Derek Jeter had an unlikely mentor in Darryl Strawberry.
David Cone, a teammate of theirs during the Yankees dynasty who also played with Strawberry on the fabled 1986 Mets, spoke to The Post about the ESPN booth and missing Paul O’NeillGeorge Steinbrenner going on a Shea Stadium clubhouse-rearranging rampage during the Subway Series and the lessons that former Mets partiers imparted on the young Yankees.
“It was definitely different in the 80s,” Cone said of the era in which the Mets imbibed copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, expensively used well into the morning and generally treated the Big Apple as the world’s largest and most hedonistic adult playground. “That Mets group of players was like none other that I’ve been around.”
“The 90s Yankees, we had some fun,” Cone admits. “We did enjoy ourselves, but we were much more professional — we knew how to hide better. The 80s Mets just didn’t care. They were going to do what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, and nothing else really mattered.”
Derek Jeter, for example, dated a whole host of starlets in this era. To meet them in the first place, he would have had to be out and about in the social scene, but there were not exactly stories of him burning up the town that made it into tabloids like The Post as with Mets like Doc Gooden, Lenny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry.
“Strawberry was actually in a reverse-role at that point — he was teaching Jeter how not to do what he did, so he was great counsel,” Cone collected.
“I was around with Darryl in the 80s, too. We kind of had been through it before. We knew where to go, how to hide and how to avoid certain situations through experience. Darryl was a great mentor to Jeter.”
jeter, according to Buster Olneywriting in 2000 for the New York Times, considered Strawberry to be an “older brother.”
Doc Gooden was also part of those Yankees teams in 1996 and 1997.
“There were plenty of examples for the 90s Yankees from guys who had been through the ringer in the 80s, and certainly there were a lot of those conversations in the clubhouse and on the plans,” Cone said.
“I think we probably got a softer version of George in the 90s,” Cone recalled. “More like the grandfather as opposed to the father. But yeah, he was very involved. He was very passionate about everything. Everyone’s got a story.”
Cone’s wildest Steinbrenner story — the wildest one that he’s willing to reveal, anyway — harkens back to the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets in 2000, and how the owner made frenetic moves to ensure that his Yankees only sat on acceptable furniture.
“The middle three games of that seven-game series were at Shea Stadium, and George did not like the way the clubhouse was set up,” he said.
As one does in this type of situation, the Boss sprung into action.
“I have rearranged the furniture. He brought fans moving over from Yankee Stadium and proceeded to bring in navy blue couches and Yankee-emblem chairs for the players to sit on. It was just remarkable to see him rearrange the furniture because he didn’t like that we were sitting on something with a Mets insignia on it. I did something about it.”
Cone played for five different organizations, and couldn’t recall another one with an owner as present as Steinbrenner.
“He was one-of-a-kind,” Cone said. “The bigger the game, that’s when you saw him. post-season. World Series. Some sort of regular season that meant a lot. He was around.
“He was a coach at heart. People forget this, but he was actually a football coach at Purdue at one point. He wanted to be involved in the meetings — hitting, scouting, etc. He wanted to see the reports and preparation. I wanted to be part of the motivation of players.”
Finally, Cone was asked about the frequent comparisons of Steinbrenner to new Mets owner and hedge fund titan Steve Cohen.
“If you’re talking about tremendous resources and someone who will stop at nothing to build the brand and win championships, then yes, there are some similarities in that regard,” Cone said.
“He’s such a new owner, that I’m not sure how it works over there yet. Whereas, with George Steinbrenner, everybody knew how it worked. ‘Seinfeld’ and Larry David knew how it worked!”