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Cone needed some creative editing, was all. Or a better ghostwriter. After apologizing to Howell, he came up with this explanation: "Remember the time someone said the way Bo Jackson plays football, it appears he's playing with boys? Well, I mean Jay had a great curveball. And, as I remember, in high school a guy with a great curve can blow hitters away."
He gave up the column after that. You can't be the art and the artist at once. God gives you either the fastball or the words to describe it, that way everybody has something to do.
"A complete psychological overhaul is not the answer," Cone told a reporter last year when asked about his propensity for self-destructive behavior. But what he should've done was call a press conference and come clean about the Cone blood. He should've put it all on Edwin, his late grandfather.
Some people heard "Cone" and figured it was Jewish, a bastardization of "Cohen," but what it was, was Irish, from "McCone," the prefix having been lost some generations back. Old Edwin, don't you know, had possessed a spirit as wild and restless as David's—and one so big that people wondered how a single body could contain it. Back in the 1940s he ran a string of B-grade hotels in Kansas City, and he ran the streets, too. Whenever Edwin went on a binge, his wife, Cleo, would rustle up his checkbook and enjoy a little shopping spree, often dropping thousands of dollars. There was a price to pay for everything, even back then.
That same blood regenerated in Edwin's son, Ed, who grew into an accomplished street fighter with, some said, the quickest hands in all of Kansas City. You just didn't get up once Ed Cone connected with his patented right cross.
Ed was David's first coach, going back to Little League. He was a quiet man who preached independence and didn't much believe in public displays of affection, but people from the old neighborhood still remember the epic shouting matches he and David had. "When they hit the breaking point," recalls Steve Doherty, David's lifelong friend, "you'd better take cover." But what people also knew was that they really were devoted to each other, even when they were arguing.
"David, go home," Ed said to end one fight at the Little League field. And David, kicking dirt and spitting, beating his cap against his leg, did as he was told.
He was just a child of seven or eight, but already an essential weirdness had been revealed: This boy didn't much mind toeing up to the edge of calamity, and he didn't much mind leaping over it, either.
A couple of things finally slowed Ed Cone down. One was being a father and having to answer to all that that meant. Two was rheumatoid arthritis. Ed reported to the meat plant at around two each morning, bundled up in insulated clothes and boots, and stepped into huge coolers where the temperature never passed 50°. By the time he got home at noon he was exhausted and stinging with pain. David was the youngest of Ed's four, but he was the one who was always trying to figure a way to get Ed out of the plant. Maybe the big money of pro ball was the answer.
But which sport to go after? That was a serious question in David's case. At Rockhurst High, an all-boys Jesuit school, he quarterbacked the football team to the district championship and was the star of the basketball team. He played point guard and was a pure, beautiful shooter who took guff from nobody.