Question: One of my favorite parts of the book is David Cone winding George Steinbrenner up and making him crazy just to get a laugh. That wasn’t something you could imagine a player doing back in the Bronx Zoo days. How influential was Cone on those teams?
Verducci: We all have known how important Cone was to the success of the Yankees. But in reporting the book I gained an even greater appreciation for his role. He was the de facto captain before Derek Jeter. At every turn — whether it was keeping David Wells in check, counseling Chuck Knoblauch on his playoff gaffe against the Indians, stepping up during the key 1998 clubhouse meeting, knowing how to push the buttons of everybody from George Steinbrenner to Paul O’Neill — Cone was the single most influential player in that clubhouse. I was fascinated when Mussina talked so often about how much those teams missed Cone — and Mussina didn’t even play with Cone. But Cone was so important to those teams that Mussina understood it just by his absence. In fact, I view and structured Cone and Mussina as parallel characters in the book. Each emerges as a voice of the distinct micro-eras within the era: when the Yankees won and when they didn’t. Each has a profound ability to see beyond himself and understand team dynamics and the human condition. They also have the ability to smartly share such observations. That Mussina moved into Cone’s locker and place in the rotation immediately upon Cone leaving the Yankees only reinforces the sort of shared role they have in the book. I like to think of it as Cone and Mussina playing the Greek chorus — only not together, but Cone taking you through 2000, then leaving the stage and handing the role over to Mussina.