The athlete biography shelf at a local bookstore is crammed, maybe even overcrowded, with former players telling their stories of boyhood dreams to eventual stardom. Each star player with enough content to write a book may have differing experiences and unique behind-the-scenes tales, but almost all of them follow the same guidelines.
Former Yankees great David Cone and YES Network analyst Jack Curry took that formula and tossed it in the trash for their new book Full Count: The Education of a Pitcher. They came away with an incredibly compelling story that stretches far beyond what happened in the eventful playing career of Cone.
Sure, the necessary components of a biography are there: the Kansas City kid who gets drafted by the Royals, the wild days with the Mets in the late 1980s, and the World Series experiences with the Blue Jays and Yankees, but Full Count tells so much more. Cone, who clearly possesses a hunger to learn as much as he can about the game based on his musings in the YES booth, takes a deep dive into his mindset and emotion behind every momentous pitch, at-bat, and game of his illustrious career.
Yankees fans will fondly remember the famous meeting on the mound of Cone and Torre in Game Three of the 1996 World Series. Cone and Curry don’t just take you onto the mound to reveal what that discussion was like, and if Cone truly felt he had enough gas left in the tank to retire Fred McGriff. The duo dedicate an entire chapter to that entire inning, a pitch-by-pitch recount of one of Cone’s most spirited performances with the Yankees.
Again, you won’t just get stories when you read Full Count. Yes, you’ll get great tellings of Cone and David Wells sharing their own hotel room on road trips, and what exactly happened when Cone booted Joe Girardi out of the bullpen during a pregame warmup — but the chapters are constructed to educate, not just entertain.
Full Count follows a satisfying chronological journey through Cone’s life, but it’s told through the scope of the intricacies of pitching. What did he do when he couldn’t get in a rhythm with Jorge Posada behind the plate? How did he counter a troublesome strike zone established by the umpire? How did he counter a susceptibility to tipping pitches? That’s where Full Count thrives the most. The classic moments are still told, but the underlying motivations and game plans behind those moments are laid out perfectly by Cone and Curry, which makes the reader appreciate these moments even more.
Of course, you’ll also find a detailed telling of Cone’s unforgettable perfect game, as he and Curry take a full chapter to sit and rewatch the performance. This happened to be the first time Cone watched it all the way through since living it himself on the mound. It’s a phenomenal recap of his interactions, or lack thereof, with teammates in between innings, and when he felt his perfect game had been broken up. It’s a wonderful way to revisit history 20 years later.
The perfect game retelling may be the climax of this great read, but you won’t want to stop there. The back pages are filled with great stories of how Cone attacked some of the best hitters of his era, from Barry Bonds and Tony Gwynn to Manny Ramirez and Cal Ripken Jr. Given the way Cone details his game plan against his opponents, it’s no wonder he has made such a seamless dive into embracing advanced data and using it in his color commentary on YES.
With Curry on board, Cone delivers a masterful telling of a great story. I like to think Curry represented the fascinated reporter and fan of baseball, helping pull out of Cone the details of moments readers would want to know everything about. This comes through perfectly on the pages of Full Count, and you won’t want to stop turning them when the book hits shelves on May 14.