ANAHEIM -- While Don Mattingly was starring for the Yankees in the 1980s, Magic Johnson shined at the other end of the country, running the point for a dynastic Lakers franchise in Los Angeles.
The two never met. And though Johnson was part of the group -- Guggenheim Baseball Partners LLC -- that six days ago purchased the team Mattingly manages, the two have yet to get in touch.
"We've never crossed paths," Mattingly said. "I just watched him play a ton -- killing me."
Interestingly enough, Mattingly grew up an admirer of Johnson's fiercest rival (and also greatest friend): Larry Bird.
"Indiana, man," said Mattingly, referencing the state where he grew up and the state where Bird -- five years his senior -- became a college-basketball god.
"He's kind of an Indiana legend. Growing up, you're all about Larry Bird. How do you ever forget that name? But obviously I'm a basketball fan, so even though you're killing me -- well, not killing me, but it kind of felt like it for a long time -- you have a lot of respect [for Johnson]."
Mattingly likewise has a lot of respect for the impact Johnson can have for the Dodgers, now that the former Michigan State guard is part of the group that purchased the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium from Frank McCourt for a record $2.15 billion.
"It seems like it's brought a ton of just good energy, as far as just the feeling you hear from fans," said Mattingly, speaking from Angel Stadium on Monday before the first of three Freeway Series games. "Even at the ballpark from fans that first day, there's a different energy from the people that came to see you play. For the players, I just feel they're kind of happy to know who's running the show and who's taking us where we want to go. I think that's something that's kind of been missing over the last couple of years. Mr. McCourt, really, had a lot to deal with, and it seemed like the baseball team was second."