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Don Mattingly’s home run streak has not been beat

Don Mattingly hit home runs in eight straight games during the summer of 1987.

New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Aaron Judge’s home run streak spanned five games and six home runs, many of them coming in key situations for the Yankees. As it grew from four to five games, he entered the company of some Yankees legends. Only Don Mattingly, Roger Maris and Lou Gehrig have homered in more consecutive games than Judge. Mattingly’s eight-game home run streak in July 1987 tied the major league record for home runs in consecutive games and electrified baseball.

Mattingly entered the 1987 season with three top-five finishes in MVP voting, and was considered by many the best player in baseball. Playing on a team with future Hall-of-Fame players Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield, the Yankees held the best record in baseball and a four-game lead in the AL East after play on July 7th.

Mattingly was more than holding his own with a 135 wRC+ up to that point, but only had eight home runs in over 300 plate appearances. On July 8th, the Yankees hosted the last of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, and Mattingly took his first step towards the record books.

The Twins would finish with only 85 wins on the season, but would win the American League West and the World Series. That night, the Twins sent right-hander Mike Smithson to the mound, and the Yankees jumped on the board early and often.

Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Rickey Henderson led off with a single. Right-fielder Gary Ward laid down a bunt single and Mattingly stepped to the plate with two men on. He launched a three-run home run to deep right field as the Yankees surged out to an early lead. He added to it in the sixth inning with a solo shot as the Yankees went on to win 13-4.

The Yankees then welcomed a Chicago White Sox team that featured players like Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, and Ozzie Guillen to the Bronx for a four-game series. Mattingly connected for the second game in a row with a shot to deep right-field in the bottom of the sixth inning off White Sox starter Richard Dotson. The Yankees lost the game 6-3.

The next night, the bottom of the Yankees’ order sparked a rally in the second inning as Gary Ward, Mike Pagliarulo and Rick Cerone had consecutive singles to turn the lineup over. After Henderson tied the game at two with a single, Willie Randolph worked a walk to load the bases. White Sox manager Jim Fregosi had seen enough and brought in lefty Joel McKeon to face Mattingly. Mattingly launched a grand slam to deep left field, sending the Yankees on their way to a 9-5 victory.

The Yankees then sent Ron Guidry to the mound in the third game of the four-game series. Down 2-0 in the third, Mattingly drilled a home run for the fourth straight game off White Sox starter Jose DeLeon to right field, cutting the lead to 2-1. The Yankees would eventually lose the game 5-2 in 15 innings.

The Yankees earned a four-game split in the series with the White Sox in their last game before the All-Star break. Behind a strong pitching performance by Tommy John, the Yankees held a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Mattingly took Jim Winn deep for a solo blast to enter the break with home runs in five straight games.

After the All-Star break, the Yankees flew west for a series with the Texas Rangers starting on July 16th. In the opener, they faced veteran pitcher Charlie Hough, who nine years earlier had given up the third home run of the night to Reggie Jackson in the 1978 World Series. With an early rally in the works, Mattingly stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the second inning and crushed his second grand slam in the four games.

Mattingly and the Yankees were not done that night, and he took future All-Star Mitch Williams deep for a two-run blast in the eighth inning. The Yankees put up 12 runs behind Mattingly’s seven RBI that night.

The Yankees continued their offensive output the next night as Mattingly connected for a solo home run in the sixth inning of relief pitcher Paul Kilgus. Mattingly’s home run gave him homers in seven straight games, and put the Yankees up 7-1 on their way to an 8-4 victory.

The baseball world was aware that Mattingly was approaching history as the Yankees finished their series against Rangers on July 18th. Mattingly took Jose Guzman deep in the fourth inning, earning a standing ovation from the Texas crowd. The Yankees only managed two runs that night and dropped the game.

Mattingly’s eight-game home run streak saw him hit 10 HRs and record a 362 wRC+ as the Yankees battled for a pennant that they eventually fell short of. He still holds the record of consecutive games with a home run, sharing it with Dale Long and Ken Griffey Jr. Mattingly bested both of those players with 10 HRs during his stretch, while the both hit just eight.

Don Mattingly’s home run streak is one famous example of just how good of a player he was in his prime. A gold-glove winning first baseman, with a swing built to capitalize on the friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium, he earned his position of leadership in the Yankees organization. For those eight games in July 1987, he was as good as any player to ever play, and set a standard that has not been beaten.