Mattingly grew up in Evansville, Indiana and was one of the nation's top prospects as a high school player at Reitz Memorial High School in 1979, even earning a brief write-up in Sports Illustrated magazine that spring. However, most Major League Baseball teams were sure he was going to college, and didn't draft him. The Yankees took a chance, though, and were able to sign Mattingly after selecting him in the 19th round of the 1979 draft.
The sweet-swinging lefty immediately proved it was a wise decision, terrorizing pitchers in the Yankee farm system. He batted .349 in 1979, .358 in 1980, .316 in 1981 and made it to the majors late in the 1982 season after batting .315 for Triple-A Columbus.
He spent his official rookie season of 1983 as a part-time first baseman and outfielder, waiting for a spot to open up. He played well, hitting .283, but with little power.
That part of his game arrived in 1984, when he was an MVP candidate. He beat out teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title on the last day of the season, with a mark of .343, while hitting a league-leading 44 doubles to go with 23 home runs and 110 RBI.
He followed that up with a spectacular 1985 season in which he batted .324 with 35 home runs and 145 RBI, the most by a major leaguer since the 1950s. He may have been even better in 1986, when he hit .352 with a league-leading 238 hits and 53 doubles. In 1987, he set a major league record by hitting home runs in eight consecutive games.
Mattingly remained among the game's best players throughout the 1980s, winning the Gold Glove award for his fielding each year and a spot on the American League All-Star team. As late as 1989, he seemed to be on pace to shatter several career hitting records.
It all came crashing down in 1990, when Mattingly suffered from severe back problems. He tried to play through it, but struggled with the bat and had to go on the disabled list in July. He came back late in the season but was still ineffective.
Mattingly underwent extensive therapy in the off-season and was able to make it back into the lineup in 1991. He was still an above-average hitter, but the injuries had robbed him of much of his power. He played five more seasons, but never again batted higher than .304 or hit more than 17 home runs.
He retired after the 1995 season with a total of 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI and a .307 batting average. Mattingly remains a strong--if controversial because of his short career--candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but as of 2002 had not been elected.
After the 2003 season, he was hired by the Yankees to be their new hitting coach. Many people have speculated that this may lead Mattingly to take over as manager for the Yankees once current manager Joe Torre leaves at the end of the 2004 season.