May 27, 2020

An Afternoon with David Cone

July 22, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

Where were you when…?  It’s a common question.  Where were you when Kennedy was shot?  Where were you when man first walked on the moon?  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 I’ll always remember where I was on July 18, 1999.

This past Saturday, the New York Yankees celebrated the ten-year anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game.  Cone’s date with immortality in 1999 punctuated a stretch of dominance by the Yankees rarely seen in modern professional sports.  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.  In 1996, Dwight Gooden returned from obscurity and drug rehabilitation to throw a no-hitter on May 14.  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.  While accomplishing perfection in 1999, David Cone threw only 88 pitches and struck out ten Montreal Expos.  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 catcher’s tenure with the Yankees.

In Opening Day, Jonathan Eig’s book on Jackie Robinson’s inaugural season, Eig described how baseball had become the soundtrack of Brooklyn.  On any summer’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.  The broadcasts wove people’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.  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.  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.  On a horrendously humid afternoon, I participated in some summer league game at John Jay High School in Westchester, NY.  Just like the Yankee game, our day had been delayed by rain.  I sat in the car with my father, listening to John Sterling dance around the subject of Cone’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.  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.  Early in the game, with the bases loaded, I crushed a ball to right field.  On any other day, it would have no doubt been a grand slam.  On this day, though, the inclement weather caused heavy swirling winds that knocked the drive down.  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 didn’t clear the fence.  The right fielder casually tossed the ball to the infielders, who subsequently flipped it to third and then first.  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 “shucking snitch.”  The umpire threw me out.  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 Cone’s performance in the background.

While David Cone made his way towards baseball immortality, I’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?


3 Responses to “An Afternoon with David Cone”
  1. Utpal says:

    In one of the luckiest coincidences of my life, I was at Yankee Stadium. I remember the rain coming down hard. They played Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain”, and I wondered if we would even get to see a full baseball game. As I thirteen year-old kid, I was also happy to get a Yogi Berra pin. Honestly, I didn’t even pay that much attention through the first few innings. It was just Yogi Berra Day at the Stadium in my mind. It was somewhere in the fifth or sixth inning that I got a sense of the magic being written before my eyes. After that, every Expo that came up brought a bit more tension. Seeing the end of that was absolutely wild. I still have the program from that game sitting in my room.

    I also remember the day distinctly because it was the first time I’d ever heard of this guy who seemed to be pretty darn good, even though he couldn’t seem to touch Coney in that game. His name? Vlad Guerrero.

  2. Josh Deitch says:

    As a side note, my dad chimed in and helped fill in some of the blanks from that day:
    the game at John Jay was actually weirder than you wrote. In fact the “grand slam” that didn’t go out early in the game was not caught; it fell about a foot from the fence. Since nobody knew whether it would be caught, they didn’t run and you ended up with a single and just one rbi. Later in the game, with the bases loaded again, you hit a screamer that the centerfielder ran in and caught. This time, everyone was running; hence, the triple play. As I recall, your team had a 10 run lead early on but proceeded to give it up, inning by inning. That’s why you were called in for late relief, and after you proceeded to get yourself tossed, the other guys caught up and the game went into extra innings in the stifling heat. By that time, the wind was now blowing out, and the game ended with some freshman on the other team hitting a three run homer over the short fence and into the next county. That freshman, forgot his name, turned out to be a pretty good player; a few years later Richie Quinn told me he was playing somewhere in the low minors.

    That’s what I get for not keeping written notes on every moment of my life.

  3. Ariel Deitch (sister) says:

    And also, just so you know, I was there watching you and instead of watching the perfect game. I spent most of my time sitting in the car or getting updates from the parents. I had no idea what you did in your game, all i know is i was hot because of you; however i enjoyed spending my day listening to the radio rather than having nothing to do at your game.

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