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Keith Hernandez
First baseman
Born: October 20, 1953 (1953-10-20) (age 56)
San Francisco, California
Batted: Left Threw: Left 
MLB debut
August 30, 1974 for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
July 24, 1990 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average     .296
Home runs     162
Runs batted in     1,071
Career highlights and awards

Keith Barlow Hernandez (nicknamed "Mex") (born October 20, 1953 in San Francisco, California) is a former Major League Baseball player and was arguably the greatest fielding first baseman in the history of the game. He is now a baseball analyst working for the New York Mets, for whom he played from 19831989, on SportsNet New York and WPIX television broadcasts.


Early life

Hernandez grew up in Pacifica, California and Millbrae, California. He was a star athlete at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, from which he graduated in 1971. One of his teammates was future major league pitcher Bob McClure, who had also played Little League baseball with him when they were younger.[1]

Hernandez was perceived as having poor attitude issues because he sat out his entire senior year of high school due to a dispute with a coach. He played briefly at the College of San Mateo, a local community college, before he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 42nd round of the 1971 Major League Baseball Draft. He batted and threw left-handed, and through most of his career was listed as being 6' tall (1.83m) and 195 lbs. (88.5 kg).[2]

St. Louis Cardinals

Hernandez's batting average hovered around .250 for most of his minor league career, until his promotion to the Tulsa Oilers in the second half of the 1973 season. With the Cardinals' triple-A affiliate, Hernandez batted .333 with five home runs and a .525 slugging percentage. The following season, Hernandez's average jumped to .351, earning him a promotion to the big league club. He made his major league debut at Candlestick Park on August 30, 1974 against the San Francisco Giants, going 1-2 with two walks, and earning his first major league RBI with a single in the ninth.[3] Following the season, the Cards traded first baseman Joe Torre to the New York Mets for Tommy Moore and Ray Sadecki to make room for their budding young prospect.

Hernandez ended up splitting 1975 between Tulsa and the Cardinals. Though his fielding was spectacular (.996 fielding percentage with only two errors in 507 chances), Hernandez struggled with major league pitching, batting only .250 with three home runs and twenty RBIs.

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 (with whom he shares a birthday). While Hernandez became more comfortable with his bat, he was always recognized as a fielder first, snatching his first Gold Glove Award away from perennial winner Steve Garvey in 1978 (the first of eleven consecutive seasons he would win the award, a record for first basemen). In 1979, however, Hernandez's bat exploded as 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.

From there, Hernandez became a perennial .300 hitter, and one of the top stars in the National League. His Cardinals won the 1982 World Series, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games. In Game six, 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 seven-game World Series.

After multiple disagreements with Cardinal management, most notably manager Whitey Herzog, Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983 for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Herzog felt that Hernandez had become a cancer on his team and never regretted the trade.[4] He soon replaced Hernandez at first base with fellow All-Star Jack Clark and won two more pennants in the next four years.

New York Mets

The Mets had retired number 37 for former manager Casey Stengel, so Hernandez switched to number 17 upon joining the club, which he wore for the remainder of his career. As a result of this trade, Hernandez went from a World Series champion to a team that narrowly avoided a hundred losses (68-94), and consistently finished at the bottom of the National League East. Hernandez, however, was determined to prove Herzog wrong, helping to fuel a rivalry between the two teams in the mid-1980s.

Under new manager Davey Johnson, the 1984 Mets did a complete 180, finishing 90-72, and six games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL East (6.5 games behind division winner Chicago Cubs). Hernandez finished second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting behind Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg, and emerged as the Captain of the Mets' young core of ballplayers that included 1983 Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling, Wally Backman and 1984 Rookie of the Year, Dwight Gooden.

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.

Hernandez played so aggressively at first base that he occasionally discouraged 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." 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," and Cubs manager Jim Frey 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.

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.


Pittsburgh drug trials

In 1985, Hernandez's cocaine use, which had been the subject of persistent rumors and the chief source of friction between Hernandez and Herzog, became a matter of public record as a result of the Pittsburgh trial of drug dealer Curtis Strong. Hernandez made a successful recovery.

In the meantime, the Mets and Cardinals became embroiled in a heated rivalry atop the National League East, with Hernandez and newly acquired All-star catcher Gary Carter leading the charge for the Mets. The season came down to the wire as the Mets won 98 games that season, however, they narrowly lost the division to a Cardinals team that won 101 games. The Mets had three players finish in the top ten in NL MVP balloting that season (Gooden 4th, Carter 6th and Hernandez 8th). Meanwhile, the "Redbirds" placed four players in the top ten (Tommy Herr 5th, John Tudor tied Hernandez at 8th, Clark 10th and winner Willie McGee), as well as having the eleventh place finisher (Vince Coleman).

