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Instead, Mattingly walks around with lampblack stripes beneath his eyes and a dark stripe of hair beneath his nose. It almost looks as if the black NY that Donnie Baseball wears on his heart has been broken up and reconfigured on his mug.
In the past three seasons Mattingly, whose career batting average was .311 through last year, hasn't hit higher than .288. In that time he has had an allegedly bad attitude, a certifiably bad back and one very bad hair day: On Aug. 15, 1991, Yankee general manager Gene (Stick) Michael ordered Donnie Baseball to get his ears lowered. It was an indignity that Mattingly can smile about today. "My hair?" he says with mock concern, patting his head and checking a mirror. "What's the matter with my hair?"
It is a sign of the captain's stature among his teammates that the clubhouse stereo is in his locker. So is the clubhouse Mr. Coffee machine. Hell, Mr. Coffee himself, Joe DiMaggio, is probably stashed somewhere in Mattingly's locker as well, so diligent is Donnie Baseball about the study of his craft. He prepares for every game as if it were a bar exam. "It's great to come to Yankee Stadium and sec Mattingly and Boggs getting ready," says the whisper-soft-spoken Williams, 24, who had hit safely in 20 straight games through Sunday. "Just to see the excitement they bring to the clubhouse."
Last winter Michael signed three free agents: Stick Inked Pacts with Boggs, left-handed pitcher Jimmy Key (15-4 with a league-low 2.83 ERA) and shortstop Spike Owen (.236). He also made trades for lefthanded pitcher Jim Abbott (9-10, 4.03 ERA) and rightfielder Paul O'Neill (.311, 16 HR, 63 RBIs). Toronto may have the most talent in baseball, but, says Yankee pitcher Scott Kamieniecki, "we feel we have a better team."
Though that team might not thrill everyone, the Yankees, like Canada and baseball, are boring only to boring people. Their season has been anything but. On June 11, for instance, hundreds of sea gulls descended Hitchcockianly upon the Yankees during a game at Milwaukee. "The birds are in play," Showalter informed his team after consulting with the umpires. "Just play it off the bird."
On Aug. 14 rookie pitcher Domingo Jean, who hails from the Dominican Republic, got stuck in traffic coming in from New Jersey on the George Washington Bridge. Fearing that he would be late for his second major league start, Jean bolted from his cab, jogged across the bridge, trolled the Washington Heights neighborhood on the other side and finally persuaded a sympathetic Venezuelan named Chino to drive him to Yankee Stadium. Jean Hurled, Yanks Downed O's.
One day later the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles were tied at zero in the eighth inning when Mattingly hit a drive to deep rightfieid. Bleacherite Tim McKenzie, 16, of Middletown, Conn., leaned over the railing and robbed Oriole outfielder Mark McLemore of the ball, giving the Yankees a 1-0 win. Just play it off the Bird, indeed.
"This is fun," Don Arthur Mattingly says. "It's fun being competitive. It's fun winning. It's fun doing what we're doing right now."
Right now, the conductor of the northbound D train is calling, "Next stop, Uh-Hunnert-and-Sixty-Foist Street! Yankee Stadium! Let's go, Yanks! Numba One!"
And there, inside, is Donnie Baseball. In a Flag Race.