E-1 X 2 — A bonehead play by Conehead


MLB.com writer Marty Noble covered the Mets for the better part of 40 years and experienced or discovered hundreds of facts and anecdotes about the team. This being the 50th anniversary season of the Mets,  Noble regularly will provide snippets from the club’s history. This one is from 1990.

These installments also mark the resurrection of  Noble’s blog, “Noble Thoughts,” dormant since August, 2010. Reactions and reponses to what appears here are expected and welcome. Other baseball topics also are welcome.

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The player who inspired the first Conehead was guilty of a bonehead play on this date, 22 years ago.

David Cone suffered a mind cramp during a Mets’ game in Atlanta. He held the ball while arguing a call at first base with umpire Charlie Williams. Two runners scored while he disputed Williams’ call.

Cone was pitching with runners on first and second and two out. Mark Lemke hit a ground ball that second baseman Gregg Jefferies handled cleanly. Cone covered first base and took Jefferies’ throw seemingly in time to retire Lemke. But Williams called Lemke safe. Cone erupted. With Jefferies urging him to throw the ball – at one point Jefferies tried to pry the ball from his teammate’s grasp — Cone argued loud and long. Dale Murphy and lumbering Ernie Whitt advanced and finally scored without challenge.

“I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my lifetime,” Mets manager Davey Johnson would say. “This one goes to the top of the list. I’ve seen one guy score on something like that, but never two. It was double-vapor lock.”

The epilogue to this episode was priceless. The official scorer ruled the runners advanced on “player’s indifference,” a term that doesn’t exist in the scoring rules. “Defensive indifference” does, but it didn’t apply.

A word with the scorer had no effect, so I called the Elias Sports Bureau who would stepped in regardless. The ESB convinced the scorer to credit Jefferies with an assist and charge Cone with an error.

After the game, when Cone was done explaining and apologizing for his gaffe, I advised him of the original call. He became angry again. “Indifferent isn’t what I was,” he said. “I was anything but that.”


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