Don Mattingly Day!

I still cannot believe that the day had come where we all gathered together at the infamous House That Ruth Built to celebrate the accomplishments of my idol, Don Mattingly.

Mr. Mattingly had given all that he had during parts of 14 seasons with the New York Yankees, and the hope that he would return someday vanished on that dreary day in January 1997 when he officialy retired after sitting out the entire 1996 season. Although it was hard to come to grips with, I knew that I couldn't miss the day where the Yankees retired his number and honored him as only the Yankees could!

When the date was finally announced in March, I immediately called and purchased my tickets. Within days, the game was sold out! I guess I wasn't the only one who admired Don! We all had a special place in our hearts for the "Hitman!"

The day finally arrived, August 31, 1997! It started off with somber news, as we all learned of the passing of Princess Diana earlier that morning, but I put aside my sorrow for a moment and went off to celebrate the accomplishments of the man whom I had admired as a player and role model during my most formative years.

"Donnie Baseball Day,” that’s what the marquee atop the outside of Yankee Stadium read as I arrived with my three friends. No one wondered who was meant by that. Throughout his 14 year major league career, his play and general love for the game of baseball earned Donald Arthur Mattingly the nickname of “Donnie Baseball.” His love and devotion to the sport carried me through my middle and high school years, as well as my introduction to the "Real World." I literely grew up watching Don play and I was overjoyed by his accomplishments and was sadded during the losing years of the early 90's. He was the best player, by far, of the 1980's and when his back gave out and regulated his playing to that of a mear mortal, his heart never did and he became even more of a hero in my eyes.

The weather was a beautiful! It was sunny and warm, with hardly a cloud in the sky as the New York Yankees honored our beloved Donnie with a 45 minute ceremony before an inter-league game against the Montreal Expos. The outpouring of love and emotion that was bestowed upon the Captain that day will never be forgotten by anyone who was in attendance!

It started off with Micahel Kay walking out onto the field and introducing several people who Don personally selected to join him on the field. They were:

Mickey Vernon - Don's First Hitting Coach.
Sam Nader - Owner Of The Oneonta Yankees, Don's First Team.
Moose Skowron - Former Yankee (1954-1962). Don met him during Spring Training and Old-Timer's Day Games.
Hank Bauer - Former Yankee (1948-1959). Don met him during Spring Training and Old-Timer's Day Games.
Jim 'Catfish' Hunter - Former Yankee (1975-1979). Don met him during Spring Training and Old-Timer's Day Games.
Gene 'Stick' Michael - Former Yankee (1968-1974). Was a Coach and General Manager During Don's Career.
Graig Nettles - Former Yankee (1973-1983). Former Teammate (1982-1983).
Wayne Tolleson - Former Yankee Teammate (1986-1990).
Goose Gossage - Former Yankee (1978-1983, 1989). Former Teammate (1982-1983, 1989).
Mike Pagliarulo - Former Yankee Teammate (1984-1989).
Dave Righetti - Former Yankee (1979, 1981-1990). Former Teammate (1982-1990).
Willie Randolph - Former Yankee (1976-1988). Former Teammate (1982-1988) and later a coach.
Marge & Dennis Sexton - Don's Mother & Father In-Law.
Mary & Bill Mattingly - Don's Mother & Father.

Then came the announcement for "Kim, Taylor, Preston, Jordan, and the Captain, Don Mattingly" as the Stadium roared to life and gave a standing ovation that lasted well over 2 minutes!

Mr. Kay then read off a beautiful and moving tribute that included telegrams from Cal Ripken, Jr.; Phil 'The Scooter' Rizzuto; Merlin, David, Danny & Mickey Mantle, Jr.; and 'The Yankee Clipper', Joe DiMaggio

What followed was a long list of gifts including plaques, sports equipment, electronics and more that were presented to Don. Included were the following: Five sets of golf clubs; a laptop computer; Two round trip tickets to anywhere in Europe; Two golf carts; a commemorative First Day Cover from the USPS; several plaques including one from the Children's Health Fund; a matted college of all his Topps cards (a reproduction was handed out to all in attendence); a large screen telelvsion; a number "23" career ring (presented by Tino Martinez); a number "23" pendant and 23 long-stem roses (presented to Kim Mattingly by Bernie Williams); Three number "23" rings for Don's three sons; a GMC Sierra extended cab pickup truck with the Diamond Five Farms Logo; a customed designed 'Don Mattingly arcade game'; a cherry red Dodge convertible (presented to Kim Mattingly by. Willie Randolph.

The scoreboard in centerfield then showned a lovingly produced video highlight of Don's career (including the infamous 'Popcorn' incident) as Don and his family rode one of the golf carts to Monument Park and the crowd chanted "Donnie! Donnie!" and "Donnie Baseball!"

They first stopped off in the section of retired numbers where Paul O'Neill and Wade Boggs helped Don unveil the newly retired Number 23 plaque! They then moved to the Monument Park where a bronze plaque was unveiled on the marble wall. It is in the spot where Mickey Mantle's used to be before it was relocated in 1996. He then rode the golf cart back to the home plate area where David Cone and Joe Torre presented Don with a framed uniform number "23". He then addressed the crowd with his speech!

The field was then cleared off and the game was moments from starting. But, Donnie's time on the field was not done!! After a moment of silence for Princess Diana and after Robert Merrill sang "Oh, Canada" and "The Star Spangled Banner", Donnie walked out to his familiar spot on the field with his uniform number 23 on over his shirt and tie and threw out the first pitch from first base. He then walked off the field, tipping his hat to Yankee fans, for the final time. The final chapter in a great career was now officially over and the last link to my childhood was ended! Don was a true legend in out time, and he will not be forgotten soon!

To Mr. Mattingly, I say a simple, "Thanks!"

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This Page Was Designed By Joseph Riccitelli, Jr. on October 8, 1997.
I Last Made Changes On: Thur Oct 24, 2013.

Copyright 1997-2013, Joseph Riccitelli, Jr.