MLB Network is dropping a documentary on Don Mattingly this Sunday night. I had a chance to watch it last night, and it did not disappoint.
Being born in 1997, I grew up on Derek Jeter. I obviously never saw Mattingly play. However, I always found it fascinating that Yankee fans arguably speak even more highly of Mattingly. I mean, just look at all of the glowing comments on this tweet:
One of my all-time favorite home runs/crowd reactions pic.twitter.com/AkCkQhIu1Y
— Stanzo (@ncostanzo24) March 30, 2022
Obviously I’ve always known how great of a player he was. A quick glance at his Baseball Reference page will show you that. But Yankee fans are obsessed with winning. To be loved by Yankee fans, not only does a player have to perform, but they have to do it in the clutch on winning teams.
So how did Mattingly become one of the most beloved players to ever don the pinstripes despite being in the playoffs just once? The Donnie Baseball doc did an exceptional job of showing why. I won’t spoil too much, but here are a few of my favorite tidbits from it:
- Mattingly was minor league teammates with Buck Showalter. Buck: “This guy is gonna be the first baseman for the Yankees someday, so I’m not. Better figure out something else to do.”
- Mattingly told Yankee manager Yogi Berra as a rookie, “Once you get me in the lineup, you won’t get me out.”
- During his MVP season in 1985, the Yankees won 97 (NINETY-SEVEN?!) games and missed the playoffs. That’s an absolute crime.
- From 1984-86, Mattingly was twice as likely to double or hit a homer than he was to strike out. Incredible when you think about what MLB is like today.
- I’ve seen the softball episode of The Simpsons a million times & it still makes me crack up.
- I never realized the extent of his beef with Steinbrenner – haircut ordeal, trade rumors, etc.
- Mattingly shut down his teammates’ hazing of a young Bernie Williams & became a mentor to the future Yankee legend.
- Quote from Buck Showalter that I thought could apply to this year’s Yankee squad: “We got better by who we subtracted as much as who we added.”
- George Brett tells a great story where he & Mattingly went out and got hammered the night before a game & were telling each other how hungover they were on the field.
- I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like to be a Yankee fan in 1994, having the season cancelled while in first place.
- Mattingly told Buck the last 2-3 weeks of ’95: “I’m gonna let it rip.”
- I always love watching clips from that Yanks/Mariners series.
- Mattingly almost came out of retirement in ’97 with the Cardinals.
Mattingly is an absolute Yankees legend, and now I fully understand why. Watch Donnie Baseball this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. on MLB Network.