that didn’t last that long but was as feared then as Manny is now.

      • Belle is a super-intriguing Hall case… as is (gasp!) Andruw Jones. Can’t remember if it was Olney or Gammons who mentioned him recently.

        Stop for a second and think about it. I’m not saying he’s in, but what the tubby Curacaoian did from age 19-30 is pretty impressive.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

        “…sad to see him playing hurt and every weak swing that ended with a popup to short left field.”

        Little melodramatic there, don’t you think? It’s not like the guy was hobbling up to the plate on crutches in 1992 and needed help getting the bat around. He was not the offensive player he once was, but he was still a very good defender and could hit a bit.

    • True. He was wicked good offensively, and at a very young age. Had he stayed healthy and been productive through his early 30′s, he’d be a mortal lock for the Hall.

    • christopher says:

      great point about the peak years coming at ages before players typically hit their prime. how good could he have been?

      I really dont remember his great years all that well – i was a fan but younf – 28 now so i really only got to see the donnie who was a singles/doubles guy.

      still is and will always be my all-time favorite yankee. i too liked tino and i think o neill went along way toward filling that donnei void, but i just wish he played one more year, even as a role player

  5. Mike Pop says:

    How many are going to be apart of the NoMaas live chat tonight? Im looking forward to it, probably will involve some laughs.

  6. Mike Pop says:

    If Donnie was the 1b in 96, do we win it all?

  7. Mike Pop says:

    Man, the season needs to start next year.

  8. Should be working says:

    Yankees sign Jason Johnson. Possible plan to have the kids fill up 4, 5, 6 (Giving Joba time off) and Johnson as a long man of sorts?

  9. A.D. says:

    Teix has only gone to one all-star game… bizarre

  10. Fun Fact of the Day #3:
    Since 2001 deadline-deal acquisition Randy Velarde technically did make one appearance for the Yankees at first base and two at DH, that means that Mark Teixeira is now the 13th player in a row to wear 25 and play either at first base, DH, catcher, or pitcher, a streak that dates back to 1978. The last player to wear 25 and never play any of those four spots was George Zeber, who had six plate appearances in 1978 as either a pinch hitter or a second baseman.

    Tommy John – 1979
    Tommy John – 1980
    Tommy John – 1981
    Stefan Wever – 1982
    Tommy John – 1982
    Don Baylor – 1983
    Don Baylor – 1984
    Don Baylor – 1985
    Tommy John – 1986
    Tommy John – 1987
    Tommy John – 1988
    Greg Cadaret – 1989
    Tommy John – 1989
    Greg Cadaret – 1990
    Greg Cadaret – 1991
    Greg Cadaret – 1992
    Jim Abbott – 1993
    Jim Abbott – 1994
    Scott Bankhead – 1995
    Ruben Sierra – 1995
    Joe Girardi – 1996
    Cecil Fielder – 1996
    Ruben Sierra – 1996
    Joe Girardi – 1997
    Joe Girardi – 1998
    Joe Girardi – 1999
    Chris Turner – 2000
    Randy Velarde – 2001
    Jason Giambi – 2002
    Jason Giambi – 2003
    Jason Giambi – 2004
    Jason Giambi – 2005
    Jason Giambi – 2006
    Jason Giambi – 2007
    Jason Giambi – 2008
    Mark Teixeira – 2009


  11. D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

    “For a few years, however, in the late 1980s, Donnie Baseball was quite literally the best player in baseball”

    Man I got ROASTED for saying that same exact thing when I first started posting here.

    I think Donnie belong in the Hall but like the one guy on here who was saying what he did do might get lost in that argument. Also I think outside of NYC and its surrounding areas most people especially in National League markets did not really truly get how good of a player Donnie was. I also think how good he was got lost to quite a few younger fans of the Dynasty Era. My brother in law was 5 or 6 when they won in 96, and he never saw Donnie play so to him he is thought of as just a story.

    • Not true. You didn’t get roasted on here for saying that Donnie was the best player in baseball for a few years.

      You got roasted for saying that Donnie being the best player in baseball for a few years was enough to merit immediate entry into the Hall of Fame. You got roasted for saying that Donnie was better than Bernie, all evidence and reasoning to the contrary be damned. And you got roasted for claiming that statistical analysis either worthless gibberish or inherently less trustworthy than all other forms of analysis.

      Let’s not change the historical record.

      We always agreed that Donnie was the best player in baseball for a 3-4 year stretch in the mid-80′s. We disagreed on what that means in the larger context of Major League Baseball.

      • jsbrendog says:

        this is true

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

        Not true. Actually quite a few people had a problem with me saying he was the best player for 3 to 5 years in baseball. I did not say YOU, or anybody else by name. Every thread I posted in for about the first two weeks on here if not longer had some shot by somebody not even originally in on the first conversation.

