BALTIMORE – As Don Mattingly walked into the third base dugout at Oriole Park for the first time in four years, he was greeted by questioners eager to ask him about Buck Showalter.
A day earlier, Showalter talked for more than 12 minutes about his former teammate and player before forcing himself to stop. When Mattingly heard about that, he talked for several minutes about Showalter, joking “I’m not as windy as Buck.”
Showalter didn’t make much of an impression on Mattingly as a player, but he did make his mark on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager as a coach and then New York Yankees manager.
“I think I was really impressed with the organization and the view he had on talent was always good. He always knew who could play and who couldn’t, and he knew how you were supposed to play,” Mattingly said.
“He knew young talent and how you were supposed to play the game.”
Mattingly played with many poor Yankees teams, but when Showalter became manager in 1992, they improved rapidly, and in 1995, Mattingly’s last year, made the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The next year, Joe Torre replaced Showalter, and the Yankees’ postseason run with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera began.
“I really feel like he was the guy you turned things around over there. I know Joe gets a lot of credit, credit with the guys who came in there. He really was the guy who turned that thing around, him and [Gene Michael]. He did a great job of knowing who was coming up, knowing Jeter was going to be special. He would talk about Jeter and Posada and Pettitte, Mariano, and he was right on on all of them,” Mattingly said.
“He changed the whole attitude.”