On This Date in Sports July 18, 1987

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

A day after becoming the first player in American League history to hit a home run in seven straight games, Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees equals the all-time record of eight home straight games with a homer. Mattingly’s opposite field blast in the fourth inning off Jose Guzman is the only highlight for the Yankees as they suffer a 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

The previous mark was set by Dale Long of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had eight straight games with a home run during the 1956 season. Long’s power surge in that began on May 19th against the Chicago Cubs in a 7-4 win at Forbes Field. It was his seventh home run of the season. For Dale Long just getting to the majors was a struggle as he six seasons in the minors, with five different organizations before making his debut with the Pirates in 1951. Long would finish that season with the St. Louis Browns. He then spent another three years in the minors, before the Pirates gave him another shot in 1955. After leading the league in triples with Pittsburgh in 1955, Dale Long had his only All-Star appearance in 1956 thanks to the home run streak. The streak came to an end on May 29th in a 10-1 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers at Forbes Field, Long went hitless in four at bats. The Pirates posted a record of 7-1 during the streak. Dale Long would hit a career high 27 dingers in 1956 and finished his career with 132 home runs in 1,013 games.

When Don Mattingly went on his tear in 1987 he was one of baseball’s premier sluggers. In 1984 he had a breakout season for the Yankees, winning the American League batting title after a battle with teammate Dave Winfield. In 1985, Mattingly won the American League MVP with a league high 145 RBI. A year later he came close to another batting title, finishing second behind Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox despite a career best .352 average. Mattingly’s streak in 1987 began with two home runs in a 13-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in the Bronx on July 8th. The streak did have a brief interruption as it began before the All-Star Break. When the Yankees began the second half, Don Mattingly again had a two home run game in a 12-3 win over the Texas Rangers on July 16th. When he equaled Dale Long’s record, Mattingly got a nice ovation from the 41,871 fans at Arlington Stadium. A day later the streak would end in an ugly 20-3 loss, in which Mattingly got two hits in four at bats, with a double. The game would be notorious as it was the Yankee debut for Steve Trout. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs during the All-Star Break, Trout was expected to give the Yankees the starting pitcher they needed for the stretch drive. However, his time in the Bronx was a disaster as he posted an 0-4 record with an ERA of 6.60. Among the players the Yankees gave up was Bob Tewksberry who went on to have a decent career. The game also saw the pitching debut of Catcher Rick Cerone, who recorded a scoreless eighth inning. The Yankees posted a record of 5-3 during Mattingly’s streak.

Don Mattingly hit ten home runs over his eight-game streak in 1987. Dale Long had only one home run per game over his streak. It was not the only milestone accomplished by Don Mattingly in 1987, as he set a single season record with six Grand Slams. Sadly, Don Mattingly’s career would not continue at the pace he set in the middle of the 80’s as he was plagued by back problems over the latter part of his career. The 1987 season would be the final season that he would hit 30 home runs in a season. Don Mattingly would go on to become the Yankees captain and for a generation of fans became the face of the Yankees, but the era he played was one without success as he never played in the World Series. Mattingly would retire following the 1995 season, with a career .307 average, 222 home runs and 1,099 RBI. Many Yankee fans still feel that Mattingly should still be considered a Hall of Famer as appeared heading straight for Cooperstown before the back problems flared up in 1990.

Don Mattingly’s record of six Grand Slams in a season would be equaled by Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians in 2006. Both Mattingly and Long would get company in the home run streak club in 1993, as Ken Griffey Jr of the Seattle Mariners had a streak of eight straight games with a home run from July 20-28th. Like Dale Long, Junior hit just one home run a game, making Mattingly’s ten homers in eight games the true standard bearer.