As a kid growing up in the late sixties and early seventies, I read numerous pieces about the great feats that have occurred in historic Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth smashing home runs at a record setting pace. Lou Gehrig, a dying man, standing in front of thousands and saying he considered himself one of the" luckiest men on the face of the earth." Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. Mickey Mantle almost hitting a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium. Roger Maris' 61'st homerun. Championship after championship, boy I thought to myself, what must have it been like to experience these great moments at Yankee Stadium. At that time, all I could do was wonder, as I supported a team that had the likes of Horace Clarke, Jerry Kenney, Jake Gibbs, Gene Michael, Ron Woods, Jack Acker, and well, you get the picture.
While rooting for the Yankees was tough from 1967 to 1975, I surely have been rewarded for my loyalty in the last three years. Since 1996, I have been at Yankee Stadium during these unbelievable days. Mickey Mantle Day in 1996. The sixth game of the 1996 World Series. The raising of the 23rd World Championship flag in 1997. Hideki Irabu's electric debut in July of '97. Don Mattingly Day in '97. The back-to-back-to-back homer playoff game in '97. David Wells' perfect game in May of 1998. Joe DiMaggio Day and the Yankees 114th win game on the final day of the regular season in '98. I was also there when the Yankees won the American League Pennant last October and also saw the two World Series wins. At the beginning of this season I saw the 24th World Championship flag raised and was honored to be there at Joe DiMaggio Day. After experiencing all this, I wondered what could be next. On July 18th, I got my answer.
A Perfect Day In The Bronx
"Yogi Berra Day 1999"
The ceremony before the game was great as usual. No other team in baseball honors their former greats like the New York Yankees. Don Mattingly, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Bill White, and Don Larsen were all there to honor #8. Joe Torre presented Yogi with a 1998 World Championship ring and the New York Yankees gave Berra a trip to Italy. Don Larsen then took the mound and Yogi went behind home plate as the two turned back the clock to 1956, and Don Larsen's perfect World Series game. Larsen threw to Yogi and we all cheered. Little did we know how ironic that little "replay" would become.
The Yankees broke out on top in this contest in the second inning. After Tino Martinez grounded out, Chili Davis walked and scored on a tremendous upper-deck homerun by Ricky Ledee. Ledee's blast, his third of the season, came off Montreal starter and loser Javier Vazquez. The ball landed half way up the right field third deck at the Stadium. The Yankees did not stop at two though. In the same inning, Joe Girardi got an RBI double and scored on Derek Jeter's 16th home run of the season--a blast deep over the left center-field wall which gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
Cone meanwhile, looked sharp very early on, as he attacked each hitter very aggressively. He worked quickly and only a 33-minute rain delay stopped him. When play resumed, the story was all David Cone. At the end of 5 innings, the scoreboard told every one of the 41,000 people in attendance that something important was happening. Montreal's line read 0 0 0. Since I witnessed David Wells' perfect game last May 17th, I immediately began to think to myself, "what are my chances of seeing two perfect games."
After Cone retired Chris Widger, Shane Andrews, and Orlando Cabrera in the sixth inning, the crowd started buzzing in anticipation of witnessing history. David Cone was pitching a perfect game after 6 innings and the whole stadium knew it.
In the Montreal seventh, after Cone got Wilton Guerrero to ground out to third, the Yankee ace then struck out Mouton and Rondel White thus sending the responsive crowd into a frenzy. Our whole section was praying and hoping we could be part of Yankee history again. We held our breaths as we all knew Coney needed just six more outs.
With one out in the top of the eighth inning something very special and spectacular happened. Montreal's Jose Vidro smashed a ground ball that seemed like it would head into center-field and spoil Cone's perfect game bid. But out of nowhere came Chuck Knoblauch. Yes, Chuck Knoblauch. The Yankee second baseman ranged far to his right to stop the ball and then, while setting himself, FIRED the ball to Tino for the second out. The place went nuts and I led the charge. Chuck Knoblauch had just saved Cone's perfect game with a sparkling defensive play. It was something! With the crowd now fired-up, Cone struck out Brad Fullmer to end the inning.
The Yankees added a run to their 5-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth as Paul O'Neill doubled and scored on a Bernie Williams single. The score was now 6-0 but the only numbers everyone in the ballpark was looking at read 0 0 0.
As Cone came out of the Yankee dugout to take the mound in the ninth, the crowd stood and cheered as we all prepared to help David Cone secure his perfect game. The first out of the inning came on Cone's 10th strikeout, as he k'd Chris Widger. The crowd went wild as only two more outs had to be recorded for baseball history. Pinch hitter Mcquire gave us all a scare as he lofted a fly ball to Ricky Ledee in shallow left field. It appeared Ledee didn't see the ball right away but the young left fielder came on and cradled the ball for the second out. The Stadium was now rocking as everyone stood screaming, cheering, praying, and hoping for just one more out. We all got what we were looking for when Orlando Cabrera popped out to Scott Brosius for the third out and baseball immortality for David Cone.
The place erupted with noise. What a sight, seeing David Cone drop to his knees and the whole Yankee team jump on top of him. Imagine, a perfect game with Yogi Berra and Don Larsen in attendance. This historic park once again played host to baseball history. It was absolutely amazing.
For a guy who lives in Rhode Island and spent numerous days listening to Yankee baseball through the static of WMCA radio years ago, this was really special. My second perfect game in two years. Man, it CAN'T get any better than this. Can it?
Thank you, David Cone. Thank you, New York Yankees. The tradition continues...
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Yankeetradition.com is site for Yankee diehards that embrace the past with the present. It is in no way affiliated with the New York Yankee Baseball Club. All comments or suggestions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes that's me, a Yankee fan since 1967 who has seen the likes of Celerino Sanchez, Charlie Spikes, Jimmy Lyttle, and Walt "NoNeck"Williams. Yes, thank God for the George Steinbrenner era!