Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Simpsons Fortnight, Day 5: Don Mattingly shaves his sideburns

before The Simpsons appearance

Don Mattingly was arguably the best hitter in the game during the period of 1984 through 1989. By "Homer at the Bat" (early 1992), he was already coming off a couple down years (and in fact would not have another truly great season thanks to a bad back), but Donnie Baseball was still a popular face of the game, and the heart of the Yankees during that era.

Homer at the Bat

Mattingly's downfall in the episode is his "sideburns". Mr. Burns wants a clean-cut team, and repeatedly admonishes Mattingly for not shaving his (nonexistent) sideburns. A justifiably confused Donnie ends up shaving the sides of his head well above his ears, yet still Mr. Burns is displeased and boots him off the team.

Classic Line: "I still like him better than Steinbrenner."

after The Simpsons appearance

Mattingly was able to grind out a few more years with decent numbers, though a far cry from his prime. Back pain forced him to retire after the '95 season, cutting short what was once a sure-bet HOF career. A lifelong Yankee beloved in New York, after being passed up to manage the only club he ever played for, wound up in Los Angeles helming the Dodgers.

Highlights from my Collection:

I never really had many Mattinglys. I first got into baseball/collecting in 1990, his first "off" year, so I guess I missed out on the hype. Honestly, back in the day, he was one of the few guys I disliked. I've since come around to appreciate him and his legacy in the game, though.

Random Filler:

I had to cheat a little with the top custom card. I've been trying to stick to 1990-1992 card designs (occasionally slinking back into 1989), but Mattingly's 1993 Topps is somewhat of an iconic junk-era horizontal card, and works perfectly with the "action shot" screen grab from the show, fittingly a similar picture.

In another funny "The Simpsons predicted it" instance, Mattingly later had a real-life hair controversy where Yankees management forced him to cut his hair, and briefly benched him for not doing so. Many people thought the joke in the show was a reference to the incident, but "Homer at the Bat" was recorded a year before it happened. (UPDATE: More digging into this in the comments below.)

Looks like we got back-to-back Yanks here on the Fortnight, as tomorrow we take a look at the team's second-slacker: Saxy Boy, Steve Sax.


  1. Where can I get a pack of these? Cowabunga, Dude!

    1. Man, if I had the means to actually produce my own physical-copy cards (worked at a printshop or something), I'd probably be sued by Topps for the incredible amount of unauthorized cards I'd make!

  2. The Mattingly incident occurred the year before the Simpsons episode. That was why the Simpsons put it in there.

    1. You mean Wikipedia lied to me?! Couldn't be!.. Never! haha

      Wait-- Checking into it more, looks like the incident occurred mid August 1991 (source).. so yes, before the episode aired.. but possibly after he had recorded his part and the animation was mostly done, since back then it took several months to make an episode (not like today when South Park can bust out an episode in under a week). So I'm still inclined to believe it was a cool coincidence/"prediction" unless presented with strong case otherwise. I know they talk about it on the DVD commentary, so I should give it another listen to get the crew's recollections.

    2. Here's an article stating, "(His part on The Simpsons) looked like a parody of Mattingly’s real-life benching except for one problem: The episode had been written and the voices recorded months earlier. It just takes a long time for a Simpsons episode to make it on the air."

    3. Ok, I dug up more evidence for the case of Mattingly's part being recorded prior to the real-life haircut controversy! Players' parts were recorded during the 1991 season while they were passing through LA (so, AL teams playing the Angels, and NL teams playing the Dodgers). The last time in '91 that the Yankees played @Angels was July 14th, so that would've been the latest date for the recording. The incident happened almost exactly a month later, August 15th. So there you have it. The Simpsons predicted it!

  3. My first Little League team was the Yankees, so Mattingly became my first favorite player. The sideburns bit was one of the funniest parts of this episode and the "I still like him better than Stienbrenner." quote was classic!

  4. Wow, for 20+ years I just assumed it was Simpsons doing a parody of current events. I stand corrected. Well played, Simpsons!