NEW YORK -- This National League Championship Series can't have a stage to itself. In the middle of everything, Mike Tyson and his charming Robin have barged onto the scene with their own version of a postseason classic. George Steinbrenner fires Lou Piniella, and the NLCS can't divorce itself from the David Cone hangover, the mess he stirred up before Wednesday's second game of the Mets-Dodgers playoff.

It is the David Cone affair, and the perils of a ghostwriting profession, that is the subject of the text by this old ghostwriter himself. Cone is a young Mets pitcher with an astounding 20-3 rookie season record and an eight-game winning streak who contracted to write some playoff stuff for the New York Daily News, courtesy of a ghostwriter, of course.

Rookie writer Cone almost immediately loused up everything for himself, and the Mets. After the Mets scared up those three runs in the ninth to win the opener in Los Angeles, he double faulted, writing of Dodgers ace Orel Hershiser, "He was lucky to go eight {shutout} innings." And this about Dodgers reliever Jay Howell: "He reminded me of a high school pitcher." He didn't say anything about greasy kid stuff, though.

Of course, what he did say was the kind of stuff bound to raise the temperature when the Dodgers read it. And to make certain that Cone's effusions would be on the Dodgers' reading list, copies of his column were posted in every locker and pinned to their clubhouse wall.

So when Cone started the second game, he heard it loudly from the Dodgers' bench, a dictionary of the choicest words known to an angry baseball dugout. What they called him can't be printed here, but what they did to him can. They dispatched losing pitcher Cone in two innings. Five big runs in those two innings. David Cone had gotten his priorities mixed up. He wrote like a pitcher and pitched like a sportswriter.

Afterward, he was apologetic. Tried to explain everything by saying he had "a lack of communication" with his writer. Others haunted by what appeared under their names have said the same thing before. Later, Cone was more forthright, saying, "Yes, I said it, but I didn't think he would write it." Some people say he should have known better than to trust ghostwriters.

The Mets' high command didn't like it, either, and suggested to young Cone to forget trying to develop anything like another pitch, but to steadily develop writer's block. So probably for the good of all concerned, Cone writes no more about the National League Championship Series. His professional writing career lasted exactly three days. You couldn't say it wasn't a distinguished one, but it got him more distinction than any player in the playoffs -- until Jay Howell was forced to cease and desist his own indiscretion in Game 3.

Ghostwriting used to be decently accepted as an honorable thing years back. We had a baseball writer at The Washington Post in 1925 who ghosted articles during the Senators-Pirates World Series under the name of Sam Rice. When an angry Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis called Rice on the carpet for "second-guessing our umpires in the newspaper," poor Sam was at a loss. He hadn't read his own stuff.

So prevalent was the custom that entrepreneur Christy Walsh made a business of signing the big stars of the game -- Ruth, Cobb, Mathewson, et al. -- and selling their ghostwritten articles. Remembered is one episode on a train bound for the World Series in St. Louis when some writers were getting up a card game. Said one chap who was busily pounding out stories for Walsh's client, "Save me a seat -- Gehrig, Frisch and Bottomley left."

Ted Williams' ghosted stuff was being published in Boston before the Red Sox-Cardinals Series in 1946. It produced the most fatuous of headlines: "Ted Picks Red Sox To Win Series." What a surprise. What if he had picked the Cardinals?

My favorite ghostwriter was John Gilhooly of the Boston Hearst papers who wrote under Ed Stanky's byline in the 1948 Series. No writer ever had such luxury. In the Hearst morning paper he wrote Stanky's stuff, and in the Hearst afternoon paper under his own name, he would second-guess Stanky.

When Sammy Baugh joined the Washington Redskins in 1937, I was cast as his ghostwriter. He could not be bothered with any discussion and gave me a blank check to write anything I liked, and I did. Every Sunday with Baugh's help I would diagram a Redskins play, labeling it one that had beaten some other team. But once, when Baugh was unavailable, the team's trainer came forward with a play we could publish.

"When did it ever work?" I asked. "We never really used it," he said. "I always thought it would work." So the play was diagrammed and published, and that day the Redskins took an awful beating from the Bears and two days later the sports editor got an angry letter from a lady who complained, "How can the Redskins expect to win when Sammy Baugh gives away their best plays every Sunday?"

The Washington Post was not a prosperous newspaper in the early 1930s. The opposition, the Star and the Herald, spent freely to have famous writers and players covering the World Series -- Damon Runyon, Arthur Brisbane, Adela Rogers St. John, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and the like.

It was then that we devised The Post's own bragging, shamelessly plagiarizing the Lucky Strike cigarette ads that were saying "Reach For a Lucky Instead Of a Sweet." So across the top of The Washington Post appeared our statement: "Charles Lindbergh, Vice President Charles G. Dawes, Aimee Semple McPherson, And Others Will Not Cover the World Series For The Post. The Baseball Classic Will Be Covered By Baseball Writers. Reach For a Post Instead of a Ghost." Sorta sweet is the memory.