An Afternoon with David Cone
Where were you whenâ€¦?Â Itâ€™s a common question.Â Where were you when Kennedy was shot?Â Where were you when man first walked on the moon?Â Where were you when Bobby Thompson hit the shot heard round the world?
I never lived through the assassination of an American president, the space race, or the historic comeback of the New York Giants, but Iâ€™ll always remember where I was on July 18, 1999.
This past Saturday, the New York Yankees celebrated the ten-year anniversary of David Coneâ€™s perfect game.Â Coneâ€™s date with immortality in 1999 punctuated a stretch of dominance by the Yankees rarely seen in modern professional sports.Â Not only did it seem like the Yankees cruised to a World Series title almost annually, but every year, New York fans found themselves witnesses of another historic feat.Â In 1996, Dwight Gooden returned from obscurity and drug rehabilitation to throw a no-hitter on May 14.Â Two years and three days later, bad-boy lefty David Wells hurled the fifteenth perfect game in Major League history.
Throughout those years between 1996 and 2001, Yankee fans had grown accustomed to being bystanders as history was made in front of their eyes.Â While accomplishing perfection in 1999, David Cone threw only 88 pitches and struck out ten Montreal Expos.Â He did so ironically after Don Larsen had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra on a day celebrating the Hall-of-Fame catcherâ€™s tenure with the Yankees.
In Opening Day, Jonathan Eigâ€™s book on Jackie Robinsonâ€™s inaugural season, Eig described how baseball had become the soundtrack of Brooklyn.Â On any summerâ€™s day, it was possible to walk down Flatbush Avenue and hear the entire radio broadcast of a Brooklyn Dodger game blaring from every window and storefront in the borough.Â The broadcasts wove peopleâ€™s lives together, uniting the borough under the Dodger banner.
As someone that grew up in the 80s and 90s, I never really experienced that cultural phenomenon.Â By the time I had come of age as a baseball fan, the sport was fully entrenched in its position as a televised sporting event.Â Radio could fill in the blanks when you were traveling, but ultimately, the family gathered around the TV to experience baseball, not the radio.
On July 18, 1999, a radio broadcast of a baseball game wove itself into my life as it must have 50 years earlier.Â On a horrendously humid afternoon, I participated in some summer league game at John Jay High School in Westchester, NY.Â Just like the Yankee game, our day had been delayed by rain.Â I sat in the car with my father, listening to John Sterling dance around the subject of Coneâ€™s perfection, trying to illustrate what was going on without jinxing the veteran pitcher.
When our game resumed, everyone in attendance was aware that history was unfolding in the Bronx.Â A parent pulled his car close to the field, left his door open, and blared the Yankee radio broadcast.
As the voices of John Sterling and Michael Kay echoed across the John Jay campus, I proceeded to have one of the weirdest games of my life.Â Early in the game, with the bases loaded, I crushed a ball to right field.Â On any other day, it would have no doubt been a grand slam.Â On this day, though, the inclement weather caused heavy swirling winds that knocked the drive down.Â The ball settled into the mitt of the right fielder.
The base runners, seeing the ball jump off my bat, had put their heads down and taken off, hoping to score if the ball somehow didnâ€™t clear the fence.Â The right fielder casually tossed the ball to the infielders, who subsequently flipped it to third and then first.Â Within mere moments, I had gone from hitting a grand slam to flying into a triple play!
A little later in the game, I referred to an umpire in a derogatory manner, calling him a name that vaguely rhymed with â€œshucking snitch.â€Â The umpire threw me out.Â It marked one of the only times in my playing career that I had ever been tossed from the field.
The whole time, Sterling and Kay called Coneâ€™s performance in the background.
While David Cone made his way towards baseball immortality, Iâ€™ll always remember I was sitting behind the dugout at John Jay High School, having lost a grand slam, hit into a triple play, and been ejected from a baseball game.
Where were you?