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Legends On Deck

Donnie Baseball Should Be Hall Bound

The best Yankee to never reach the World Series, is the same legend that has yet to be voted into the Hall of Fame. Could this be the year?

Donald Arthur Mattingly, aka Donnie Baseball, was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 19th round of the 1979 amateur draft out of Reitz Memorial HS in Evansville, IN.

Mattingly, who broke into the bigs in 1982 at 21-years old, was an all star first baseman in just three years. In 14 professional seasons, he hit .307, recorded 2135 hits, with 222 home runs, and 1099 RBI’s.

He won the batting title in 1984 on the final day of the season, as he went 4 for 5 to beat out teammate Dave Winfield and finish three points ahead with a .343 average. In 1987, he hit a then record, six grand slams and also enjoyed an eight game home run streak that totaled 10 during the span.

The Yankee Legend was an all-star for six straight seasons (1984 – 1989), won the League MVP in 1985, while also leading the league with 45 doubles and 145 RBI’s. He had three straight seasons with at least 200 hits and even played in all 162 games in 1986. He finished in the top ten in the MVP voting three other times, and won nine gold gloves and three silver slugger awards during his career.

When you think about bad timing in Mattingly’s career, the Yankees lost the World Series the year before Donnie Baseball entered the league and after he retired at the end of the 1995 season, the Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1996.

From 1983 – 1987, the Yanks averaged at least 90 wins but because of the lack of an additional playoff spot, which would soon to be the Wild Card, Mattingly lost out on playing for a title.

Actually, he might have had a chance at glory if not for the strike shortened season in 1994. That year the Yankees were 70-43, most likely headed towards a division crown before baseball came to a halt. Mattingly, already at the tail end of his career, might have finally enjoyed the taste of success.

Don Mattingly

In 1995, the Yankees finished 75-69, but they won the new wild card spot, which finally gave Mattingly’s Yankees a shot at the playoffs. But his first play-off appearance would be cut short as the Yanks lost a tough opening series to the Seattle Mariners led by Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, and future Yankee hero Tino Martinez.

In his only playoff experience, Donnie Baseball, batted .417, 10 for 24, with a home run and six RBI’s in five games. It was his playoff coming out party, but also the last time he would grace the baseball field.

Looking back now, and after watching Mattingly perform so well, you only hoped that he would come back for one more season, just to be a part of what was to come.

As we all know he has gone on to be one of the top managers in the game, as he has led the Los Angeles Dodgers to no lower than a 3rd place finish and has won two division crowns the last two seasons.  His managerial record is 354 – 293, even though he has yet to lead his team to the World Series, which in no way a knock on his playing career.

I was privileged to be able to watch some other Yankee Legends play the game the right way, like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and when their time comes, they all will enter the Hall, but is it safe to say that since Mattingly didn’t enjoy the same success and longevity that they did, that he should to be left out?

So do I feel that Mattingly deserves a nod; Yes I do because he was a true legend in his era and played the game the way it was meant to be played.  He put up the numbers and shouldn’t be held back because he didn’t taste world series glory nor play long enough in the league.  He was one of the greatest Yankee first basemen, aside from Lou Gehrig. Am I stretching it a bit, well from having watched his career, I have to say I think not, and I know he would get my vote.

So on Tuesday, the 2015 Hall of Fame voting results will be in and even though it may be a long shot, it would be something to see Mattingly’s name called to join his legend counterparts. Some would say not to hold my breath, but there is nothing wrong with hoping for the best, but no matter if he gets the call or not, he was and will always be a true legend of the game.

(Feature Photo Credit:  Jerry Wachter /Sports Illustrated & Getty Images)

(Content Photo: ESPN.go.com)

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David Conde

David Conde

Co-Founder/Executive Editor at Legends On Deck®
David is the Founder and Executive Editor of Legends On Deck®. He was a Senior Editor for MetsMerizedOnline, MetsMinors.net and Contributor for Hardballchat.com. David's idea forLegends on Deck is to be a site where passionate fans of the game have a place to read about their favorite baseball teams. The site is also for people who had a talent to write or even take photographs and have the platform to share. The passion of following the Minor Leagues can be seen all over the site as the players journey's are what what drives the LOD team to share their content. David's passion is making available a site that people can have fun sharing and reading.

You can also reach out to David at daconde@legendsondeck.com
David Conde