“Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher” by David Cone and Jack Curry. Narrated by David Cone
Baseball, professional, memoir, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Royals, audiobook
May 14, 2019
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Most baseball fans who have seen David Cone pitch during his 20 year career in Major League Baseball will have a moment or two in which they reacted "Wow, is he good!" Maybe it was his perfect game he threw in 1999 against the Montreal Expos (on only 88 pitches). Maybe it was one of his gutsy performances in which he logged pitch counts that would be unfathomable today, such as his 166 pitch game. Maybe it would be when he was part of the celebration for the 1992 Blue Jays winning the World Series. Or, maybe one knows him now as part of the television broadcast team for the New York Yankees. Regardless of what is most memorable, fans and readers of baseball books will enjoy this memoir that goes well beyond a recap of his career.
There is one word that kept coming back to me throughout the book – perfectionist. That is the overall image I believe Cone was portraying himself to be. With the book starting off with Cone's failure to complete the eighth inning of game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners and continuing throughout the book, Cone spends a lot of time discussing his failures or recklessness that resulted in lessons he learned and took to heart to become an even better pitcher.
As a native of Kansas City, he was elated to be drafted and making his major league debut with the Royals. Some of the recklessness mentioned above is discussed in this time in his life and it went up a level when he was traded to the New York Mets and was a part of the team when they had a famous wild reputation. He wasn't around for their 1986 championship but he did pitch in that team's other postseason appearance, the 1988 National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His poor outing in game 2 of that series is another example where he beats himself up for his bad outing but still uses the experience to learn a valuable lesson.
His time in New York with the Mets ended when he was traded during the 1992 season to help the Toronto Blue Jays win their first championship. He left the Blue Jays after that season to rejoin the Royals, who then later sent him to the New York Yankees when Kansas City decided to use younger, cheaper players.
When Cone gets to the Yankees, the great stories that made up the book early on return, as Cone shares his impressions of his teammates such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite. The stories about the latter tie in nicely with the other main topic of the book – terrific insights into the occupation of pitching. That is the subject of many stories he shares about the lessons learned. Whether Cone talks about how to throw off speed pitches, batters looking for any means of how to figure out what pitch is coming next or the art of sign stealing (something very interesting to read now with the revelation of the sign stealing scandal of the Houston Astros), Cone talks with an air of authority and experience. These were my favorite parts of the book and he credits so many people for helping him along the way. From his father to hitters telling him what he was doing to telegraph his pitchers to his encounter with Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven in a hotel bar that resulted in a lesson on throwing a curveball, these passages about the art of pitching made for some great reading.
Any baseball fan who was a fan of Cone, one of his three main teams, or even just a fan of the game will want to pick up this book. Whether one reads the book or listens to the audio version – I did both, and the audio by Cone lend an air of authenticity to that version – one will learn much about the art of pitching.
Book Format Read:
Audiobook and e-book (Kindle)