David Cone picked a perfect day for a perfect game. With Don Larsen sitting behind home plate, Cone dazzled the Montreal Expos with a wide assortment of pitches today, throwing the 14th perfect game in modern history to lead the Yankees to a 6-0 victory.
It came on the same field where Larsen pitched a perfect game against Brooklyn in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series -- the only one in Series history.
Cone got Orlando Cabrera to hit a popup for the final out. He dropped to his knees and was mobbed by teammates, just as David Wells was last year when he pitched the only other regular season perfect game by a Yankee.
"Once we got that big lead, I really relaxed," said Cone, whose career almost ended three years ago because of an aneurysm near his right armpit. But in the ninth, he said, he could feel his heart "pounding through his uniform."
"You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than this happening," he said.
Larsen was at Yankee Stadium for Yogi Berra Day, and even re-created his perfect day in 1956 by throwing out the first pitch to Berra.
Cone got through the first inning with the help of a diving catch in right field by Paul O'Neill that robbed Terry Jones of a hit.
He didn't need any more help from his fielders until the eighth inning. Jose Vidro hit a hard grounder up the middle with one out in the eighth. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who has 16 errors this season, ran to his right to backhand the ball, pivoted and made a strong throw to first baseman Tino Martinez to get Vidro.
"As soon as he hit it, I said, `There it goes,' " Cone recalled. "When Knoblauch made the great play, I decided there was some kind of Yankee aura. Maybe this was my day."
Cone (10-4) got his first shutout in exactly four years. He didn't go to a three-ball count all day and struck out 10.
When Wells pitched his perfect game against Minnesota on May 17, 1998, Cone sat next to him between innings, calming his teammate.
"I already talked to Boomer and he welcomed me to the club," Cone said just minutes after the game ended. "He said he wanted to fly down here and party with me all night."
In Toronto, Wells said: "He's overcome a lot of obstacles in his career and for him to do it in New York, where he is well loved, he is The Man of New York City."
Cone was given a standing ovation when he walked to the mound in the ninth, and the crowd of 41,930 remained on its feet.
Cone struck out Chris Widger, then retired pinch hitter Ryan McGuire on a fly to left that Ricky Ledee almost dropped.
"I really didn't want it hit to me," Ledee said. "I was having a tough time seeing the ball."
Needing one more out, Cabrera worked the count to 1-1. Then he hit a popup that third baseman Scott Brosius caught in foul territory halfway toward the plate for the final out.
Cone immediately dropped to his knees by the side of the mound, grabbed his head in disbelief and saw catcher Joe Girardi sprinting toward him. Girardi pushed Cone down and the celebration began.
"I have been under a lot of piles," said Girardi, who caught Dwight Gooden's no-hitter in 1996. "I didn't want him to be at the bottom of that."
The rest of the Yankees rushed out of the dugout and bullpen and mobbed Cone. They lifted him on their shoulders and carried him to the edge of the dugout as the crowd stood and waved wildly.
Larsen watched from a luxury box behind the plate and applauded. This was the 16th perfect game overall, including two in the 19th century.
"I was just thinking about my day," Larsen said. "I'm sure David will think about this every day of his life."
Cone stayed away from his teammates for the first two outs of each inning, every time changing his T-shirt. They were soaked with sweat because of the near-100-degree temperature.
Yankees Manager Joe Torre found Cone in his clubhouse office after the sixth inning. Neither had much to say. "We walked past each other," Torre said. "I just told him he could use my office."
Today was supposed to be Berra's day, as the Yankees celebrated his return this season after a 14-year feud with owner George Steinbrenner.
And it was Berra who caught Larsen's perfect game. Girardi even gave Berra his own glove to catch Larsen's first pitch.
"I'm glad we were both here for this," Berra said.
Cone threw 88 pitches, nine fewer than Larsen needed for his no-hitter against the Dodgers. Cone had pitched three one-hitters in his career, the last on May 22, 1994, against the Angels.
Cone, 36, became the second-oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game. Cy Young pitched one in 1904 at 37.
In 1996, Cone underwent surgery for the aneurysm, a condition that some thought could end his career -- or even his life.
Less than four months later, he made a remarkable return. He pitched seven no-hit innings at Oakland before Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre decided 85 pitches were enough.
Today, fans sensed the possibility of perfection in the seventh inning. After Cone got Wilton Guerrero to ground out to third, he got ahead of James Mouton, 1-2. With the fans on their feet urging on Cone, Mouton swung through a nasty slider that broke more than one foot off the plate.
"I kind of fought the feeling," Cone said. "I said I'm not going to try to get cute now. I said in order to get through the game, I had to get through the sixth and seventh quickly."
Cone used the same pitch to get Rondell White to end the seventh.
The free-swinging Expos made Cone's job easier, getting out early in the counts. Cone did the rest with a biting slider, a devastating splitter and a hopping fastball.
"He didn't leave anything over the middle of the plate," Widger said. "He didn't get away with any bad pitches. He just didn't throw any bad pitches."
List of perfect games thrown in modern major league history:
David Cone, New York (AL) vs. Montreal, 6-0, June 18, 1999.
David Wells, New York (AL) vs. Minnesota, 4-0, May 17, 1998.
Kenny Rogers, Texas vs. California (AL), 4-0, July 28, 1994.
Dennis Martinez, Montreal vs. Los Angeles (NL), 2-0, July 28, 1991.
Tom Browning, Cincinnati vs. Los Angeles (NL), 1-0, Sept. 16, 1988.
Mike Witt, California vs. Texas (AL), 1-0, Sept. 30, 1984.
Len Barker, Cleveland vs. Toronto (AL), 3-0, May 15, 1981.
Catfish Hunter, Oakland vs. Minnesota (AL), 4-0, May 8, 1968.
Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles vs. Chicago (NL), 1-0, Sept. 9, 1965.
Jim Bunning, Philadelphia vs. New York (NL), 6-0, June 21, 1964.
Don Larsen, New York (AL) vs. Brooklyn (NL), 2-0, Oct. 8, 1956-x.
Charles Robertson, Chicago vs. Detroit (AL), 2-0, April 30, 1922.
Addie Joss, Cleveland vs. Chicago (AL), 1-0, Oct. 2, 1908.
Cy Young, Boston vs. Philadelphia (AL), 3-0, May 5, 1904.
CAPTION: After getting last out in perfect game, Yankees' David Cone is greeted by catcher Joe Girardi.
CAPTION: Yankees fans salute David Cone after he pitched perfect game. "You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than this happening," he said.