Hernandez set a record for game winning RBIs in 1985 with 24, a statistic that was only official from 19801988 (the previous record was 22 by the Chicago White Sox's Harold Baines in 1983). His career total is 129, which is also a record. 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.

1986 World Series Champions

Hernandez and the Mets would not be denied in 1986, winning 108 games and taking the National League East convincingly by 21.5 games over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets won the 1986 World Series in seven games over the Boston Red Sox. Hernandez batted only .231, and recorded the second out in the now legendary tenth inning of game six of that World Series. On the Mets' World Champion team in 1986, Carter and Hernandez finished third and fourth, respectively, in NL MVP balloting.

Team captain

Given his Mickey Mantlesque approach to playing baseball in New York, and the celebrity status that comes with it, Hernandez became the poster-boy for the "party hard; play harder" Mets of the '80s. In 1987, Davey Johnson named Hernandez the first team captain in franchise history. A season after the "C" was added to Hernandez's uniform, Carter was named co-captain.

In 1988, Hernandez won his eleventh and final Gold Glove, and led his team to another division crown. The heavily favored Mets, however, lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 National League Championship Series. Both Hernandez and Carter were in the twi-lights of their careers as back, knee and hamstring problems limited Hernandez to only 95 games. Carter, meanwhile, batted .242 for the season, and famously struggled to hit his 300th career home run.

Hernandez's batting average fell to .233 in only 75 games for the 1989 Mets. The Mets chose not to re-sign him after his contract ran out at the close of the 1989 season, and on November 13, he was granted free agency. A day later, the Mets released Carter.

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 have also worn number 17 in tribute to Hernandez for teams they played for after leaving the Mets.

Cleveland Indians

Hernandez signed with the Cleveland Indians for the 1990 season. He appeared in 45 games for the Tribe, batting only .200 with one home run and eight RBIs. He retired at the end of the season.

Games AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI GW RBI SB CS BB IBB SO HBP Avg. Fld%
2088 7370 1124 2182 426 60 162 1071 129 98 63 1070 130 1012 32 .296 .994


Hernandez has enjoyed success in his post-baseball career. He has become an author, writing three books, "If at First: A Season With the Mets" (his diary of the 1985 New York Mets season), "Pure Baseball: Pitch by Pitch for the Advanced Fan" and Shea Good-Bye: The Untold Inside Story of the Historic 2008 Season. "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 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]

Hall of Fame candidacy

Hernandez batted over .300 seven times in his career, and led the National League in runs scored (1979 & 1980), doubles (1979), on-base percentage (1980) and walks (1986) throughout his career. However, he 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. He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1997, and was voted Mets' all-time first baseman by fans in celebration of the team's 40th anniversary in 2002.

SNY broadcaster

Hernandez is now a baseball commentator serving as an analyst for Mets' television broadcasts on SNY and WPIX (WPIX games are produced by SNY). A television advertisement for SNY Sports referred to Hernandez's mustache by imagining a celebration known as "Keith Hernandez Day" at which all attendees are required to wear authentic Keith Hernandez mustaches. One sports fan, who refuses to respect the day by wearing a mustache, is met by the steely, disapproving stare of Hernandez himself.[7] Hernandez admitted that he never wore eyeblack while playing because he had high cheekbones.[8] Hernandez felt his mustache reduced glare thereby eliminating the need for eyeblack. Hernandez won the "Mustache Madness" contest on in 2007.

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.[9] 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."

Hernandez, along with Gary Cohen and Darling, has created a website, 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. Hernandez is also 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.

Personal life

Hernandez is an American Civil War buff, and 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. He is known to frequent Elaine's, New York City's famed Upper East Side night spot. In the past he dated Sally Kirkland, Sheri Montgomery, Joan Severance, Carly Simon, Cheryl Tiegs, 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. Kai lost her husband on September 11, 2001 during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Staub was also instrumental in getting Hernandez back into baseball, along with 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 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.

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
Succeeded by
Bill Buckner

See also


  1. ^ Reeves, Glenn (August 22, 2007). "Royals' coach McClure pride of County baseball". Oakland Tribune.  
  2. ^ Crasnick, Jerry (June 6, 2007). "From unknown to very well-known".  
  3. ^ "San Francisco Giants 8, St. Louis Cardinals 2". Retrieved 1974-08-30.  
  4. ^ Herzog, Whitey; Jonathan Pitts (1999). You're Missin' a Great Game. pp. 188–189.  
  5. ^ In reality, the Mets were on the road that day, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-3 at Three Rivers Stadium.
  6. ^ Simmons, Bill (2005). Now I Can Die in Peace. New York: ESPN Books. p. 381.  
  7. ^
  8. ^ Athlon Sports 2008 Baseball Annual
  9. ^ "Mets broadcaster reprimanded for remarks". Associated Press. April 23, 2006. Retrieved 2009-08-15.  

External links

Keith Hernandez at the Internet Movie Database


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