I remember being 6 years old and visiting my cousin Jeff’s house. He was 5 years older than me and I thought he was the luckiest kid ever. He had a Nintendo (with the Power Pad!), an above-ground swimming pool, and border collie named after Bo Jackson. He was a huge New York Mets fan and went nuts that year decorating his room with every blue and orange baseball poster he could find.
Sitting on the shelf above his Nintendo was a Starting Lineup figure of Mets pitcher David Cone. This was one of a series of action figures of baseball players, ten of which where Mets in their 1989 eddition. Cone’s face seemed to be the wrong size for the rest of his head and body but it was still a Met. Jeff loved it. Starting Lineup figures came with a baseball card. Jeff proudly displayed it next to the action figure, having folded up part of the packaging to make an elevated holder for the card. Starting Lineup packaging included instructions for doing just that and even included a blank spot where players could autograph the completed display. I’ve never seen a signed one, but if anyone was ever going to have David Cone show up to his room to play Nintendo it was Jeff and his Bo Jackson-themed dog.
Looking at the back of this Starting Lineup card, Cone was better than I remember. In the prior year he went 20-3 with more than 200 strikeouts and a 2.22 ERA. He continued a roughly strikeout-per-inning pace for much of his career and could be counted on for 200 innings of work in most seasons. For some reason that I still haven’t reconciled, the card collecting hobby relegated him to a second tier of stardom.
Cone would find himself at the center of an impressive coincidence a decade after I first saw the Starting Lineup figure. On July 18, 1999 he was scheduled to pitch an interleague game for the Yankees against the Montreal Expos. Don Larsen, the author of a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Cone took the mound and promptly repeated the feat, throwing a perfect game despite having to endure a 33 minute rain delay.
Cone is one of two pitchers in the 1993 Finest set with a perfect game in their record, joining Randy Johnson. Perfect games are exceedingly rare, averaging 1 every 7 years or so. There have been 23 perfect games in MLB history, 18 of which took place in the last 100 years. Putting this in perspective, 24 humans have traveled in spacecraft to the moon.
Cone started his career with the Kansas City Royals before joining the Mets during the 1987 season. He rejoined the team just in time for 1993’s baseball cards to capture his return. The ’93 Finest set depicts him as an American League All-Star, though he actually played for the National League in the 1992 game. Following my recent Jeff Montgomery pickup, this refractor brings me to 50% completion on the Kansas City Royals team set. There are only six Royals in ’93 Finest, so it isn’t the biggest numerical accomplishment. Still, getting halfway complete on anything refractor related feels like a big win.