Today is David Cone‘s 51st birthday and in honor of this special day (and because I have a head cold and can’t concentrate) I’m reposting a piece I wrote last January for my friend Michael Clair’s annual blogathon which raises money for Doctors Without Borders. Michael is doing another blogathon in a few weeks and I am, once again, participating. It’s a very cool endeavor. Michael blogs every hour for 24 hours on day one and then the next day he schedules a bunch of posts from guest writers (some of the best baseball bloggers on the Internet and me).
For last year’s installment, I wrote a post about my biggest baseball regret: Missing David Cone’s perfect game. Can you believe that we will be celebrating the 15th (!!) anniversary of that game this summer? Time flies when you’re having fun and getting old.
Anyway, enjoy the piece and please, as always, feel free to write about your biggest baseball regret in the comments.
When people ask me if I have any regrets, I usually laugh before I am able answer the question because of course I have regrets. Doesn’t everyone?
Most of my regrets are personal and have involved lost friendships and lost relationships, but I also have a lot of regrets that relate to my baseball fandom. Like regretting not saving my early ticket stubs or regretting not keeping my baseball cards from my childhood or even continuing to collect them as I got older. I also really regret not keeping score at some of the better games I’ve attended. But number one on the baseball regret list will always be July 18, 1999.
A casual baseball fan may not know why that date is so significant but others – especially fans of the New York Yankees – will know because on that warm, summer Sunday afternoon, David Cone pitched a perfect game.
Back then, perfect games and no-hitters were rare and didn’t happen three times a season.
I was planning on going the Stadium that day like I did every Sunday. 1999 was the first year I had my partial season ticket package, which at the time, included every Sunday home game, Opening Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Old Timers’ Day.
But something happened.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the worst charlie horse of my life. To give you an idea of how bad it was: my calf muscles are pretty large. I, unfortunately, took after my dad and have his legs. In fact, in high school, football players were jealous of my calves and they’d ask me what I did to get them that way. I’d usually sarcastically answer with, “Genetics.”
My enormous left calf muscle decided it wanted to spasm while I was asleep – I must have had my leg in an odd position – and the pain woke me up. I sat up and grabbed it, fruitlessly trying to stop it but nothing could. I yelled out in agony as it felt like the muscle was shrinking to the size of a grape.
It was some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt.
Needless to say, I couldn’t put any pressure on my leg and could barely walk, so there was no way I’d be able to make it all the way down to the Bronx and then to my seats in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium.
So I told my brother to find someone to take my seat for the game.
I ended up watching the game in my den with my father. He was in his favorite chair by the fireplace and I was across the room, on the couch with my ailing leg propped up some pillows.
I was icing it throughout the day because it was still very sore.
The game was going by pretty fast – that tends to happen when your starting pitcher is setting down the opposing batters in order every inning – and I remember thinking to myself, “Maybe I should have tried to make it down there.”
When it became evident that Cone was on the verge of making history, tears began to form in my eyes. There were so many emotions in my head at that moment.
For one thing, I was sad I wasn’t there to see it. I was angry at my leg for picking that particular morning to decide to break down and I also was excited for David Cone.
The moment Orlando Cabrera‘s ball popped up into the air, the tears began to fall, and when it landed in Scott Brosius’ glove, I cried out. As Cone was mobbed by his teammates, I looked at my dad and he said, “Hey, at least you were at Dwight Gooden’s no hitter.”
For some reason, that didn’t cheer me up.
To be completely honest, I was extremely envious of my brother at the time because he was a witness to both games. Not only that, he was also there as the Yankees won their first World Series in 18 years when they defeated the Atlanta Braves in six games in 1996. Unfortunately, I was still up at school in Oswego, New York.
Even though I missed Coney’s perfecto, I was there when Tino Martinez hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie Game Four against the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series – the same night Derek Jeter became Mr. November. I was there when the Yankees came back from nine runs down to beat the Texas Rangers on a random Tuesday night in May 2006. I was there during two of the walk off victories in the 2009 regular season and was also there during the playoffs when the Yankees walked off against the Angels in Game Two of the ALCS.
So I know, I shouldn’t complain because I have been very fortunate and have attended a lot of great Yankee games during my time as a baseball fan but there’s something about that particular game and not being able to go that will always make it my biggest baseball regret.