Mattingly's 23 Closes After Nine Years (Evansville Courier 06/18/96)

Mattingly's 23 Restaurant and Lounge - a local landmark owned by former baseball all-star Don Mattingly and dedicated to sports in general and the New York Yankees in particular - has closed.

Kevin Edmonds, general manager of the restaurant at 1700 Morgan Center Drive, said the restaurant " ... just couldn't take in enough money to keep the restaurant open."

The restaurant, which had been open almost nine years, employed about 33 people, Edmonds said.

Edmonds said that Mattingly and his wife, Kim, bade an emotional farewell to most of the restaurant's employees late Saturday night.

Most of the employees were notified of the closing then, and a farewell party was held. A few employees were notified by phone later.

"It was very gut-wrenching and very, very emotional," Edmonds said.

Edmonds said employees would receive severance pay based on their seniority - in most cases, a week or two of pay. Sports memorabilia that decorated the restaurant will go into storage, at least temporarily.

Edmonds said that despite crowds at the restaurant, it struggled to keep ahead of expenses.

Problems at the restaurant had been aggravated by a cold winter and wet spring, which kept customers away.

Mattingly had put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the restaurant in an effort to keep it afloat, but to no avail, Edmonds said.

The Mattinglys have no plans to open another restaurant elsewhere, Edmonds said. The building is now up for sale.

Mattingly did not return a phone call for comment Monday.

Mattingly's 23, which took its name from Mattingly's jersey number with the Yankees, opened in August 1987 to favorable reviews from gourmets and sports fans alike.

The entrance to the restaurant featured a replica ticket booth, souvenir stand and old World Series programs.

Photos of Yankee legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle decorated the halls, as did other baseball greats like Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson.

A display case housed bats of Ty Cobb, Pee Wee Reese and others.

The restaurant was a popular gathering place for sports fans, particularly during World Series or tournament time. It also was a popular stopping place for visiting sports celebrities.

The decision was unrelated to Mattingly's decision not to return to professional baseball this year, Edmonds said.

Mattingly was named the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1986.

He won the league's batting title in 1984 with a .343 average and was a perennial Gold Glove winner at first base.

By TOM RAITHEL, Courier staff writer

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