While I was watching William Hurt fall for a young woman working at a school for the deaf in "Children of a Lesser God," Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle was achieving greatness.
As much as I enjoyed the movie...I wish I had gotten to watch Buehrle cruise through batter after batter, to watch Dewayne Wise crash into the center field wall, and to listen to the city of Chicago go berserk.
And as much as someone like Skip Bayless will try to stir the pot and try to downplay the moment, it's quite impressive what Mark Buehrle did.
Buehrle's perfect game is the 18th in MLB history, the one prior came from Randy Johnson in 2004 (Only way you could get a win apart of that dismal Diamondbacks roster.) against the Atlanta Braves. The one that I always remember though is from beloved New York Yankee David Cone.
Cone's perfect game was, before Thursday, the last thrown by an American League pitcher. It came just over 10 years ago (July 18 of 1999 to be exact) against the Montreal Expos. And this young Yankees fan secluded away in Arizona before access to MLB Extra Innings got to witness it and be mesmerized.
I was nine years old at the time and visiting family in New Jersey.
My dad's side of the family is loaded with cousins, many of them are around the same age as me and share a strong love for baseball. It had become tradition every summer that I went up to be part of a big wiffleball game in my uncle's backyard, cousins versus adults.
For every cousin there was a flag with his/her name on it nailed to the backyard fence and a number from a retired Yankees legend. On a sidenote I was randomly awarded with No. 3.
That day was to be the big game! Bragging rights were on the line and a year older, I was determined to put one over the dead center field wall at 60 feet.
This game would be started a little later though, David Cone was on the mound that day making his first start after another all-star appearance. This I had to see!
The bad news of that day was that it would be my introduction to the insufferable Suzyn Waldman as she would join Bobby Mercer in the booth for the third and fourth innings, and call the fifth and sixth innings with Tim McCarver. The pros would certainly outweight that con.
For those wondering, I probably watched this game in its entirety on VHS 50+ times. If you ever hear about a college class where they strictly cover this game and an instructor is needed I could do it. I'm just saying.
July 18 was a special day already before Cone took the rubber. Not only was Don Larsen throwing out the first pitch (threw the first perfect game in Yankee Stadium history in 1956 and the only perfect game in the postseason) but it was manager Joe Torre's 59th birthday. It just had to be a special day for the New York Yankees.
And it started quite well too, future Yankee big money bust Javier Vazquez took the mound for Montreal and got roughed up early. In the second inning he gave up five runs including an upper deck blast to right field by Ricky Ledee and another shot to left field off the bat from Derek Jeter, each coming with one runner on base.
It appeared that the game may be well out of reach soon and that we would play another big game of wiffleball, and I was ready for that center field fence.
But something happened, David Cone routinely retired Expos batter after Expos batter. Nobody would get on base.
I'd seen Cone's backdoor breaking ball retire plenty before but he was really on today like I had never quite seen. By the fifth inning, Tim McCarver continually stated "Can't happen, can it?" Heck, with Don Larsen throwing out the first pitch even. After six innings, it felt more and more real.
The game had a few nice plays in the field to help. The second batter of the game, Terry Jones, slapped a fly ball out to right field in which Paul O'Neill had to make a nice diving catch for going to his left. Third basemen Scott Brosius had to be quick on a little chopper hit to third to get the speedy Wilton Guerrero in the seventh inning.
And finally in the eighth inning, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch made a very good play on a hard hit ground ball by Jose Vidro (Only starter not to fall victim to a David Cone strikeout) to make it 23 consecutive batters retired.
The wiffleball game was definitely on delay.
And after the Yankees tacked on a sixth run in the bottom half, the game moved to the ninth and I was still mesmerized. Chris Widger whiffed to begin the the third inning for the Montreal Expos, and he would oblige to do the same in the ninth.
"Can't happen, can it?"
Then came another scary moment, the Expos elected to pinch hit for third baseman Shane Andrews and brought in Ryan McGuire. McGuire would sky one out to left field, and hearts would pump fast as Ricky Ledee almost lost the ball in the sun but recovered in time to make the catch for out No. 2.
The last chance for Montreal would be a young shortstop named Orlando Cabrera. On a 1-1 pitch, Cabrera would hit a towering pop-up just foul of the third base line.
And after what felt like an eternity, the ball plopped in the glove of Scott Brosius and David Cone, hands to his head in disbelief, proceeded to get mobbed by teammates.
It was truly an amazing and unexpected moment for me watching my favorite player pitch about as well as I will ever see anyone pitch.
- Along with Don Larsen's perfect game, it is the only perfect game to have taken place during an interleague game.
- Only 14 months and one day after David Wells pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins, the shortest span between perfect games in the modern era.
- He didn't allow a single Expos batter to reach a full count.
- He threw only 88 pitches total. (Less than 10 per inning)
- He wound up with 10 strikeouts. Two came off of catcher Chris Widger, one came off of pinch hitting James Mouton, and one for each of the other starters minus Jose Vidro.
Unfortunately, coming off an all-star game appearance in 1999 and a 20 win season in 1998, Cone would have very little success in the rest of his career as a member of the New York Yankees.
He would win only two more games the rest of that season.
In 2000 he was downright atrocious, going 4-14 with an ERA of 6.91 during the season. There really were just two shining moments, fortunately both came in the World Series; one in Game Two of the 1999 World Series when he beat the Atlanta Braves.
The other came in Game Four of the 2000 World Series when he would relieve Denny Neagle in the fifth inning and induce Mike Piazza to pop-up to end the inning.
Nobody was more surprised than me to see Cone come through and get that out.
The next season David Cone could only be seen by me on T.V. pitching in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
It's almost like I had made a deal with the devil; I got to watch him hit his peak as a Yankee throwing a perfect game and then fall faster than a skydiver.
I can't say I'd have it any other way though, the perfect game is something I will never ever forget.
And to cap it all off, I would take two different pitches in wiffleball over the center field fence that night.
I have David Cone to thank for being able to remember that too.