Don Mattingly turned 50 today, which for any Yankee fan growing up in the 1980s is a little startling. Although the team suffered through one of its longest championship droughts during Mattingly’s tenure, Donnie Baseball was still able to capture the hearts of an entire generation, so it’s hard to think of him as being a relic from an another era.
During his playing career, Mattingly’s birthday was always easy to remember because it seemed as if he never quite got going until after it passed. Long before Mark Teixeira became famous for his early season struggles, Mattingly turned slow starts into an art form. Whether he was in his prime or toward the end of his career, April was usually a frustrating time for Mattingly.
If it seems as if the Yankees have been through this before with Mattingly, it’s because they have. Everyone knows what to expect now, a plodding start followed by a fast summer. If it’s cold, so is Mattingly. Even in his magic years, Mattingly was no better than an ordinary April hitter.” – John Heyman, Newsday, April 19, 1994
Mattingly, Month by Month
Although the former Yankee captain’s April OPS of .719 was by far his lowest in any month, April 20 was usually a bright spot. On his birthday, Mattingly posted an OPS of .852, giving him a temporary reprieve from his struggles, while providing a glimpse of the production that was yet to come.
Celebrating in Style: Mattingly on his Birthday
This year, Mattingly’s birthday was marked by Bud Selig’s announcement that major league baseball had effectively taken over control of the Los Angeles Dodgers from financially strapped owner Frank McCourt. Normally, such a turn of events would qualify as bad news, but considering how dysfunctional things have been under McCourt, Selig’s decision might actually turn out to be Mattingly’s best birthday gift yet.
If anyone is well equipped to thrive amid chaos, it’s Donnie Baseball. That’s one of the benefits to coming of age during a tumultuous period in George M. Steinbrenner’s reign. If the Dodgers can quickly move on from the debacle that has been McCourt’s ownership, Mattingly might actually have a chance to succeed in what now seems like an unenviable position. In any event, happy birthday Donnie. Here’s hoping for another fast summer.