Oct 19, 2015

All Time Mets First Baseman: Keith Hernandez (Part Two- The Championship Season Onto Broadcasting)

In the 1986 Championship season, all went good for the Mets as they rolled into first place & stayed there all season long.

On opening day in Pittsburgh, his 1st inning double brought home Len Dykstra with the first run of the year. Keith would drive in another run later on in the 4-2 Mets win. He would finish April batting .300 on an eleven game hit streak. In May he drove in seventeen runs & had four separate three hit games, raising his average to .325 by June.

Over the next two months he hit four HRs, but drove in 18 runs which was small for Keith Hernandez. He also saw his average drop to .286 by August 1st. He started out on a tear driving in 15 runs in the first ten days of August. He would hit safely in 19 of the next twenty games, driving in 26 runs in the month with an incredible 40 hits.

Toward the end of August he had two multi RBI games in a three game series at Dodger Stadium. He then helped Bobby Ojeda to his 14th win, driving in two runs in a 3-2 win at San Francisco over the Giants. On that same road trip, he drove in the winning run in a 6-5 Mets win over the Padres, with an 11th inning sac fly off Rich Gossage in San Diego. He closed out the month driving in runs in the last five games as well.

At Shea Stadium on September 6th, he tied up the game in home 8th inning with an RBI base hit off the Padres Craig Lefferts. After he was picked off first base, Gary Carter delivered with a game winning HR. The next night he drove in three runs in the 6-5 Mets win. The Mets went on the road to Philadelphia needing a win to clinch the NL Eastern Division, but lost three straight & then two of three in St. Louis, prolonging the celebration.

As they returned to Shea, Hernandez was hurting with an injury & did not play in the game until the 9th inning. He was put in to replace Dave Magadan so he could be on the field in celebration, thanks to manager Davey Johnson.

He closed out the 1986 regular season leading the league in walks (94) batting .310 (5th in the NL) with 171 Hits (9th in the NL) 13 HRs 34 doubles (8th in the NL) 83 RBIs, 94 runs scored (5th in the NL) & a .410 on base % (2nd best in the NL).

Defensively he won another Gold Glove, led the league in fielding for the second straight year & was second in assists & double plays turned.

The '86 Mets were known as a raucous bunch, wild party guys who always seemed to be in some kind of trouble. Other clubs & their fans hated the teams "in your face" flashy attitude, but the Mets fans loved it.

Keith was very emotional on the field & outspoken off the field as well. He would be seen catching a quick smoke in the side of the dugout at times & was looked at as a Mr. Party type Guy.

Quotes: Hernandez once told Daryl Strawberry how to break out of a batting slump. Strawberry said, laughing: “Go out and get totally smashed.” Strawberry remembers when Hernandez told him he'd found the perfect drink, “you only get five or six in a night, a Dry martini."

Post season: In Game #1 of the NLCS at the Houston Astrodome, against the Astros, Hernandez went 1-4 off Mike Scott.

In that Game Mike Scott shut out the Mets, holding them down to five hits, as he beat Dwight Gooden 1-0. Scott would beat the Mets again at Shea Stadium in Game #4, holding them to just three hits in a 3-1 win. 

They were the only two games the Astros would in the Series, if a Game #7 was necessary, Scott would have gotten the start. Hernandez was very outspoken, as was other Met players, who accused Scott of scuffing the baseball, to get extra movement on it. Thus was born the legacy of "Mike Scuff". Hernandez went 0-4 in Game #4, an overall 1-8 against Scott.

In Game #2, Hernandez drew a pair of walks, got two hits, including a two run 5th inning triple off Nolan Ryan, leading to the 5-1 Mets win. As the series moved back to New York, Keith got two more hits & scored on Daryl Strawberry's HR in the 6- win. In Game #5, he had one hit & a walk, in the 2-1 classic where Doc Gooden & Nolan Ryan went at it in a great pitcher's duel.

Back in Houston, in the classic 16 inning Game #6, Hernandez had just one hit in seven at bats, but it was a big one. In the 9th inning, he doubled to centerfield off Bob Knepper, bringing in Mookie Wilson to bring the Mets within a run. He then scored the tying run on Ray Knights sac fly.

Hernandez crosses the plate with 9th inning
 tying run in 1986 NLCS Game #6
In the 16th inning, the Mets had a three run lead, Jesse Orosco then gave up two runs bringing the Astros to within a run, Hernandez walked to the mound & told Orosco; " if you threw another curveball we're going to fight!". He didn't & the Mets advanced to the World Series.


In the NLCS he went 7-26 (.269) with a double, triple, three RBIs & three walks.

In the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he went 6-26 (.231) with five walks, four RBIs & a run scored.

