Don Mattingly's Greatest Season's Biggest Disappointment

Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 12, 2012

Most people remember the year 1986, but not all New York baseball fans have fond memories of the year, as the New York Yankees finished second, five-and-a-half games behind the Boston Red Sox.

It was also the year that Don Mattingly finished second to Boston's Wade Boggs in the batting race. Ironically, 1986 was Mattingly's greatest season. It was even better than 1984, when he did win the batting title with a .343 average.

On Sept. 29, 1986, Mattingly was hitless in three at-bats in an 8-1 Yankees win at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays. He was batting .349.

Boggs was 2-for-4 in a 7-5 Red Sox win against the Baltimore Orioles. He was batting .353.

The Yankees were scheduled to visit Fenway Park for the last four games of the season.  Since the Red Sox had already clinched the division title, the battle between Mattingly and Boggs would take center stage.

"It will probably go down to the last weekend," Mattingly told reporters. "I don't feel like I'll fall off, and I don't think he'll fall off."

Boggs felt the same way. "May the better man win," he said as he downed some chicken. "If it comes down to the final weekend, fine."

Mattingly and Boggs agreed that each wanted to win the batting championship, but that was not what they thought about when they stepped into the batter's box.

"We talk about hitting but not about the batting race," Mattingly related. "We both know, in a sense, that we're not going against the other guy. We're out there trying to beat the pitcher."

Neither Mattingly nor Boggs struck out much. In 1986, Mattingly struck out 35 times and walked 53 times. Boggs struck out 44 times and drew 105 walks.

Mattingly had more power, hitting 53 doubles, a pair of triples and 31 home runs to Boggs' 47 doubles, two triples and eight home runs.

The superstars preferred to downplay the rivalry. Each respected the other greatly.

"l"ll look in the papers on Oct. 6 and that will tell it all," Boggs said.

Boggs didn't play in any of the four games against the Yankees. He was benched due to a hamstring injury or a bad back, or both, or neither.  

Mattingly batted .352.

Boggs batted .357.

Boggs batted leadoff in the first game of the fateful 1986 World Series.