Monday, January 13, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #98 DON MATTINGLY


JUST HOW I REMEMBER HIM.


WHAT IF?


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Don Mattingly had a six-year peak when he was among the top five players. From 1984-'89, he averaged 27 homers, 114 RBI, .902 OPS and hit .327. That corresponded with the hobby's explosion and made Mattingly one of the most collected and popular players. If you got a Donnie Baseball in a pack, you had a spring in your step the rest of the day. At shows in the mid-'80s, his cards were under glass and never cheap. Mattingly's 14-year career was shortened due to chronic back problems but remains a player who stirs only fond memories for those of us who collected 30 years ago.

DEFINING THE MOMENT

  • In Game 2 of the '95 ALDS against the Mariners on Oct. 4, Mattingly broke a 2-all tie with a solo shot to deep right-center field in the sixth. New York would on to win 7-5 in 15 innings, but Yankee Stadium was never louder as Mattingly rounded the bases following his first and only postseason homer. Fans littered the field with caps, cups and other debris, forcing the Mariners off the field for five minutes, as the crowd went into a thunderous "Don-nie Base-Ball!'' chant until the captain took a curtain call.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Although he won the AL MVP in '85, Mattingly's best season, sabermetrically, was '86. He led baseball in seven categories, including OPS (.967), OPS+ (161), hits (238) and slugging (.573). He accumulated a 7.2 WAR and hit 31 homers, drove in 113 and hit .352. All that earned him was a runner-up finish to #104 Roger Clemens in the AL MVP vote, with Rocket getting 19 first-place votes, Mattingly five and Jim Rice four.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Mattingly's legendary work ethic was developed at an early age as the youngest of five and whose dad was a mailman. Mattingly has theorized all the hitting and fielding work he put in to make him the player he was likely caused his back problems.
  2. As a youngster, he played endless games of Whiffleball and developed his opposite-field power stroke in order to take advantage of a gap in the neighborhood trees in ''left-center.''
  3. Made Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd'' feature in the July 16, 1979, issue as an 18-year-old pitcher-outfielder in Evansville, Ind., who led his high school team to a 59-1 record and equaled the scholastic record for RBI with 140 during his four years.  
  4. Had a memorable shootout with teammate Dave Winfield for the '84 batting title that came down to the final day. Trailing Winfield .342-.339, Mattingly went 4-for-5 and Winfield 1-for-4. Mattingly finished at .343, Winfield .340. The Yankees finished 17 games behind the 104-win Tigers.
  5. Mattingly, who was named Dodgers manager Sept. 17, 2010, recently received a three-year contract extension. He also received 8.2 percent of the Hall of Fame vote Wednesday in his 14th year on the ballot.

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