So what's a big-time night out in Evansville? This winter Mattingly sat ringside for Hulk Hogan and the World Wrestling Federation show at Roberts Memorial Stadium, and when he went backstage last month before a Joan Jett and the Black-hearts concert at the same arena and mentioned to someone in the band that he played the harmonica, he was handed a blues harp that once belonged to rock 'n' roller Robert Plant and asked to show his chops. Mattingly blew a few notes and the band was soon jamming behind him. Could Artie Mattingly be the next Paul Butterfield? "Less likely than my being the next Gehrig," he says, "and there's no chance of that."
Although he may live much the same way he always has, Mattingly finds that people back home assume he has been changed by all the money he's making, which is now close to $3 million a year in salary, investments and endorsements. "In 1985, when I won the MVP, I started hearing how I didn't sign an autograph, or I didn't care as much, and it gets worse every year," he says. "Supposedly, the better a player I become, the worse a person I become. I know people don't really mean it. I know I have to get used to it. But I don't think I've changed. Evansville hasn't changed, and Evansville is me."
Evansville is also his parents and his brothers, and they "get a lot of enjoyment out of what I do, but they don't treat me any differently than they did when I was at Memorial." Don says. But then, these are the people who know that Mattingly is now, as he always was and ever shall be, a ketchup man. He loads ketchup on eggs, potatoes and steak. In Mattinglys' 23, the waitresses bring him a bottle without asking. Not so on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. "Sometimes the waiters look away as they hand me the bottle," Mattingly says, "or, more often, they put it in a small dish so no one in the restaurant will think that anyone who'd use ketchup would eat in the place. But if I'm paying $30 for a steak, I'll put whatever I want on it. In my house, we didn't have steak, we had hamburger steaks."
That house is a white cracker box on a quarter-acre lot in a working-class neighborhood two miles across town from the restaurant. Bill and Mary Mattingly have lived in that house for 48 years. "It's hard to believe that we could have raised four athletic sons and a daughter in a house this small," says Mary. Bill, now retired, rode the mail trains between Nashville and Chicago, and Don says his father's passion for trains is still burning, which explains why, when Bill goes to see Don play, he likes to ride the rails to Yankee Stadium, Comiskey Park and Fenway Park.
The Mattinglys' English ancestors settled in Virginia in the 17th century, but Bill isn't sure when they reached Evansville. What's certain is that they did—there are 88 Mattinglys in the local phone book, not including Don, who is unlisted. All of Bill and Mary's children, as well as Bill's sister and two brothers, live within five miles of the little house on Van Dusen Avenue.
"It seems as if all the kids did in our neighborhood was play sports from sunup to sundown," says Randy, the second of the Mattingly boys, who's now 37. "My dad coached Jerry and me in Little League, but even when he stopped, he always took time off from work to see our games. He never said much, but he and Mom went to all our games, and since there were four brothers all spaced five years apart, that was some task. He also made it easy for us. When each one got to high school age. he'd tell us not to bother getting a job, but to play sports, and he'd find a way to keep us in a little pocket change. Donnie was the youngest boy, and he didn't have any choice. He had to play with us."
"There's no substitute for learning to play from older brothers," Don says. "Anyway, the whole neighborhood was lined with jocks."
Before Don was three, he was the mascot for Jerry's basketball team at Rex Mundi High. (Jerry was also a wide receiver on the football team—where his quarterback was a fellow named Bob Griese.) Jerry grew into a 6'2" star guard for Evansville College, and he played baseball well enough to receive three pro contract offers. While working on a highway construction crew in 1969, at the age of 23, he was killed in an accident.
Randy, 6'4", a starting quarterback for the Aces, was a passer who was the Division II leader in total offense in 1971 and was selected by Cleveland in the fourth round of the '73 NFL draft. After spending one season bouncing from the Browns to the Chicago Bears to the Buffalo Bills to the Cincinnati Bengals, Randy returned a $1,500 check the Dallas Cowboys had sent without stipulation when they asked him to come for a tryout. Instead, he opted for Canada, where he thought he would play more and where he lasted four seasons as a backup for Saskatchewan, Hamilton and British Columbia of the CFL.
Next in line was Michael, a good enough athlete to earn a scholarship to Indiana State University-Evansville, where he played a year of basketball and three years of baseball. "All the rest of us grew to six-two or six-four," Michael says, "and if Donnie had gotten to our height, he'd probably have stuck with basketball. But he was the one kid in the family who had our father's special quality—perseverance. Anything either one of them set their minds to, they do."