In honor of my 64th birthday, the cast and crew at Studious Metsimus asked me to give you a brief recap of my life. To be honest with you, I've never heard of Studious Metsimus, but the offer of unlimited Tootsie Pops was too much to refuse. Plus, they promised me there would be no traffic on the Long Island Expressway so I could make a quick getaway after writing this piece. How could I pass that up?
Anyway, I was born in San Francisco on October 20, 1953. Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a mustache. The picture you see below is one of my early photos. Yes, the ladies loved me even then. Can you blame them? I mean, look at me! I'm Keith Hernandez!
|Unfortunately, I failed in my petition to get my own name on my Little League jersey.|
After my days as a Little League Lothario were done, I was drafted in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971. (Yes, I did go to high school between my Little League days and my high school graduation, but that was an awkward time for me, so I'd rather not talk about it.) Clearly, the scouts back then were terrible judges of talent if they waited that long to draft me. Unfortunately, I did nothing to earn that selection early on in my minor league career until I was promoted to Triple-A Tulsa in 1973, where I hit .333 and showed those other kids out there how a real baseball player was supposed to play the game.
In 1974, I hit .351 for Tulsa and was promoted to the big show on August 30 of that year against my hometown San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. I reached base three times in my first big league game, drawing two walks before collecting my first big league hit and RBI in the ninth inning off Giants' starter Mike Caldwell. Unfortunately, we lost that game 8-2, but I let it be known to my teammates and the rest of the league that I was here to stay.
Once I settled in to the big leagues, I made my presence felt in the clubhouse and on the field. The Cardinals just had to keep me around. Therefore, they traded incumbent first baseman Joe Torre to the Mets after the 1974 season (more on first basemen being traded to the Mets a little later ... after a few more paragraphs and my first Tootsie Pop). I was a Cardinal now, and St. Louis was about to see what Keith Hernandez was all about.
It was in St. Louis that I let my trademark mustache grow. The Gateway City was also where I earned my first Gold Glove in 1978 and my first MVP Award one year later. (Okay, so it was a co-MVP award that I shared with Willie Stargell. But in Strat-O-Matic, I kicked Willie's posterior.) In addition, St. Louis was the place where I claimed my first batting title (also in 1979), my first World Series championship (1982), my first line of... umm ... baseball cards (yeah, that's the ticket) and my first comparison to adult film thespian Ron Jeremy.
|If my brother Gary were in this collage, you'd have the original Gary, Keith and Ron.|
If you ask me, I don't see the resemblance. He looks more like Mike Piazza than he does me. Also, my acting skills are far superior to his. Was he on "Seinfeld"? I don't think so. That was me. Why did they choose me over him? Because I'm Keith Hernandez!
Anyway, less than eight months after bringing home St. Louis' first World Series championship since 1967, I experienced one of the saddest days of my life, or so it seemed at the time. On June 15, 1983, I was traded from the defending world champion Cardinals to the perennial cellar dweller New York Mets. Shockingly, I wasn't even traded for future Hall of Famers. I was shipped off to the Mets for Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey (who also celebrates a birthday with me today, but he's four years my junior) and a half-empty box of Tender Vittles. Even my beloved cat, Hadji, wouldn't be impressed with that transaction.
It was already an insult to me that I was traded to the team known as "Pond Scum" and the "Stems" in St. Louis. But come on! Couldn't the Mets have offered some 9 Lives to the Cardinals instead of Tender Vittles? After all, Morris the Cat was all the rage back then. I mean, he was the O.G. (Original Grumpy cat). I would have accepted a trade for Allen, Ownbey and 9 Lives, not Allen, Ownbey and half-eaten Tender Vittles. Sheesh!
|I guess since the Cardinals already had the Clydesdale Horses, they didn't need another animal in the barn.|
Anyway, the Mets didn't do too well after I got traded there. We finished 68-94 in 1983, but showed some signs of life. Old punching buddy Darryl Strawberry came up in May and future broadcast colleague R.J. (that's Ron Darling for all you casual Mets fans out there) was called up when rosters expanded in September.