        That is not a change of historical record. Just realize as much as you are on this board you are not in on every conversation. I know I am not.

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

        “You got roasted for saying that Donnie was better than Bernie, all evidence and reasoning to the contrary be damned.”

        Also, to keep thins factual. I started by saying that Bernie was to me the most over rated Yankee of all time. That got people saying Bernie was better than Donnie, I did not start that portion of the argument or really start any argument with anybody.

        “And you got roasted for claiming that statistical analysis either worthless gibberish or inherently less trustworthy than all other forms of analysis.”

        Not sure I understand that part.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

          “And you got roasted for claiming that statistical analysis IS either worthless gibberish or inherently less trustworthy than all other forms of analysis.”


          • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

            Ok that computes much better. I read it three times and did not get it.

            I actually did not say that either. What I said is that if you saw Donnie and saw Bernie there is no way if you know ballplayers that you say Bernie was the better BASEBALL PLAYER of the two. Many other people agree with me on that, they just would put up one post and keep it moving while other people came out of the woodwork with whatever career figures that suited their cause in their own mind.

            I know I did not have the most eloquent argument, nor am I the most eloquent fellow around anyway. But I know that Donnie was one of the best all around baseball players that anybody in their 30′s or younger has ever seen. Even if they fail to pick that up.

            Really I was not on here to rehash all of this, that is even why I started the post off with a joke at my own expense.

    • ceciguante says:

      i caught your back on that one, dbhof, like i always will when it comes to my favorite athlete. i remember many moments of donnie’s awesome career with striking clarity, and saw many of them live. i was at both playoff games at the stadium that he played in, for instance. i will never forget his playoff homer that went back to back with ruben “calypso” sierra’s — that roar from the crowd was epic, i can’t think of one that matched it other than maybe girardi’s triple off maddux in 1996 WS game 6.

      but the moment that symbolizes donnie’s lack of acclaim for me was the moment i saw that clemens, not donnie, won the MVP. i remember exactly where i stood and read it from the TV screen. for me, there is no greater injustice in baseball history (maybe mcgwire/bonds over maris). i have since written off all MVP, ROY and HOF voting as horribly inept exercises in subjectivity and bias (see volquez). donnie baseball is in my personal HOF, which is all that matters to me.

      -donnie baseball 4eva-

      p.s.: my friend is getting married to a girl who played collegiate softball in evansville, indiana, donnie’s hometown. if i get invited to the wedding, i may get to meet donnie. after i finish crying, i will report back promptly.

  12. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I got Don Mattingly’s autograph by accident when I was a kid. I was at a spring training game in 1983, and my father told me to go over and get Yogi Berra’s autograph. He signed the back of a 1980 New York Yankee baseball card, I also got the guy standing next to him, autograph also. About five years later I was looking at the card and realized that it was Mattingly’s signature. Pretty cool. I also got Don Baylor and Dave Winfield to sign a 1979 RBI leader card. It was one of the highlights of my childhood.
    I sold all of my cards and autographs when I was a senior in high school, so that I could have money to buy beer with. Good times.

  13. Jake H says:

    Donnie was my favorite player growing up. I really wish he would have won a ring.

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  15. D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

    Since this is a Donnie thread anybody have any idea of where I could get a good picture of his 95 ALDS home run? I just got the DVD about Yankee Stadium that had that on there. MLB did a crappy job of editing it though. They took the source video which was not hi def and cropped it to pretend it was and it really sucks because I am not missing about a third of the screen by their fake letterbox move. MLB really needs to learn from NFL films.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

      Not sure about a photo, but the video on the Yankeeography DVD is better and I believe the bonus footage is the original TV broadcast (of that hit, not the whole game obviously).

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

        The Donnie Yankeeography DVD? I swear I got that somewhere around here.

        Really trying to find a photo of that, and can’t. Would especially love one wihtout the MLB hologram and all that players association mess they put on the official ones in the bottom right. I am all for everybody getting paid their money but that stuff is tacky and stops me from spending money on some stuff. I know if that homer got hit today it would be all over online on everybodys personal picture sites.

  16. Reggie C. says:

    From LOHUD: Phil Coke has been told to come to training camp ready to compete for that 5th spot.

    The squeeze on Andy Pettitte is on …

    • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don says:

      Good. I also have to assume if Phil Coke makes a splash in the bigs that he has got to get an endorsement from coca cola.

      • ceciguante says:

        he should wear steve howe’s old number and play in some colombian instructional league. there has to be a business opportunity in there somewhere. does FARC have a marketing budget?

  17. Like most of the world, I was enamored with Mattingly when he hit the scene. I had his 1984 Donruss rookie card encased in Lucite and thought I was witnessing the second coming.

    That being said, I’m not so sure we weren’t.

    Read the rest at http://hallofverygood.blogspot.com

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