Don Mattingly (True) Rookie Cards of the Hit Man

With their 1st pick of the 19th Round in the 1979 MLB June Amateur Draft, the New York Yankees selected Don Mattingly from Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, IN. Don Mattingly has four true rookie cards.

WHAT!! Are You Kidding Me!

It’s no secret. I did not collect baseball cards between 2004-2014 and I casually followed baseball during that time.

But when I got serious about my card collecting again I got emotionally caught up in things.

I recall learning that Donnie Baseball was not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I remember my displeasure as I released a frowning “WHAT!?” followed by this surprised, drawn-out statement, “UN-BE-LIE-VABLE!”

I wondered did I miss something? Was he part of the PED scandal? No, he was not. Well did the BBWAA not watch baseball in the 1980s?

I mean really! This man was one of the best ballplayers of the game.

Was it Don Mattingly’s Numbers? Or His Character?

Do they not know that in 7,003 career at-bats he only struck out 444 times? Or that he led the league in doubles for three straight years? Do they not know that he was a 6x All-Star, 9x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP?

In case your wondering about his fielding check this out, Don Mattingly finished his career with the highest Fielding Percentage in MLB history for any position at .992% – that’s amazing!

Perhaps it was his numbers that didn’t meet the standard. Well Baseball-Reference.com shows us:

Career Summary: 2,153 Hits | 222 Homeruns | 1,099 RBI’s | .307 Batting Average.

Not too shabby in my opinion. Well, perhaps it was his character flaws on and off the field? However, his plaque for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium says,

“A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever.”

In my opinion, looking at the fourteen-year career and the delay of his entry a bit closer the circumstances were these.

A Closer Look at Why Not

Between 1984 and the first 102 games of the 1990 season Don Mattingly was an MVP caliber type player. In 1990, he suffered from severe back problems, missed sixty games of the season, and never fully recovered.

He came back and was productive, I would even say above average, but not like Donnie pre-back injury.

So the first half of his career top of the class, the second half of his career not the same.

So I guess it boils down to how you view it, what half of his career are you looking at?

For me. I grew up watching him play and I remember him at his peak and still can’t believe he’s not in Cooperstown.

In recent years fans have been shocked assuming he would be voted into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee but was not.

Some day Donnie. Your day is coming.

Don Mattingly True Rookie Cards:

Before We Begin

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True Rookie Card

Identifier (RC) Defined

A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete AFTER that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her respected sport. It must be licensed by both the League and the Players Association. An RC identifier is only given to cards that fit this criteria. Below is an exhaustive list of the featured players true rookie cards.

1984 Donruss, #248 (RC)

We start with Don Mattingly’s best rookie card. There are several factors for this.

Donruss in its fourth year of card production appears to have been striving for excellence as their sets improved year after year.

The hobby declared that this was the best set of the “Big 3” (Donruss, Fleer, Topps) in 1984.

Big strides were made in photography, card design was crisp with four swooshing yellow lines showing players team.

The card backs were typical Donruss design however the spearmint green was refreshingly different.

The primary hook is in its print production, rumored to be printed in much fewer numbers than the 1981-1983 sets.

Starting in 1975 there was a slow and steady interest in rookie cards. It was about a nine year stretch and the rookie card gained more and more interest, and in the summer of 1984 this card gave birth to the rookie card boom of the 1980’s. The hobby has forever been impacted by the RC.


1984 Fleer, #131 (RC)

The 1984 Fleer set is considered a collector favorite. It’s an informal, laid-back, fun set and just like Donruss.

Fleer also progressed their product design in 1984 especially in photography, some of the photos are so fun-natured one questions if it’s even a baseball card.

For example card #182 of Atlanta’s second baseman, Glenn Hubbard shows him with a real, extremely large, boa constrictor wrapped around his shoulders.

Okay back to Donnie Baseball.

The card front shows Don Mattingly in an action photo with, blue stripe at the top and bottom of the card. The full-color team emblem at the lower right gives the card balance.

The card backs give us a disappointing black and white photo in the upper right-hand corner and the player bio is placed at the bottom of the card, kinda odd.

Great stats giving collectors Donnie’s minor league numbers and a trivia question to take up that dead space.


1984 Topps, #8 (RC)

Early on many collectors didn’t like the design of the 1984 Topps.

Apparently, the big block team letters were one reason and allegations that it mimicked the 1983 set too much.

The action photo coupled to a smaller portrait photo on the front of the card was the other grievance on design.

But as time went on the 84 Topps set began to gain momentum with collectors. My personal opinion? I love it.

This rookie card of Hall of Famer Don Mattingly screams classic Topps nostalgia for me.

I remember ripping packs of this stuff and even pulling this specific card which has always been one of the highlights of this set.

The card backs are definitely different with their reddish/purple color. I really appreciate that it gives us full minor league and pro stats.

A full player bio and a couple of highlights from the previous season complete this great card.


1984 O-Pee-Chee, #8 (RC)

The best way to describe this Don Mattingly rookie card? It’s an abridged version of the 1984 Topps set, with some differences of course.

Card design at first glance mimics the American Topps version quite a bit but as Rafiki in the movie, Lion King would say, “look harder.”

The primary difference is in the number of cards with 396 cards as opposed to 792 cards in the Topps set.

O-Pee-Chee is the Canadian version of Topps and primarily depicted full 25 man rosters of the late Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos of course, which was a former Canadian MLB franchise.

The remainder of the set only depicted partial rosters of the remaining teams.

Also, notice wherever the name Topps was at, is now replaced with O-Pee-Chee.

The card back wherever applicable is bilingual giving us English and French translations.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.

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