Some players love the game so much that one literally has to rip the jersey off their back kicking and screaming before they retire. David Cone was one such player. Cone is a former pitcher who hasn’t stepped on the mound in more than 15-years but he still lives, eats, sleeps and breathes pitching and that’s not hyperbole.
“Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher,” by David Cone and Jack Curry is a fun journey and provides insight into the maniacal mind of a pitching savant. I say maniacal as a term of endearment, as Cone chronicles his career and pitching acumen.
Ecstatic to announce that @dcone36 and me have made The NY Times Best Seller list. We debut at #13 in Nonfiction on the upcoming list. Thanks to David for being a great collaborator. Thanks to all who helped during this process. This is really cool. pic.twitter.com/GdNip1OqhJ
It’s obvious from his analysis on YES Network broadcasts and in the book that Cone could be a pitching coach and was actually asked by Bobby Valentine and the Boston Red Sox before the 2012 season. One can’t help but wonder what kind of pitcher Cone would’ve been with all of the data at the disposal of current-day pitchers and video that captures spin rate and velocity in real-time. I also loved Cone’s old school toughness too and how he mentioned that pitchers need to be trained to work through adversity and make adjustments.
Cone described the importance of being an aggressive, attacking, creative pitcher. The righty was an innovative hurler, using his legs to drop and drive and power his pitches to his strengths. As someone who emulated Cone as a kid in the backyard in the late 90s, I loved how he featured some many different pitches and arm angles and grips with his fastball, (Laredo) slider, splitter, and curveball.
Cone spoke to how pitchers have to test and trust themselves, pitching to lanes consistently, being aggressive and have conviction in their pitches, even as he did so flailing and throwing 147-pitches in a Game 5 ALDS loss for the New York Yankees against the Seattle Mariners.
At an early age, Cone learned from his father Ed, that every pitch should have a purpose.
As a young pitcher, Cone got a quick education on gaining the trust of his teammates. On the mound, you’re the center of attention and your teammates are watching you and you constantly have to prove yourself, as Cone learned from legendary Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry and New York Mets crafty veteran starter Bobby Ojeda. This also included rebounding from adversity and regaining his focus during the 1988 NLCS.
Cone also detailed some humbling moments in the minors, including coming back from an ACL injury and a story about how as a minor leaguer on a budget his diet literally caught up to him in soiling himself on the mound.
As a young pitcher trying to make an impression with scouts, Cone described how former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Presko gave him the confidence that he could actually become a big league pitcher. With every top high school prospect on YouTube these days it was pretty surreal to read how Cone more or less caught the eye of scouts at an open tryout with the Royals and pitching against college kids in the Ban Johnson League. Cone’s high school didn’t have a baseball program.
He also detailed the preparation process and finding that mental edge in the pre-game bullpen session. The Yankees even had a bullpen catcher glove called the “ego mitt.”
I also loved the aspect of the dance between pitchers and catchers. Backstops like Jamie Quirk, Gary Carter, Barry Lyons, and Charlie O’Brien were always upbeat and positive pumping up Cone on the mound. Yankees catcher Joe Girardi was excellent at reading Cone’s mind, reacting and remaining in rhythm with the pitcher who stared in and liked getting signs quickly. The opposite was the case with two fiery and stubborn players in Cone and Jorge Posada.
Cone was also a pitcher who liked to call his own game and was incredibly detailed in preparing and having a plan of attack.
The amount of work that goes into deceiving hitters and running through signs as to not tip pitches was also fascinating.
Cone was constantly learning throughout his storied career, whether it was honing his splitter with Roger Craig, developing an X-Game approach of crisscrossing the plate with pitches from pitching coach Bruce Kison in his second tour of duty with the Royals, not being taught a spitter from Gaylord Perry. Even late in his career, choking the ball in the glove and throwing a slow curve early in the count like Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.
Cone would even work on perfecting “bad pitches,” bouncing curves on the plate for instance.
In addition, Cone talked about consistently hitting spots and expanding the zone and taking advantage of those extra inches.
Cone was all about throwing his pitch, having conviction in those pitches and challenging hitters throughout his career.
Having watched the 90’s Yankees and reading other books from that era, I feel like I’ve heard a lot of what Cone covered or he at least confirmed my suspicions. There were a few interesting tidbits including David Wells and bullpen antics. Plus, reading about the brilliance of those players and Joe Torre, you really appreciate those teams even more.
Cone also breaks down his perfect game in 1999 and an inning of Game 3 of the 1996 World Series.