"That's true," she would reply, meaning it.
When it came to women, Cone might not have been a virgin, but he was the closest thing: a rookie. In high school he'd dated only two girls, and one had left him because he lacked sexual experience. Maybe the problems he would have later on stemmed from the old-school Catholicism that the Jesuits at Rockhurst had instilled in him. To their way of thinking, he joked, if you just thought about girls it was a sin. You didn't even have to do anything, and you were going straight to hell.
In September 1991 three women filed an $8.1 million lawsuit against Cone and the Mets, alleging that Cone had approached them one day that August at Shea and threatened to kill them. One of the women had had a relationship with New York pitcher Sid Fernandez, occasionally traveling with him to away games.
Cone readily admitted to having confronted the women one afternoon between games of a doubleheader, but he denied making a death threat. He says the women had repeatedly harassed Noelani Fernandez, Sid's wife of a few months, in the stands. And that one day he just blew up and let them have it.
"In a span of 15 seconds," Cone says, "I must've dropped 90,000 F-bombs. I wasn't shouting, but people in that section heard every word I said. I'm not proud of what I did, but it was a farce of a lawsuit, to get publicity." The suit is still languishing in the courts.
Three weeks after the charges were filed the Mets threw a party in Philadelphia to celebrate the end of the season, or maybe just to acknowledge it. They were out of the running for the pennant, and the next day, Oct. 6, they would play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in their last game of the year. Cone was scheduled to pitch, but he stayed up all night anyway, guzzling beer and chain-smoking, having as wild a time as was lawful.
Drunk, he stumbled into the hotel at 6:30 in the morning and two hours later got a call from Frank Cashen, then the Mets' general manager.
"David," Cashen said, "you need to know you've been accused of rape."
Cashen went on to tell Cone that the police were launching an investigation and that Cone could be arrested at any moment. A New Jersey woman was claiming that Cone had invited her up to his hotel room and forced her to have sex.
Cone spent the entire day in a fog, but he was determined to play against the Phillies. On the mound that afternoon he kept looking in the stands for the police. He checked the tunnel that led to the field, anticipating the sight of burly silhouettes packing weapons. Between hitters he closed his eyes and saw men in blue marching out to handcuff him and read him his rights. Mr. Cone? Mr. David Cone? I'm afraid you're under arrest! He imagined the crowd applauding as he was led off to 20 years of hard time. But he also found that in this moment of trial, he was pitching better than ever. "If anything, it made me stronger," he says. "It gave me a cause. Either fold or get mentally strong, that's how I was thinking. I chose to get strong."