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Keith Hernandez

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Keith Hernandez

A photo of Keith Hernandez.

Keith Barlow Hernandez (nicknamed "Mex") (born October 20, 1953 in San Francisco, California) is a former Major League Baseball first baseman who played for the St. Louis Cardinals (19741983), New York Mets (19831989), and Cleveland Indians (1990). He batted and threw left-handed, and through most of his career was listed as being 6 feet tall (1.83m) and 195 pounds (88.5 kg).

Hernandez grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Pacifica, California. He was a star athlete at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica before transferring to nearby Capuchino High School, from which he graduated in 1971. One of his teammates on the Terra Nova High School baseball team was future major league pitcher Bob McClure, who had also played Little League baseball with him when they were younger.[1] Hernandez went on to the College of San Mateo, a local community college, and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 42nd round of the 1971 amateur draft. He made his major league debut on August 30, 1974.[2]

After retiring, Hernandez enjoyed renewed fame by appearing as himself on the sitcom Seinfeld in the episode "The Boyfriend" and being involved with the episode's plot. He also made an appearance in the episode "The Finale" at the gang's trial. He is now a baseball analyst working for the Mets on SportsNet New York and WPIX television broadcasts.

Professional careerEdit

St. Louis CardinalsEdit

Hernandez was drafted by the Cardinals in the 52nd round of the 1971 draft, as the 776th overall player. He was perceived to have makeup issue because he sat out his entire senior year of high school due to a dispute with a coach.[3]

He quickly rose to the upper echelon in the League. In 1979, he led the league with a .344 batting average, 48 doubles, and 116 runs scored, and went on to share the National League's Most Valuable Player Award with Willie Stargell.

In 1982, the Cardinals won the World Series, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games. In Game 6, Hernandez and Cardinal catcher Darrell Porter hit home runs in a 13–1 St. Louis victory. Hernandez also contributed a very impressive eight runs batted in during the 4 games to 3 World Series victory for the "Redbirds".

Trade to the New York MetsEdit

After multiple disagreements with Cardinal management, most notably including manager Whitey Herzog, Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983. The Cardinals received pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey in return. Manager Whitey Herzog felt that Hernandez had become a cancer on his team and never regretted the trade.[4] He soon replaced Hernandez with fellow All-Star Jack Clark and won two more pennants in the next four years. With the Mets, Hernandez was determined to prove Herzog wrong, helping to fuel a rivalry between the two teams in the mid-1980s.

Uniform numbersEdit

Hernandez wore uniform number 18 for the first two years of his career. In 1976, he switched to number 37, insisting that his uniform number end with a "7" in honor of Mickey Mantle. The Mets had retired number 37 for former manager Casey Stengel, so Hernandez switched to number 17, which he wore for the remainder of his career.

Success in New YorkEdit

In 1984, his first full season with the team, the Mets improved from a record of 68–94 to 90-72. The Mets finished second behind the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and the Cardinals in 1985, but won the World Series in 1986 with 108-54 team record. The following season, Hernandez was named the first team captain in franchise history. Hernandez finished 2nd in the NL Most Valuable Player voting in 1984 (behind the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg), 8th in 1985, and on the Mets' World Series team in 1986, he finished 4th.

DeclineEdit

Hernandez suffered from back, knee and hamstring problems. By 1988, at the age of just 34, Hernandez began a sharp decline, and the Mets chose not to re-sign him after his contract ran out at the close of the 1989 season.

On December 7, 1989, the Cleveland Indians signed Hernandez to a contract, but back injuries led to his appearance in only 43 games in the 1990 season. Hernandez retired after the season.

Hall of Fame candidacyEdit

Hernandez never received enough support from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2004, after nine years on the ballot, he received votes from fewer than 5% of the writers, thus ending his eligibility. Hernandez may still be considered for induction by the Veterans Committee in 2011, twenty years after his retirement.

Defensive skillsEdit

Hernandez is the most prolific defensive first baseman in MLB history, winning 11 consecutive Gold Gloves at the position. Hernandez had such a strong and accurate throwing arm that, as a result, the Mets re-routed their relays through him. Due to his quick instincts, Hernandez was also able to play farther off first base than other first basemen, allowing the other infielders to play farther to their right.

He was the most aggressive first baseman, occasionally discouraging opponents to bunt merely by reputation. Pete Rose, when he managed the Cincinnati Reds, compared bunting against Hernandez to "driving the lane against Bill Russell," and Jim Frey, the Chicago Cubs manager, said he wouldn't ask most pitchers to bunt against the Mets. "You're just asking for a forceout at second, and now you've got your pitcher running the bases," he said.

Astros manager Hal Lanier said the combination of Hernandez at first and any one of three Mets pitchers—Ron Darling, Roger McDowell or Jesse Orosco—made bunting against the Mets "near impossible."

Hernandez also revolutionized the position—until umpires disallowed what he did—by taking pickoff throws while essentially squatting in foul territory so that he could make tags to his right more readily. (Positioning oneself in foul territory is now illegal, according to official baseball rules, which state that all defensive players except the catcher must be positioned in fair territory while the ball is pitched.)

AchievementsEdit

RetirementEdit

Hernandez has enjoyed success in his post-baseball career. He has become an author, writing two books, "If at First: A Season With the Mets" (his diary of the Mets' 1985 season) and "Pure Baseball: Pitch by Pitch for the Advanced Fan". "Pure Baseball" gives fans a detailed pitch-by-pitch player's look into baseball strategy.

