David Cone pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees on July 18th, 1999. I will always remember it. It’s not a date that will live in infamy like Roosevelt suggested in his speech about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or the answer to the question posed by Alan Jackson in the lyrics to his song “Where were you (when the world stopped turning).” Although, I will also remember where I was at the time. My mother was going to pick me up from a friend’s house in Westchester, about an hour fifteen minutes north of NYC that morning, and we were going to go to The Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. Since I had turned 21 the month before, it was the first opportunity I would have to gamble legally. Not to give you the wrong impression of my mother, she’s not a degenerate gambler like I am (read my essay The Sport of Kings for further information).
Eventually, we arrived at Foxwoods, checked into our room, and I turned on the television. I changed channels until I found the Yankee game. I had had a renewed interest in the team since they had won the world series in ’96 and ’98. They would also win again that year in ’99 and the following year in ’00. For those of you who will suggest I’m a fairweather fan allow me to disabuse you of that by letting you know I rooted for the Yankees all through the 1980s when Mike Pagliarulo played third base, and the pitching staff was led by Rick Rhoden.
I don’t remember what inning it had been when we started watching Cone pitch, but it was late in the game between the New York Yankees and Montreal Expos. For my former students, and anyone born in the last twenty years, until 2004 The Washington Nationals had been The Montreal Expos.
None of the announcers wanted to jinx Cone, but they dropped hints that he had the opportunity to pitch a perfect game. Cone’s teammate David Wells had pitched a perfect game the previous year. The night before his game, he had appeared on Saturday Night Live and partied with the cast and crew after the show. Later, during interviews, after his perfect game, Wells admitted to having been battling a crippling hangover while pitching, which reminds me of when I was younger and admired writers like Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. I was under the impression alcohol was necessary to be a good writer. I had also heard an interview with William Styron who suggested a few drinks would help to invoke the muse. Although, he didn’t advocate writing under the influence. This reminds me of a quotation I heard from musician Joe Walsh that I’ll paraphrase. “Would Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison be able to write those songs without drugs? Maybe not, but they’re also dead.” Back to my story. Mom and I decided to stay, continued watching, and saw the 14th perfect game in history.
When I was growing up one of the stories that always fascinated me was hearing about my father’s Uncle who had bowled a perfect game. He and my grandfather had been outstanding bowlers. My grandfather was also a New York State Chaplain for The Freemasons as well as a minister. I don’t remember the denomination, but his congregation was also referred to as “Holy Rollers.” Yes, as a child I assumed that also had to do with bowling. Anyway, my great uncle received a ring from the bowling alley to commemorate the achievement. He would have also gotten $1000 dollars; this was in the 1950s so the equivalent would be about $11,000 today, but he wasn’t wearing his league bowling shirt at the time.
I can imagine my great uncle getting upset suggesting that this was bowling, not “Vietnam” — a war which wouldn’t happen for another decade — and since it wasn’t a league game, who cared if he was wearing his league shirt? Of course, this tirade would occur while he brandished a firearm, and a Pomeranian show dog with papers jumped up and down yapping.
After Cone’s game, my mother and I went to the casino floor, and the security guard asked to see ID. Excitedly, my mother fished around her purse for her driver’s license. It broke my heart to tell her he had been speaking to me.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com