Big Brother didn't come around in 1984 like he was supposed to, but we had our own little Animal Farm at Shea Stadium. Top pitching prospect Dwight Gooden was called up in 1984 and Davey Johnson became the new Mets manager. The team responded by going 90-72 and giving the Cubs all they could handle in the N.L. East. As a result, I was no longer saddened by my trade to New York and only occasionally did I wonder if Whitey Herzog had finished what was left over in the box of Tender Vittles.
After falling short in the N.L. East race again in 1985, we put it all together in 1986. That was the year I won my second World Series championship and helped bring the first title to Flushing since the Miracle Mets did the same in 1969. I also paired up with another Ronnie after bringing the trophy home in 1986.
|What? No Gary? Fine. Then we'll just have to make do with Keith and Ron instead.|
Just as my tenure with the Mets was coming to an end, I decided I should give acting a try. I wasn't planning on telling you this, but the Tootsie Pop dangling in front of my face has convinced me to do so.
Did you know that "Seinfeld" was not my first attempt at acting? Before TV immortality, I wanted to be a movie star. My time with former actor Ronald Reagan in the White House showed me that if he could be President and a movie star, then I could be a baseball legend and a matinee idol as well, so it was off to Hollywood for me.
I first gave acting a shot when I auditioned for the movie "Major League". However, it ended up being a bad dream and instead of playing for the Cleveland Indians in the film alongside noted actors Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes, I ended up playing for the REAL Cleveland Indians, who were not nearly as talented as their counterparts from this past season. You know, the team that won an A.L. record 22 consecutive games en route to a second straight A.L. Central title. Needless to say, it was not a good time to be Keith Hernandez.
|There's no way I would've let Roger Dorn get away with not diving for ground balls.|
I was injured for most of my time in Cleveland. Because of that, I only played in 45 games for the Indians, batting .200 with one HR and eight RBI. You know it wasn't a good season when my Studious Metsimus editor reminded me that I had to write out my home run and RBI totals in words (one and eight) instead of numbers (1 and 8). Needless to say, I retired after the 1990 season and went back home...
...which didn't last long. In 1992, I appeared on Episode No. 34 of "Seinfeld". The special one-hour episode, named "The Boyfriend", featured me trying to date Elaine Benes, but not being able to get past first base because I used to smoke back then. Another subplot involved me being accused of spitting a magic loogie on Kramer and Newman, when in fact it was my former Met teammate, Roger McDowell, whose mouth shot the viscous projectile from the grassy knoll.
|"That is one magic loogie."|
My appearance on "Seinfeld" in 1992 and my subsequent cameo in the series finale in 1998 parlayed into several broadcasting appearances for the Mets. When SNY debuted in 2006, I teamed up with former radio play-by-play man Gary Cohen and analyst/former teammate Ron Darling as the new broadcast team for the New York Mets. My boothmates and I are also part of Gary, Keith and Ron, or GKR for short. Together, we've raised money for our favorite charities, such as the Cobble Hill Health Center (for Alzheimer's care) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (hoping to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes). In addition, we've also focused on helping victims of domestic abuse. And for all you kids out there, there's nothing funny about domestic abuse.
Fans might know me for my baseball career. Others might know me for my excellent acting on "Seinfeld". Some of you might even know me for my Just For Men commercials with Walt "Clyde" Frazier. Current Met fans certainly know me for my unabashed analysis on SNY telecasts of Mets games. And now, the rest of the country is getting reacquainted with me as I offer colorful commentary in the FOX Sports/FS1 studio for that network's pre-game and post-game shows.
I'm all of those people. Although I'm a year older today, I'm still only 64 so I have plenty left to accomplish. Maybe I'll mass produce my Mex Burgers. Or perhaps I'll go from flashing the leather to wearing it on a broadcast. Hey, I might even create a fantasy league for Strat-O-Matic players. (Why haven't I thought of that before?) Who knows? One thing is for sure. No matter what job I have or what position I fill, I'll always be around. Why wouldn't I be? After all, I'm Keith Hernandez!
|It's not easy being me, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.|