Hernandez guest starred as himself in "The Boyfriend," a two-part 1992 episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. In the episode, Hernandez dated Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character, and Jerry Seinfeld developed the male-bonding equivalent of a crush on him. A subplot of the episode spoofed the "Magic Bullet Theory" from the JFK assassination. According to the show, on June 14, 1987, the Mets were playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium, and Hernandez committed an error in the ninth inning, allowing the Phillies to score five runs and costing the Mets the game. Hernandez exited the player's gate, where Kramer (Michael Richards) and Newman (Wayne Knight) were waiting and Newman heckled Hernandez with "Nice game, pretty boy!" Kramer and Newman then spent the next five years claiming that Hernandez had spat on them, when in fact they learned that it was really Mets pitcher Roger McDowell – a "second spitter", just as Jerry had postulated.[5] Hernandez also appeared in the final episode of Seinfeld, which aired in 1998. ESPN Columnist Bill Simmons coined the phrase "having a Keith Hernandez Moment" in reference to Hernandez' Seinfeld appearance where he recovers from a moment of self-doubt by simply reminding himself: "I'm Keith Hernandez!"[6]

Hernandez is now a baseball commentator serving as an analyst for Mets' television broadcasts on SNY and WPIX (WPIX games are produced by SNY). Hernandez, along with Cohen and Darling, has created a website, www.pitchinforagoodcause.org where the net profit from the merchandise sold by the website goes to charity specifically, the Cobble Hill Health Center, Juvenile Diabetes Research Center, and The Danbury Women's Center.

CriticismEdit

On April 22, 2006, Hernandez created a controversy during the broadcast of a game against the San Diego Padres. After witnessing Padres team massage therapist Kelly Calabrese giving San Diego catcher Mike Piazza a high five in the dugout after he hit a home run, Hernandez said, "Who is the girl in the dugout, with the long hair? What's going on here? You have got to be kidding me. Only player personnel in the dugout." After Hernandez was informed later in the broadcast that Calabrese was a club employee, he maintained his position, stating, "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout." After the game, San Diego manager Bruce Bochy expressed displeasure with Hernandez's comments.[7] Hernandez apologized and alluded to his words being nothing more than tomfoolery by saying, "You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there — always have."

MiscellanyEdit

Template:Trivia

  • Hernandez is nicknamed "Mex," although his heritage is part Spanish and part Scots-Irish, not Mexican.
  • Hernandez credits his father, who played ball with Stan Musial when they were both in the Navy during World War II, for helping him out of a batting slump in 1985. His father would observe his at-bats on TV and note than when Keith was hitting well, he could see both the "1" and the "7" on his uniform on his back as he began to stride into the pitch. Not seeing both numbers meant Keith was bailing out on inside pitches, trying too hard to pull the ball, and vulnerable to outside fastballs or outside breaking pitches.
  • Eleven different Met players have worn his number 17 in the 16 seasons since Hernandez left, most notably, pitcher David Cone. In 1991, Cone switched from 44 to 17 in tribute to Hernandez. Former teammates Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell all wore number 17 in tribute to Hernandez for teams they played for after leaving the Mets.
  • Hernandez is a strong supporter of the Alzheimer's Association, New York City Chapter. His mother, Jacqueline Hernandez lost a nine-year battle with Alzheimer's in 1989. He is an American Civil War buff, was known to read historical biographies or work the New York Times crossword puzzle in the clubhouse before games, and claims that Victor Hugo is his favorite author.
  • Hernandez is known to frequent Elaine's, New York City's famed Upper East Side night spot. In the past he dated Joan Severance, Sheri Montgomery, Carly Simon, Cheryl Tiegs, Sally Kirkland, and Patti Steelman. He is now married to Kai Thompson. Rusty Staub, the former Met star and teammate of Hernandez, gave Kai away at the Jupiter, Florida wedding. Hernandez and Thomson were both previously married.
  • Hernandez is represented by agent Don Buchwald, who also represents Howard Stern.
  • The character of Keith Frazier in Spike Lee's movie Inside Man was named after him and Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks. Hernandez and Frazier do TV commercials together for a men's hair-coloring product. Hernandez won the "Mustache Madness" contest on newsday.com in 2007.
  • Hernandez was used as an archetype in independent filmmaker Rob Perri's film "I'm Keith Hernandez", which played at the 2007 New York Underground Film Festival.[8]
  • Hernandez admitted that he never wore eyeblack while playing because he had high cheekbones.[9] Hernandez felt his mustache reduced glare thereby eliminating the need for eyeblack.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Royals' coach McClure pride of County baseball, Oakland Tribune, August 22, 2007. "McClure grew up in Pacifica during a golden era for athletics in that town. He played Little League baseball with Keith Hernandez, a future National League Most Valuable Player. McClure was asked: How dominant was Hernandez as a Little Leaguer? "He was just good," McClure said. "We had a lot of good players." McClure and Hernandez played together at Terra Nova High before Hernandez transferred to Capuchino."
  2. http://www.baseball-reference.com/h/hernake01.shtml
  3. ESPN - From unknown to very well-known - MLB
  4. Whitey Herzog w/ Jonathan Pitts, You're Missin' a Great Game, 1999, p. 188–89.
  5. In reality, the Mets were on the road that day, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-3 at Three Rivers Stadium.
  6. Bill Simmons, Now I Can Die in Peace, 2009 edition, p. 381.
  7. "Bochy takes shot at Hernandez's remarks", Associated Press, published April 23, 2006, accessed April 23, 2006.
  8. [1] Film Website
  9. Athlon Sports 2008 Baseball Annual

External linksEdit

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Awards and achievements
Preceded by:
Mike Schmidt
Pedro Guerrero
National League Player of the Month
August, 1979
July, 1985
Succeeded by:
Pete Rose
Willie McGee
Preceded by:
Dave Parker
National League Most Valuable Player
1979 (with Willie Stargell)
Succeeded by:
Mike Schmidt
Preceded by:
Dave Parker
National League Batting Champion
1979
Succeeded by:
Bill Buckner

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