In Game #1 he went 0-3, and then had one hit with a ground out RBI in Game #2, as the Mets lost both games & headed to Boston down two games to none.


In Game #3 he got two hits as the Mets won their first Series game 7-1 at Fenway Park. After going hitless in Game #4, he hit safely in the next three games.

Keith Congratulates Roger McDowell After Mets
Win Game #3 of 1986 World Series at Fenway Park Boston

In Game #6 he made the second out of the inning, as the Mets were on the brink of elimination down 5-3 in the game & 3-2 in the Series. After making out, he went into the locker room, sat in a clubhouse chair & had a beer. He could not bear to watch, the Red Sox celebrate on his home field. As the Mets began to rally & tied up the game, he was going to go back to the dugout, but realized; he couldn't leave, telling himself "that chair has hits in it". The Mets won the Game forcing a Game #7.

Keith's Big Game Seven Base Hit
In Game #7, he had one hit, but it was one of the biggest of the Mets entire season. In the home 6th the Mets were down 3-0, but Lee Mazzilli, Mookie Wilson both singled & Tim Teufel walked to load the bases.

Hernandez came to bat & electrified the Shea Stadium crowd (in which centerfieldmaz was in attendance) driving a single to centerfield off Bruce Hurst. Two runs scored & the Mets were back in it. It was reminiscent of his 1982 Game Seven World Series Heroics.

Later in the 7th inning, he added an RBI sac fly to make it 6-3 New York. The Mets won the game & had their second World Series title, the dream came true. Hernndez & the rest of the '86 Mets were now legendary in franchise history.
He joined the team in a victory Parade down "the Canyon of Heroes" at Broadway to City Hall, where he & Gary Carter lifted the World Series trophy for New York City.

Hernandez & Carter Raise the Trophy at City Hall
 
Prior to the 1987 season, Hernandez was named the first team Captain in New York Mets history. As the Mets raised the World Championship banner to a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day, Hernandez had two hits. He began the month slow, kick staring it up on April 24th, as he tied a 1-0 game against the St. Louis Cards. The Mets went on to a 2-1 win.

He closed out the month hitting HRs in the final three games, including driving in both runs in the 2-1 Mets win over the Houston Astros on April 29th. He got himself over .300 in mid May & on May 29th, broke a 4-4 tie in San Diego with a solo HR off Craig Lefferts for what was the game winning run.

  On June 10th he hit two HRs while driving in three in a 13-2 Mets romp at Wrigley Field. He then drove in five runs, over the next three games at Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Although the Mets lost two of three in St. Louis at the end of the month, Keith hit two HRs & drove in four runs in the series.

In August he had a seventeen game hit streak, & drove in 22 runs in the month. On August 3rd, he hit a walk off HR against the Phillies Kent Tekulve for a 3-2 Mets win. He would have a three RBI day on August 11th in a 6-2 win over the Expos. He then drove in runs on three straight games at Wrigley Field, including two in the Mets 23-10 blowout on August 16th.

On August 24th his 4th inning RBI single off L.A.'s Shawn Hillegas, was the only run of a 1-0 Mets victory over the Dodgers. Two days later his 6th inning HR off Bob Welch was the difference in a 3-2 Mets win over L.A. as well.

Mex began September with a bang, hitting a two run HR & driving in four runs in a 9-1 win at San Diego on September 1st. The next day he hit a two run HR in the 4-3 win over the Padres & then hit another in Los Angeles, as he hit HRs in the first three games of the month. On September 19th he hit a grand slam HR in Pittsburgh, off the Pirates Vicente Palacios helping New York to a 5-4 win.

The Mets were in the race until the final week of the season, but finished up losing three of the last six games, finishing up second, three games behind the Cardinals. Keith batted .290, his lowest average since 1976 & the first time he did not bat over .300 since coming to the Mets & playing a full season. He did hit a career high 18 HRs with 28 doubles 89 RBIs 87 runs scored & a .377 on base %.

It would be his last year playing a full season (154 games) as back problems would shorten his career. He made his last All Star team & won tenth Gold Glove, his fourth straight. His .993 fielding % & 1298 put outs were second in the NL, & his 149 assists were first.

In the 1988 season, the Mets won the Eastern Division but lost a heartbreaking NLCS to the L.A. Dodgers. The 34 year old Keith Hernandez entered the season with hope, as did the Mets for a repeat of 1986 after a disappointing 1987 season which saw the St. Louis Cardinals win the division & get to the World Series.

