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On This Date in Sports July 18, 1999: David Cone's Perfect Game

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David Cone of the New York Yankees tosses the 16th perfect game in MLB history, blanking the Montreal Expos 6-0 at Yankee Stadium. It is the third Perfect Game by the Yankees setting an MLB record. It is also the first No-Hitter thrown in an interleague game and thus far the only Perfect Game. Cone had ten strikeouts while pitching with impeccable control. The Perfect Game came on a day in which the Yankees honored Yogi Berra. 

In 1985, the New York Yankees went into the season with high hopes after acquiring Rickey Henderson. Henderson began the season on the disabled list after a minor injury; as a result, the Yankees struggled at 6-10 through their first 16 games. Across town, the Mets were off to a strong start and in first place, further angering owner George Steinbrenner. Impatient and impulsive Steinbrenner fired manager Yogi Berra. A longtime fan favorite, Berra vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium after his quacking firing. 

For 13 years, Yogi Berra made good on that threat to never return to Yankee Stadium. He was not at team parades, not at number retirement ceremonies and not at Old Timer’s Day. In 1998 Yogi Berra went to a Subway Series game at Shea Stadium and threw out the first pitch for the Mets. As the 1998 Yankees held their World Series parade, Yogi Berra was opening a new museum on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey. A short time later, Suzyn Waldman of WFAN did a show from the new museum, close to George Steinbrenner she helped arrange a reconciliation between a more mellow Steinbrenner and Yogi. Steinbrenner agreed to lone several Yankee items, including World Series trophies, to the museum to get Yogi Berra to return to the Bronx. 

A special day was arraigned for Yogi Berra in honor of his return to Yankee Stadium. For Yogi Berra’s special day, Don Larsen, who tossed a Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series, was brought in to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Berra. Larsen’s Perfect Game was the first postseason No-Hitter and remains the only postseason perfect game. The Yankees came into the Sunday Afternoon Game with a record of 53-36 for Joe Torre, while the Expos were 33-54 under Felipe Alou. 

It was a hot and humid afternoon in the Bronx as David Cone entered the game with a record of 9-4, while rookie Javier Vazquez at 2-4 made the start for Montreal. Cone started the game strong with a strikeout of Wilton Guerrero and got the next two batters on flyouts. In the second inning, Cone began the inning with a strikeout of Wilton’s brother Vladimir. The following two batters were retired on ground outs. 

In the bottom of the second, the Yankees offense gave David Cone some runs to work with. New York’s rally began when Chili Davis was issued a one-out walk. The next batter Ricky Ledee homered to build a 2-0 lead. Scott Brosius was hit by a pitch, following Ledee’s home run. Brosius would score on a double off the bat of Joe Girardi. The Yankees catcher was thrown out at third trying to stretch the double into a triple. Chuck Knoblauch followed with a walk and was on base when Paul O’Neill homered to make the score 5-0.

In the third inning, David Cone found his groove striking out Chris Wedger, Shane Andrews, and Orlando Cabrera. After leaving the mound, a passing shower led to a 33-minute rain delay. Cone held a baseball throw the delay waiting to get back on the mound. The rain only added to the steamy weather at Yankee Stadium that day. After the Yankees went down in the third, Cone nearly saw his chance of history melt away as Wilton Guerrero just missed a home run driving O’Neill to the warning track before reeling in the fly ball to begin the fourth inning. Terry Jones, the next batter struck out. Rondell White ended the inning with a flyout. All three Expos batters flied out in the fifth as fans began to buzz, having witnessed David Wells’ perfect game 14 months earlier. All three batters flied out in the sixth as Cone went through the lineup twice, without a base runner. 

David Cone was quick and efficient throughout the game, as he never faced a 3-1 or 3-0 count. In the seventh inning, he fanned James Mouton and Rondell White, showing no signs of tiring in the summer heat. In fact, he appeared to be getting stronger with history insight, as the Expos had trouble getting the ball out of the infield. The Yankees added a sixth run in the eighth inning as O’Neill doubled and later scored on an RBI by Bernie Williams.

David Cone took the mound in the ninth inning as a buzz hung over all of baseball with Larsen and Berra watching from George Steinbrenner’s box. Cone started the inning by striking out Chris Widger. It was Cone’s tenth strikeout. Cone was judicious with his strikeouts as eight of the nine players in the Expos lineup had at least one strikeout, with Widger striking out twice, Mouton who subbed for Terry Jones also had a strikeout, while Jose Vidro was the only Montreal starter not to have been fanned by David Cone. and came the closest to getting a hit when he was thrown out one great play by Chuck Knoblauch. The next batter was Ryan McGuire, who pinch-hit for Shane Andrews. He would fly out to left field the ball was nearly dropped by Ricky Ledee, but Cone was one batter away from history. Orlando Cabrera was the Expos' last hope, and he ended the game with short pop to Scott Brosius in foul territory. David Cone, completing the perfect game, dropped to his knees and was mobbed by his teammates.