With grit and determination packed solidly into his 6’1″ 180 lb frame, David Cone was born to have his shining career moment as a New York Yankee. Ever the intimidator, Cone often changed his delivery in the middle of a windup, sending a sweeping curve at the body of a right-handed hitter, and leaving him frozen in the box as the ball broke over the plate – strike three.
The Yankees signed David Cone as a hired gun in December 1995. However, in May 1996, Cone received news that he had a life-threatening aneurism in his armpit that required immediate surgery.
He followed that up by leading the American League in wins with 20 as a Yankee in 1998, losing only seven times.
Against the best judgment of doctors, the Yankees, and family, Cone was determined to come back sooner as opposed to later. The Yankees knew better and nursed him back throughout the remainder of 1996. The following year, Cone came back healthy and vigorous going 12-6 with a 2.82 ERA over 195 innings.
He followed that up by leading the American League in wins with 20 as a Yankee in 1998, losing only seven times. That same year, he started and won a World Series game, contributing six strong innings as the Yankees went on to sweep the San Diego Padres.
So by 1999, Cone was firmly implanted in a Yankees uniform, ready to claim another World Series title. At the age of 36 though, things were beginning to slow down noticeably, and he struggled through the year posting a pedestrian 12-9 record with a rise in his ERA to 3.41.
But as things turned out, there was still some magic left in his right arm. Fittingly, Cone chose the day that the Yankees honored Don Larsen and Yogi Berra, battery mates in Larsen’s 1956 Immortal World Series perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, to play out his bit of history.
The box score provided by Baseball Almanac shows that David Cone achieved perfection before a crowd 49,130 fans. It took him only 2 hours and sixteen minutes to set down the Montreal Expos, whose lineup that day included Vladimir Guerrero, striking out ten along the way. The only close call came when Paul O’Neill was forced to make a diving catch of a Wilton Guerrero fly to right.
Fifteen years later, Cone would recall his feelings that day telling the New York Post:
"“Once you get through five clean innings, the thoughts start to creep in,” Cone said. “After the sixth inning, it was like, ‘Oh, boy.’ ”
There were conflicting voices singing inside Cone’s head.
“It was a sports psychiatrist’s kind of a Class 101 — it was negative thoughts and positive thoughts going both ways,” Cone said. “It was, ‘You can do this,’ and the other part was, ‘Don’t blow it.’ So it was a constant battle of, ‘Don’t get too far ahead of yourself — you still have to win the game, you still have a few more innings to go,’ but with each out and each inning, that anxiety kinda grew.”"
He threw only 88 pitches that day, never reaching a ball three count on any batter. Can you be more perfect than that? Here’s the video of all 27 outs and the celebration that followed courtesy of MLB:
Today, David Cone remains visible in the Yankees organization as an analyst on the Yankees YES network. Often teamed with Paul O’Neill (but not often enough), they offer pitcher versus batter analysis that is unparalleled in the broadcasting industry.