Hernandez struggled early on as a bad back & age was creeping up on him. He hit just .203 the first month but had a tremendous day in Atlanta on April 26th in a 13-4 Mets win. It was one of his biggest days ever, as he hit two HRs, a grand slam off a young Tom Glavine & a two run shot off former Met Charlie Puleo.

Hernandez drove in two runs the next day & then two more on April 29th in Atlanta. In that game his base hit off the Braves; Rob Murphy, broke a 4-4 tie & was the game winning run. This started a nine game hit streak & a total of 13 hits in those games raising his average to .292. He would drive in runs in seven of the first ten games of May.

On an early West Coast road trip he had back to back three hit games in San Diego, including a three RBI day leading the Mets to a 5-3 win. He then had five hits & drove in three runs in the Mets series sweep in Los Angeles. The Mets went 9-3 on that west coast trip to Houston & then the California teams.

In June the back issues got him, he missed over two weeks of action & then when he returned he went down gain for almost two months. Dave Magadan saw the majority of the playing time at first base, in Hernandez absence, hitting .277. He returned in dramatic fashion, hitting a 7th inning two run HR in Pittsburgh off Dave Rucker, leading the Mets to a 3-2 win. But over the next two weeks he drove in just one run & saw his average fall to .280 as he battled the back problems.

When the Dodgers came to town the Mets swept them again, as Keith hit an August 22nd two run HR as Dwight Gooden & the Mets beat John Tudor 7-1. On August 24th Orel Hershiser held the Mets scoreless into the 8th inning clinging to a 1-0 lead. Mookie Wilson led off with a triple & was brought home by Hernandez to tie the game. The Mets went on to a 2-1 win.

On September 7th, Keith hit a three run HR at Wrigley Field in a 908 Mets loss. He then missed ten more days of action on the DL but returned as the Mets wrapped up the NL Eastern title on September 22nd at Shea Stadium in a 3-1 win over the Phillies. Keith went 0-4 in the game. On the last day of the season he added another blow to his old Cardinal team mates hitting a HR in the Mets 7-5 win at Shea.

He finished up 1988 playing in 95 games, the lowest amount in his career since he had become a regular player. He hit .276 his lowest average since 1978, with 11 HRs 16 doubles 55 RBIs & a .333 on base %, his lowest since 1975.

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS the Mets went against the Los Angeles Dodgers whom they had beaten up in regular season play all regular season. The post season was different & did not turn out as expected.

In Game #1, Keith went 1-4 in the 3-2 Doc Gooden/ Randy Meyers-Mets win. In Game #2 at Dodger Stadium with the Mets down 5-0, Hernandez hit a two run HR off Tim Belcher. The Mets lost the game 6-3 as the series was even heading back to New York.

In Game #3, he drove in a run, drawing a bases loaded walk, off former Mets team mate Jesse Orosco. The run came in the five run Mets 8th inning.

In Game #4, Hernandez had two hits in the 5-4 Dodgers win. This was the game where Mike Scioscia hit a game tying, 9th inning HR off Dwight Gooden & Kirk Gibson homered off Roger McDowell in the 12th inning for the win. Keith had just one hit in the final two games, as the Dodgers beat New York & went on to win the World Series.

Overall in the '88 NLCS, Hernandez went 7-26 (.269) with six walks for a .406 on base %.

In 1989 Hernandez began the year going 0-4 on Opening Day. In the final two weeks of the month, he hit three HRs & had a four RBI day in Houston on April 28th.

But overall he had one of his worst starts, batting just .236 by May 1st. He had a good start to May hitting safely in 9 of 11 games, getting his average above .280. But he then went on the DL missing two months of action.

In his return on July 13th, he drove in a run in a 5-1 win over the Braves in Atlanta. In July he missed yet another week of action, as he did in August as well. It was clear that his best days were behind him, at age 35 with back issues & in the final days of his contract, his Mets days were numbered. Hernandez finished 1989 playing in just 75 games, batting a career low .233, with 4 HRs 8 doubles 19 RBIs & a .333 on base %.

That off season, he was let go to free agency & signed with the Cleveland Indians.

All Time Mets Leaderboard: Hernandez is the Mets all time leader in on base % (.387%). He is second all time in Mets history in games played at first base behind Eddie Kranepool with 854.

He is sixth on the Mets All Time list in walks (4710) & is ninth in both RBIs (468) as well as singles (690). He is tenth in sac flies (31) eleventh in doubles (159) twelfth in hits (939) & runs scored (455).

Honors: In 1991 team mate David Cone switched to uniform number 17 in Keith's honor. Other '86 Mets team mates such as Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda & Roger McDowell all wore that uniform #17 after leaving the Mets, in his honor.

