Whitey and Donnie

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

INDIANAPOLIS — Whitey Herzog was in the middle of a story when the unassuming man with the dark eyes walked into the hotel lobby.

Herzog, who 11 hours earlier learned he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, had shaken countless hands and seen countless faces throughout Monday afternoon. But Whitey didn’t need to look twice to know that Donnie Baseball had just entered the room.

12-08-09-Muder_HerzogMattingly.jpg“I just had to stop and say congratulations,” said Don Mattingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ batting coach and an Indiana native in town for baseball’s Winter Meetings.

A beaming Herzog shook Mattingly’s hand and exchanged a few pleasantries. And just like that, Mattingly was gone.

But for Herzog, the memories came flooding back.

“That guy was a heckuva player,” said Herzog, who never managed a regular-season game against Mattingly’s Yankees during Mattingly’s career — and yet clearly appreciated the Yankee captain’s skills. “For four or five years — until the back injury got him — he was as good as there was in the game.”

Mattingly will make his 10th appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this year.

Herzog, meanwhile, is already a Hall of Famer — having been named to the Class of 2010 along with umpire Doug Harvey by the Veterans Committee on Monday.

For two of baseball’s biggest names of the 1980s, it was a fitting — if all-too-brief — reunion.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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