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The Simpsons Once Predicted A Real-Life Don Mattingly Confrontation

Most fans, casual and hardcore alike, have long become familiar with the theory that "The Simpsons" can predict the future. More than once, the television show has coincidentally predicted future events that came true. Donald Trump's presidency was projected back in 2000 with the episode "Bart to the Future" where audiences met an older, still-immature Bart Simpson asking help from his sister, President Lisa Simpson, whose administration took over from Trump's. And of course, there were the times the animated series allegedly predicted the winner of the Super Bowl.

One event audiences might not have immediately picked up on took place in the Season 3 episode "Homer at the Bat." Credited as one of the five most essential episodes by showrunner Al Jean in a 2014 Wall Street Journal interview, fans may remember the entertaining storyline with Homer (Dan Castellaneta) as the leader of Springfield's Nuclear Power Plant softball team with his lucky christened "Wonder Bat."

Power plant owner C. Montgomery Burns (Harry Shearer) is, of course, extremely excited at the success of his team and wagers some money on it. To ensure his team keeps their winning streak, he has Smithers (Shearer) assemble a team of professional big-league baseball players. Nine MLB stars arrived on the show as guest stars, including Don Mattingly, who played for the New York Yankees at the time.

In a twist, most of Mr. Burns' star players are unable to play by the pivotal game except for Darryl Strawberry and Mattingly — at least until Burns benches Mattingly on a hairy technicality.

Mattingly's mullet got him benched by Burns, then by George Steinbrenner

Though the episode aired after the real-life incident, it had been taped before it happened in real life, Don Mattingly revealed in 2007. "The shave-the-sideburns thing came long before the (real) haircut controversy," he recalled, as quoted by The Athletic. "It's funny because everybody thought they put that plotline in because of the haircut. But they did it before the whole incident even happened."

At the time of the airing and the episode itself, Mattingly wore a longer mullet hairstyle that Mr. Burns called him out for. He repeatedly demands that Mattingly shave his non-existent sideburns. Though he tries to appease the old man and shaves part of his head to no avail, Burns kicks him off the team, with Mattingly quipping afterward that he still likes Burns better than New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. It was not only funny but depicted how unreasonable Burns could be; with seven of the MLB ringers suffering misfortunes that prevent them from playing, Burns still kicks Mattingly off the field.

At the same time in real life, Mattingly was also benched for the same reason, as his mullet violated the rules Steinbrenner had regarding long hair and beards. Just as his Simpsonian counterpart did for Burns, Mattingly got a haircut later on to appease his real-life boss.

One of the reasons why the episode didn't premiere earlier had to do with accommodating the busy schedules of the many guest stars on the show. That included not only Mattingly and Strawberry but also Steve Sax, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, and Mike Scioscia.