Hernandez was elected to the NY Mets Hall of Fame in 1997. He was voted the All Time Mets First Baseman in team history & one of its top ten players ever

Mets Hall of Fame Induction
Post Mets Career: In Cleveland he played just 43 games batting a lowly .200 ending his season in late July. On April 25th, he hit his final career HR, it came off Todd Stottlemyer, Mel's son, in Toronto at Sky Dome. His last career hit came on July 20th, off the Angels; Bert Blyleven in Anaheim.

In his 17 year career, Hernandez hit . 296 with 2182 hits (187th all time) 162 HRs 426 doubles (138th all time) 60 triples 595 RBIs (225th all time) & a .384 on base % (138th all time). He has 1070 career walks (88th all time) 1124 runs scored (231st all time) with 1534 singles (183rd all time). He has been on base 3284 times (140th all time) with 646 extra base hits (233rd all time).

At first base he won eleven Gold Gloves, played 2014 games (19th all time) posting a .994 fielding % (37th all time) making 115 errors (92nd all time) in 19706 chances, turning 1654 double plays (9th all time). He made 17909 put outs (21st all time) with 1682 assists (4th all time).

Retirement:

Honors: Although Hernandez was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, he has never been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

Some say he did not have enough power numbers, others say it was his history of drug use or lack of hustle during his Cardinal days.

He has been on hand for celebrations of the 1986 Championship team, the final ceremonies of Shea Stadium & events honoring Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy, Mike Piazza & other Mets Hall of Fame inductees.

After his playing career he was bitter toward the game during the "steroid era". He lost respect for the game with it's inflated statistical numbers. He blamed the commissioner & the league, the players union, players & the owners.

Broadcasting: His close friend & former team mate Rusty Staub was responsible for getting Keith back into baseball & broadcasting. Hernandez began to work as a Mets broadcaster in 1999 alongside Ralph Kiner, Howie Rose, Rusty Staub, Fran Healy on Sports Chanel & MSG Networks, as well as WOR Chanel 9.

In 2006 he joined up with former Mets team mate Ron Darling & broadcaster; Gary Cohen on the New SNY sports network. Since then he has done Mets games on the network as well as WPIX Channel 11. The broadcast team is considered one of the best in baseball by their peers & audiences alike.

He has won an Emmy Award with the trio as well as an individual one for his work at SNY. Keith is known for his wry humor, bluntness & outspoken criticism at the mike. The banter between the three has now become legendary in this generation of Mets broadcasting.

The three also do a lot of charity work through their website for Juvenile Diabetes. & Alzheimer's. Hernandez mother had battled Alzheimer's for nine years in the eighties.

Drama: In 2002 he got the Mets team angry at him after saying that they had given up on their manager Bobby Valentine. He stood behind his words.

During a 2006 Mets vs Padres game at San Diego, he commented on a female trainer sitting in the dugout, saying " I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout". After receiving criticism for the comments, he apologized saying: "You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there — always have."

He also got into a famous shouting match with Jose Reyes, that almost led to blows on a Mets team flight, after he criticized Reyes for lack of hustle.

The Famous Keith Moustache: Hernandez has also been widely recognized for his thick moustache, which was voted the "best sports moustache" of all time by the American Moustache Institute in 2007.

In September of 2012 he shaved the famous whiskers for charity, giving him an entirely new look, although he is still loved by Mets fans. He once said as a player, he did not use the eyeblack lines under his eyes to reflect the sun. He felt due to his high cheekbones the moustache itself deflected the rays.

Keith on Seinfeld
Acting: In 1992 he was part of a two part Seinfeld episode called "The Boyfriend" where he dates, Elaine (Julia Louise Dreyfus). He also appeared in the shows classic final episode in 1998.

Hernandez had appeared in a 1994 episode of Law & Order, as well as movied The Scout & The Yards. He also had a cameo as a Policeman riding in a crowded elevator in the Harrison Ford movie: the Fugitive.

He has also made television commercials with basketball star; Walt Frazier in Just For Men hair coloring products. He also did Coin Gallery commercials for a Long Island based company.



Author: He has also been an author of four sports books; If At First: A Season With the Mets ( a diary of the 1985 season) / Pure Baseball: Pitch by Pitch For the Advanced Fan (a detailed pitch by pitch players look into baseball) / Shea Goodbye: The Untold Story of the Historic 2008 Season & Murder At Shea ( a children's young adult murder mystery).

Personal: During his playing days he lived in a Manhattan high rise, on the East Side in the forties. Since Keith has been a long time resident of Sag Harbor, located in the Hamptons on Long Island.

Keith has two daughters from his first marriage. His second wife Kai is a 911 widow, the two married in 2004 with former Mets team mate Rusty Staub, giving her away down the aisle.

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