Don Mattingly, 1988 Drake's "Big Hitters"
I have always liked Don Mattingly, as you may or may not have known. And by liked I mean wished he were my best friend and went to the mall with me on the weekends and took me under his wing and mentored me to baseball greatness and eventually introduced me at my Hall of Fame induction and at some point died in my loving arms. But I entered this labor of love with some sense of trepidation. Yes, he was the best player on my favorite team, said all the right things, was very handsome, had a je ne sais quoi that demanded my undivided attention and instant admiration, was/is/always will be the greatest baseball player, etc. Still, for a brief time at the outset, I was plagued by the burning question: when, if ever, will Don Mattingly be endorsed by a popular brand of processed snack cake products?
It's entirely possible that Drake's had named Mattingly a Big Hitter prior to 1988 - I would argue that an entity as focused and research-driven as Drake's Bakeries would be hard-pressed to find a bigger hitter for their 85/86/87 set - but, if so, I never obtained the evidence. So when Drake's released its 8th Annual Collector's Edition, I waited with baited breath as my mom went to the store and bought out all Drake's products at my demand.
I exhaled ... and then inhaled three packs of coffee cakes.
The thing a lot of people don't realize: it's not easy to be named a Drake's Big Hitter. This isn't some arbitrary, meaningless promotion type deal where a snack company aligns itself with Major League Baseball to maximize their respective revenue streams and, as a result, several hundred thousand naive kids are taking a pair of scissors to a cardboard snack box thinking their gonna be millionaires some day. No, it transcends all that. To be named a Drake's Big Hitter, the three separate but equal driving forces behind Drake's - Ring Dings, Sunny Doodles, and Yodels - must all be in agreement. One may assume that, working for the same parent company, these brands would have similar tastes, but they most certainly do not.
Ring Dings is old school, blue collar, used to be a scout. Values hard work, grit, scrappiness, hustle, leadership, guts. Famously submitted backup catcher Ed Hearn as a Big Hitter in '87 because he liked "the cut of his jib."
Sunny Doodles is all about stats: WAR, UZR, OPS+, and the like. Doesn't allow romantic notions about baseball to enter the equation when considering Big Hitters. Takes everything literally, and once submitted a motion to change "Big Hitters" to "Excellent Hitters" so he could vote for someone besides Cecil Fielder. Motion didn't pass, so Sunny Doodles adjusted privately to account for rumored penis size, hence Mattingly.
Yodels is an idiot who doesn't even watch baseball. Likes professional wrestling and drinks Monster Energy drinks, still has no energy.
To boot, on the rare occasions these three entities even agree on a Big Hitter, their unanimous vote acts only as a suggestion. The final say is with the Drake's duck.
Drake's duck be like, "Quack, quack," and that can be good or bad, depending on how he quacks it.
So anyway, as you can see, it's near impossibl--