Just a quick post to honor Donald Arthur Mattingly’s 46th birthday. Donnie Baseball was the epitome of class, hard work and professionalism. I consider myself a huge Jeter fan, but Donnie will always be the Yankee captain to me.
I planned to write a long post about exactly what Don meant to me, but instead I’m just going to share one story:
When I was 11, the Mets were the talk of the town. It was 1987 and I was definitely the minority Yankee fan in my suburban New Jersey neighborhood. Every night after my own game, I’d sit down to watch the Yankees with my dad. It was a ritual.
Every time Donnie came up to bat, I got chills. I knew he was going to come through. In the middle of that summer, Mattingly caught fire. He hit a homerun in 8 consecutive games. Each night, my dad and I would sit down after dinner and turn on the game. I’d ask him the obvious question, “Do you think he’s going to do it again?” Every night he’d say, “Let’s watch and see.” Each night the excitement grew. Would he do it? Could he do it? Each night he delivered.
On the eighth night, the Yanks were playing in Texas. Mattingly came up, and I remember thinking, “There’s no way he can do it again.” Then he did. As the ball sailed over the fence I jumped out of my seat and when it landed in the seats I was beside myself. My dad jumped up too and gave me a high-five, in that moment he was 11 years-old too, we were two kids going crazy in our living room watching history.
My dad passed away a little over three years ago. Memories fade over time, and as sad as it seems, you think about those you’ve lost less and less as time goes by. I consider myself very lucky, because every time I see Don Mattingly on the Yankee bench I’m brought back to that night 20 years ago when nothing mattered but watching Donnie Baseball chase history. I remember it and I smile.
Happy birthday Donnie, and thanks for the memories.
Listen to audio of Mattingly’s record-breaking 6th grand slam in one season. (1987)
Check out more Mattingly birthday wishes/memories from Was Watching.