NEW YORK - Don Mattingly, discouraged by injuries that have robbed him of the brilliance he once displayed, says he will seriously consider retiring when his New York Yankees contract expires after the 1995 season. "I will have to make a decision on whether I'm willing to keep going," says Mattingly, 33. "I think it's going to be a hard decision." Mattingly has not lost his enthusiasm for the game or his zest for competition. But chronic back problems and persistent tendinitis in his right wrist require extensive and tiresome preparation merely for the six-time All-Star to step on the field. "Mentally, I'm going to have to be willing to keep going and working," Mattingly says. "For me to keep playing, there's a lot of work I have to do off the field." The Yankees' captain takes a .300 average with six home runs and 47 RBI into the start of a three-game series with archrival Boston tonight at Yankee Stadium. There is still lots of life in Mattingly's bat. His three-run home run with one out in the ninth inning rallied the Yankees to a 6-4 victory against California Sunday. It was his first career pinch-hit homer and provided the most memorable blow of a tremendous 10-1 West Coast trip that enabled the American League East leaders to open a 5 1/2-game advantage on Baltimore. Saturday, Mattingly banged out his 2,000th career hit to join Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra as the only Yankees to reach that milestone. Still, Mattingly is increasingly frustrated by his inability to meet the lofty standards he once achieved regularly. "I realize as I've gotten older I can't do things I used to do," he said, "and I will probably never do them again." Mattingly is not even entertaining the notion that he would play long enough to reach 3,000 hits. "Too far, too far," he says. "I'd like to be able to get there, but I'm not going to get there." Those close to Mattingly would not be surprised if he walked away after 1995. "I don't see him playing a lot longer," says former teammate and current Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph. "Great players get used to a certain standard and, even though they're very capable, they still feel they should be doing more. I think there will come a time soon when he feels he doesn't want to just be good." Manager Buck Showalter is not sure what Mattingly will choose. "I don't think he really knows. I don't think he's made up his mind," he says. "I think it will depend on his wife and his family and what level he can play at." Says Mattingly, "I don't want to be totally ordinary." That would be unacceptable to someone who, in the mid-1980s, was regarded as the game's premier player. In 1984, he gave the Yankees their first batting champion since Mantle (1956) by batting .343 and outdueling then-teammate Dave Winfield on the final day of the season. The next year he drove in 145 runs - most by a Yankee since DiMaggio's 155 in 1948 - and gained the American League's Most Valuable Player award. He smashed franchise records with 238 hits and 53 doubles in 1986. But Mattingly, after batting .300 for six consecutive seasons from 1984-89, has not maintained that level since. Inoperable back problems have robbed him of much of his power and he last produced 20 homers in a season in 1989. Now, a wrist problem that surgery last November did not relieve is making it even more difficult for the eight-time Gold Glove winner to perform. Mattingly emphasized that he will fulfill his current five-year, $19.3-million contract even if he reaches post-season play for the first time this season. The retirement decision, and all that it entails, can wait. "I don't want to look down the road now. I want to put my energy into this season and that's it," Mattingly says. "I'm just enjoying the ride we're on."
Tom Pedulla, Mattingly talks of one more season., USA TODAY, 07-26-1994, pp 03.