First class

Mattingly set standard for excellence with Yankees

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Don Mattingly. (Rich Pilling/NBHOF Library)

His career is unlike almost every other Yankees star, because it included no World Series glory.

But even without a championship on his resumé, Don Mattingly remains an all-time favorite among Yankees fans – and deeply etched into the team’s record book.

Mattingly is one of 36 players on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2014 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Mattingly returns to the BBWAA ballot for the 14th year after receiving 13.2 percent of the vote in 2013. After this election, Mattingly will be eligible for the BBWAA ballot one more time if he continues to receive at least five percent of the vote and does not get elected.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

Born April 20, 1961, in Evansville, Ind., Mattingly was a high school star but was only a 19th-round draft pick by the Yankees in 1979. But Mattingly rode his perfect left-handed stroke quickly through the minors, surfacing with the Yankees at the end of the 1982 season. 

Mattingly spent 1983 as a part-time player, then burst onto the national scene the following year when he led the American League in hits (207), doubles (44) and batting average (.343). In 1985, Mattingly won the AL Most Valuable Player award with a .324 average, 35 homers and a league-leading 48 doubles and 145 RBI. He also won the first of his nine Gold Glove Awards at first base that year. 

[Scouting reports on Don Mattingly]

“I’m proud,” said Mattingly of his accomplishments. “I’ll just look back on everything with joy.” 

In 1986, Mattingly finished second in the AL MVP voting after leading the league with 238 hits and 53 doubles. And in 1987, he tied Dale Long’s major league record by homering in eight straight games. 

But starting in 1988, a degenerative disc in his back began to take its toll, slicing into his power numbers. He appeared in at least 134 games every year from 1988-93, but averaged just 14 home runs per season. 

“I was willing to pay the price to be successful at this level,” Mattingly said. “Whenever it came time to push it to the next level, I always found an excuse to go into the barn. I played the game from my heart.” 

During Mattingly’s career, however, the Yankees endured their longest postseason drought since the Woodrow Wilson administration. When the Yankees finally returned to the playoffs in 1995, the 34-year-old Mattingly hit .288 with seven homers and 49 RBI as the team’s regular first baseman. 

But in the AL Division Series against the Mariners, Mattingly hit .417 with a home run and six RBI. 

“I got my answers,” said Mattingly of his postseason performance. “I am what I am, and I did what I did. I don’t feel cheated.” 

Mattingly decided to sit out the 1996 season, then retired at the age of 35 in January of 1997. His final totals: a .307 batting average, 1,099 RBI, 222 home runs and 2,153 hits in 13 full big league seasons. He was named to seven straight American League All-Star teams, and the Yankees retired his No. 23 the day he announced he was retiring as a player. 

“To be in that category with Mickey Mantle, Yogi (Berra), Joe DiMaggio and all the other greats from where I came from… it’s like, yeah, right.” Mattingly said. “I mean, what else in the world can I want?” 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1982 21 NYY 7 13 12 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .167 .154 .167
1983 22 NYY 91 305 279 34 79 15 4 4 32 0 0 21 31 .283 .333 .409
1984 23 NYY 153 662 603 91 207 44 2 23 110 1 1 41 33 .343 .381 .537
1985 24 NYY 159 727 652 107 211 48 3 35 145 2 2 56 41 .324 .371 .567
1986 25 NYY 162 742 677 117 238 53 2 31 113 0 0 53 35 .352 .394 .573
1987 26 NYY 141 630 569 93 186 38 2 30 115 1 4 51 38 .327 .378 .559
1988 27 NYY 144 651 599 94 186 37 0 18 88 1 0 41 29 .311 .353 .462
1989 28 NYY 158 693 631 79 191 37 2 23 113 3 0 51 30 .303 .351 .477
1990 29 NYY 102 428 394 40 101 16 0 5 42 1 0 28 20 .256 .308 .335
1991 30 NYY 152 646 587 64 169 35 0 9 68 2 0 46 42 .288 .339 .394
1992 31 NYY 157 686 640 89 184 40 0 14 86 3 0 39 43 .288 .327 .416
1993 32 NYY 134 596 530 78 154 27 2 17 86 0 0 61 42 .291 .364 .445
1994 33 NYY 97 436 372 62 113 20 1 6 51 0 0 60 24 .304 .397 .411
1995 34 NYY 128 507 458 59 132 32 2 7 49 0 2 40 35 .288 .341 .413
14 Yrs 1785 7722 7003 1007 2153 442 20 222 1099 14 9 588 444 .307 .358 .471

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum