Don Mattingly is one of those players. Those players who linger. Those players who stick. Those players who won’t be forgotten.
As Dan so aptly demonstrated this morning, Mattingly was the kind of Yankee that carved out a special place in the minds of the fans. He was very, very good at what he did, and the way he carried himself raised him up even higher. To people of a certain age, simply mentioning his name – “Remember when Donnie …?” – brings a knowing smile.
That means something. Actually, it means a lot. While there is a (small) segment of the baseball population that believes Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame, most people – including me – see Mattingly as something different.
Is he a HOFer? Nope. But in many ways it almost doesn’t matter. Whether it’s something everyone knows about (the ‘popcorn’ incident, say) or something no one knows about (the first time you got his autograph, maybe, or – if you’re a former beat writer – the first time you talked hitting with him), Mattingly is ingrained. He is remembered.
Sure, no plaque comes with that but don’t kid yourself, either. That’s something all of us – both in and out of sports – are forever seeking.
Donnie Baseball already has it.