June 22, 2011

Don Mattingly: Non-Standard

The non-standard issued sized baseball card always drove me nuts growing up. What am I supposed to do with this giant baseball card? How am I supposed to keep track of this mini-baseball card? These are the things that bothered me when I was nine.

When it came to Don Mattingly, however, baseball cards of varying sizes did not perturb me. In fact, he was so much the non-standard player in terms of his otherworldly ability, I thought the non-standard size card captured that aspect perfectly. That companies made similar cards for other players was the glaring error.

Let us begin with the big:

Don Mattingly, 1985 Donruss oversized

I’m not sure how well this comes across on the Interwebs, but this card is gigantic. When I was in grammar school, I happily boasted a Mattingly ’88 Topps folder, which is exactly what you imagine it to be, and which I used to keep my school papers, which were, by the way, frequently studied and well-graded, as I strived for the excellence consistently achieved by the man on the folder. Anyway, this card is almost as big as that folder, for reference. It is in poor condition because, again—they didn’t make enormous binders or casings for these cards, and it often fell victim to mishandlings and awkward placement among its normal-sized counterparts. I once considered placing this particular card in a picture frame for both protection purposes as well as adoration, but then I couldn’t see the back. :(

Two things of note: 1) I am a sucker for the headshot inset, especially one outlined in a halo of white, in which the look of our hero says, “I don’t know why you’re taking my picture—I’m just doing my job; .343/23/110 in my first full season was really just baseballs finding holes—but I’ll oblige.”

Also, this:

Signed thru 1985

Steinbrenner: Alright, let’s not beat around the bush here, Don. You just had 211 hits—35 of them home runs—and drove in freakin’ 145. Your defense is flawless and you could run for mayor of this city tomorrow and win in a landslide similar to the one that just witnessed you win the AL MVP. You’re 24. I know when I don’t have leverage, so just tell me—what do you want?

Mattingly: Oh geez, Boss. I mean, I really just want the chance to go out there and compete day in and da—

Steinbrenner: For crying out loud, Don, CUT THE CRAP! I got things to do! I’m on Winfield’s trail—Hank, GET YOUR GREASY HANDS OFF THE DESK!—so just give me a number!

Mattingly: Eight billion, 20 years.

Steinbrenner: Fine, whatever. But you gotta cut those sideburns.

Mattingly: It’s a side mullet. And no.

Steinbrenner: Deal. Get out.

Don Mattingly, 1988 Topps-mini

This is a mini card. Isn’t it cute? The dream-sequence nature and glossy texture make it something straight out of mini-heaven.

This “Major League Leaders” card then goes on to list several categories that Don Mattingly did not lead the league in. I am sure they recognized, as do I, that “general awesomeness” should be a concrete statistic, and thus awarded him leader-status and the spoils that go with it, which, in this case, is a mini baseball card. The headshot inset is fantastic. But not as fantastic as …

Don Mattingly, 1988 Topps special

In a word: breathtaking.

This is when Topps started producing—like they would with Bowman—baseball cards that were just slightly bigger than normal, allowing children the all over the world the convenience of having baseball cards that were just slightly bigger than normal, and which stuck out of the ends of binder sleeves and casings and got bent and ruined. In this series, Topps made up for it with cartoons:

I love the notion that when a record is broken, the record book wherein the details of that record are contained is dramatically smashed, via the very means by which that record was achieved. I believe all records should be broken in this manner. Remember the Guinness record of the two fattest identical twins to ride motorcycles? They should have totally run over with their motorcycles the record book containing the information about the previously fattest identical twins to ride motorcycles.

(By the way, in order to provide you the link to that picture, I Googled “guinness record fat twins motorcycles.” I just wanted you to know that. Also, they made a great cameo on “The Simpsons” once, fyi.)

We also discover that Mattingly’s brother Randy played professional football, and that he either scored a touchdown or had a game referee outwardly cheering for him. I can’t really blame the referee—it’s impossible to be objective in the face of Mattingly athletic prowess. To wit: my life.


Ecommerce Website Developement said...

I am not a fan of the Base ball.But my son loves it.He got a good collection of these cards.He just like to decorated them on the walls of his room.

Bo said...

I've been a Don Mattingly fan my whole life and never knew he had a brother who played pro football (CFL, apparently). I even knew Willie Randolph had a brother in the NFL, but never heard of Randy Mattingly.

mkenny59 said...

@Ecommerce: Thank you ... for that.

@Bo: I have a faint memory of knowing about Randy, but had definitely forgotten until working on this. I get most of my information from Wikipedia and back-of-baseball-card cartoons, so I'm at a distinct advantage when it comes to knowing about things.

Bill said...

The Mattingly series is awesome, may you keep it going forever!

Also, I had the 1988 Topps Dave Winfield folder myself growing up. Don't know why I didn't have a Mattingly. They must have been sold out. (Come on, central NJ store in the late 80s, don't you know you should carry way more Mattingly folders than Winfield ones?)

Sean said...

I had the 1988 Topps school folder of Lloyd Moseby. If memory serves, that was actually the best one left in the bargain bin at Zellers when my Dad let me pick one out.

I wish I had had Mattingly, he was my favorite player back then too. My life probably would be a lot different today if I had. You must have been the most popular kid in school with that Mattingly one. Nobody liked the kid with the Lloyd Moseby folder. They must have known it came from the bottom of the bargain bin at Zellers.

Anyway, love the Mattingly series, keep 'em coming.

mkenny59 said...

Sean, it's too bad irony is lost on youth, as today you would be so hipster cool rocking the Moseby. Also, truth be told, I spent the latter part of that school year -- for reasons I cannot recall -- sporting the Willie Randolph '88 Topps folder, for which I WAS made fun of for, once, by some idiot Mets fan, high off the largely unrealized potential of his favorite team.

Sean said...

It pleases me to no end to think that Lloyd Moseby might be a sort of anti-hero worshipped by followers of today's ironic retro trends. Recognition he has long deserved.

I can see how Willie Randolph would be a step down from Mattingly. Actually anything would be a step down from Mattingly. But this is your venue for venerating the man and not mine, so I'll leave that thought at that.

BTW,did they make those folders for any year other than 1988?

Cliff said...

This feels very nostalgic. I enjoy collecting NBA and baseball cards back in grade school.