Donald Arthur Mattingly played just one season in Nashville but made quite an impression on Music City while manning first base for the New York Yankees' Double-A affiliate in 1981.
Mattingly batted .316 (173-for-547) with seven homers and 98 RBIs in 141 games with the Sounds that season. He led the team in games played, hits, doubles (35) and RBIs; his 35 doubles were also the tops in the Southern League that year.
He also ranked among team leaders in hitting (2nd), at-bats (2nd), runs scored (4th-74), homers (T4th), and walks (2nd-64). Mattingly only struck out an impressive 55 times in his 547 at-bats that year.
At the end of the year, he was named the Yankees' Minor League Player-of-the-Year as well as to the TOPPS and Southern League All-Star teams.
"Donnie Baseball" established himself as one of the preeminent major-league stars of the 1980s. He hit for average and power, fielded his position at first base with brilliance, and displayed a work ethic and charisma reminiscent of Yankee greats of the past. His home run power developed after his arrival in the majors and he went on to set a couple of impressive longball records in 1986.
He became an everyday major league player in 1984 and hit 23 homers en route to capturing the batting title on the last day of the season with a .343 average that edged teammate Dave Winfield's .340. In doing so, he became the first Yankee left-handed hitter to bat over .340 since Lou Gehrig hit .351 in 1937.
Despite often starting the season abysmally, Mattingly established himself as a dominant hitter from 1984 through 1989. In each of those seasons, he hit over .300, collected more than 186 hits, and -- except for 1988 -- drove in 100 or more runs. During that period, no major league player had more RBIs than his 684, and only Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Mattingly's 1,219. Mattingly displayed his power in 1985 when, batting third in the Yankee lineup, he amassed career highs of 35 home runs and a league-leading 145 RBIs en route to being named AL MVP (note: Willie McGee, another former Sound and Mattingly's teammate on the 1981 Nashville squad, captured the NL MVP award that year while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals).
In 1986, Mattingly set new Yankees marks for doubles (53) and hits (238) in a season, becoming the first Yankee since Lou Gehrig to log three consecutive 200-hit seasons. During the 1987 season, Mattingly set or tied five remarkable major league records. He hit six grand slams to set a new single-season mark (he had never hit one prior to 1987). He tied Dale Long's 1956 record by homering in eight consecutive games from July 8-18. His 10 homers during that period were a major league record for total homers in an eight-game streak, and his concurrent streak of 10 games with at least one extra-base hit broke Babe Ruth's 1921 AL record. The power streak ended on July 20, the night Mattingly tied the major league record of 22 putouts by a first baseman in a nine-inning game.
Mattingly matched his hitting with outstanding defense. From 1985 through 1989, he won five consecutive Gold Glove awards at first base. Along with Chick Gandil (1916-1919) of the legendary Chicago "Black Sox", Mattingly (1984-1987) holds the record of leading AL first basemen in fielding percentage for four consecutive years. Upon his retirement in 1997, his .996 lifetime fielding percentage at first base tied him for the all-time lead. His extraordinary fielding skills allowed him to play second base and third base on a few occasions despite throwing left-handed.
Don Mattingly returned to Greer Stadium on August 12, 1999, when his #18 was retired by the Nashville Sounds in an on-field ceremony.