While Cone Argues, Two Runners Score

April 30, 1990: Mets pitcher David Cone argues a play with the first base umpire without calling time out. Meanwhile, two base runners come around to score.

David Cone had an unfortunate but memorable meltdown during the fourth inning of a Mets – Braves game at Fulton County Stadium. The Mets were already trailing John Smoltz‘s team 2-1. Cone strikes out Jim Presley to start the inning.

With one out, Dale Murphy singles to left field. He quickly steals second base when Mets catcher Mackey Sasser stutters his toss back to Cone on the mound. Ernie Whitt then walks. Andres Thomas lines out to deep left field for the second out.

Then Mark Lemke hits a ground ball to second baseman Gregg Jefferies. He throws the ball to Cone, covering for first baseman Mike Marshall. Cone appears to touch first base well ahead of the batter for the final out of the inning.

But first-base umpire Charlie Williams rules Lemke safe, saying Cone never touched the bag. This is the era before replay. Cone can’t believe the call and begins to argue while still holding on to the ball.

Meanwhile, Murphy and Whitt keep running during the argument and both score to give the Braves a 4-1 lead.

Cone strikes out Smoltz to end the embarrassing inning.

Umpire Williams reportedly told Cone “While you’re arguing with me another run just scored.” But it took Jefferies yanking the ball from his hand to break Cone out of his daze. The Braves eventually won the game 7-4.

The next day the back page of the New York Post read “ A Real Cone-Head Play” and superimposed a cone head on Cone’s head in a picture of him arguing the call.

“I’m a human being and an emotional person. I snapped emotionally, and it’s something I’m going to have to live with. It’s an embarrassing moment and it cost our team maybe a ballgame. I accept responsibility.”

David Cone

The official scorer bizarrely ruled the extra bases as “pitcher’s indifference”. If you remember, Mets manager Davey Johnson would be fired within a few weeks of this.

Related: David Cone’s immaculate inning.

Seven years later, when Cone was pitching for the Yankees, Chuck Knoblauch made a similar mistake in the ALCS. On the plane ride to Cleveland, Cone talked to Knoblauch about how he had screwed up once too. The kind words must have helped since he went on to hit a big home run later in the series.