Sports | May 1, 2020 7:00 am

There’s a Mystery Surrounding Don Mattingly’s Birthday

Is Donnie Baseball 58 or 59 years old?

Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees
Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees during a 1993 game.
Jeff Carlick/MLB Photos via Getty

According to his birth certificate, Willie Hugh Nelson was born April 30, 1933, but his family members believe his real birthday is April 29, and the confusion was a result of the country star being born just before midnight. Either way, Nelson is 87.

There’s a similar mystery surrounding the April birthday of another celebrity, albeit one who is known for hitting baseballs instead of hitting joints: Don Mattingly.

On the back of Mattingly’s 1987 Topps baseball card, his trivia note reads: “Don’s birth certificate states he was born in 1962, not 1961 as shown in most baseball records.”

That means Mattingly, who played 14 years in the big leagues with the New York Yankees, is either 58 or 59 depending on if you believe his baseball card or baseball records.

To help solve the mystery, ESPN’s Sam Miller began investigating the bizarre history of trading card blurbs. As it turns out, the blurb on the back of Mattingly’s card was incorrect and he was born in 1961, not 1962. So why the discrepancy?

The mystery about Mattingly’s birthday surfaced elsewhere in 1987 in an Associated Press article that stated Mattingly claimed to be 25 but the Yankees said he was 26. To settle the matter, Mattingly showed the team his birth certificate, according to the story.

That would seem to be where the man who presumably wrote the blurb on Mattingly’s card, Bill Haber, got his information. After all, it was in an AP story and seemed legit.

But, as it turns out, Mattingly’s claim to be a year younger than the team and the rest of the world thought was bogus.

Here’s ESPN’s explanation for the phony info in the AP story:

A year before, Mattingly had been in a terrible slump when his birthday arrived. Eleven games into the season he was slugging .267, still looking for his first extra-base hit, and reporters wouldn’t stop asking him about it: “Every day, the same question. I was tired of answering the same question, so I changed the subject. I grabbed a writer and told him the book had me one year older than I was. And that became the story for the next few days. By the time that story died, I had a couple of extra-base hits and I didn’t have to answer that question anymore.”

Mystery solved. Happy late 59th birthday Donnie Baseball.

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