Oct 19, 2017

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

1986 Season: 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:

1986 NLCS: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.

1986 World Series: 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

Keith's Big Game Seven Base Hit
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.

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 & Carter Raise the Trophy at City Hall
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.

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:
1988 NLCS: 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 with a base off Orel Hershiser 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 at Shea Stadium, he went 1-2 with tree walks & an RBI. In the 6th inning he started the inning with a lead off base hit, but was soon thrown out at third base on Daryl Strawberry's base hit. In the Mets five run 8th inning, Keith drew a bases loaded walk, off former Mets team mate Jesse Orosco, bringing in the Mets seventh run.

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 Dodger win. Keith had just one hit in the final two games, as the Dodgers upset New York four game to three, then went on to further upset the Oakland A's winning 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).


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.

Keith is loved for his wry sense of humor & his outright honesty. Fans love his sometimes controversial jokes & his outright bluntness where he tells it like it is or just how he feels, avoiding the stupidity of political correctness when its not necessary. 

His style of honesty is always brings a laugh, like when he admits he has no clue what the others are talking about or more recently when he asked "Whats Kirk up to these days" referring to former Met Kirk Nieuwenhuis, when he was informed he plays for Milwaukee now. He even tried to break the monotony of a long game by faking breaking a camera lens with a high lighter.

He is famous for his multi colored score cards in the booth. He also likes to beat traffic after the ball game & hates long drawn out games that are blow outs or meaningless. He also enjoys his time off & doesn't always like to travel.

The three broadcasters 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. He proudly sports his classic moustache once again.

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.

Hernandez even has a hamburger stand in the outfield at Citi Field called; "Keith's Grill". Their burgers are outstanding, Keith has been known to flip a few burgers there as well as come up with recipes. His overall new worth has been said to be $15 million.

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.

All Time Mets First Baseman: Keith Hernandez (Part One- St. Louis & the Early Mets Years)

Keith Hernandez was born on October 20th, 1953 in San Francisco California.

The six foot left handed hitting first baseman, became known as "Mex". He & his father both hated the nick name, since he is not Mexican, but has family roots (on his fathers side) in Spain. His mother was of Scottish / Irish dissent.

He attended high School at San Bruno California. He was a star player in high school but did not get along with his coach. He even sat out his senior year after a major dispute with that coach. He was eventually drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971 as a 42nd round pick.

By 1973 he had his best hitting season at AAA Tulsa hitting .333. He made his MLB debut on August 30, 1974 at his hometown, in Candlestick Park, San Francisco in a 8-2 loss to the Giants. He got his first career hit off Mike Cauldwell in the 9th inning, driving in Bake McBride with his first ever RBI.

The next year the Cardinals traded away Joe Torre to the New York Mets, to open the door for Hernandez at first base. To quickly run through his Cardinals career; he spent nine 1/2 seasons as the team's first baseman winning an MVP Award & a World Series title there.

In 1979 he won the NL batting title (.344) & led the league in doubles (48) & runs scored (116), while winning a co-MVP Award with the Pirates Willie Stargell. Hernandez developed into one of the games better hitters. Although he was not a power hitter (never hitting more than 16 HRs up to that point), he hit for good averages, batting over .300 three times & .290 or better six times in his first nine seasons.

He was also a good run producer, He had driven in & scored 90 runs or better, four times in his Cardinal career. He also drew a lot of walks, while put up excellent on base percentages, leading the league in that category in 1980 (.408) & posting .400% or better four times as a Cardinal.

Post Season: In the 1982 post season, he began going 4-12 (.333) with an RBI in the NLCS win over the Atlanta Braves.

In the World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, he went hitless in the first four games before getting hot. In Game #5 at Milwaukee, he hit a pair of doubles driving in two runs in the 6-4 Cardinal loss. In Game #6 back in St. Louis, he got two more hits driving in four runs, including a 4th inning two run HR off Don Sutton in the 13-1 Cardinals romp, forcing a Game Seven.

In that Game #7, he came to bat against his old high school team mate; Bob McClure with the bases loaded & St. Louis down 3-1 in the 6th inning. Hernandez drove a single to right center field scoring Lonnie & Ozzie Smith with the tying runs. The Cards went on to a 6-3 win & won the World Series. In the Series he drove in eight runs the most by any player & hit .259, with seven hits & one HR.

Fresh off the St. Louis Cardinals Championship season, Hernandez continued to have disagreements with the teams management. His stormy relationship with Manager Whitey Herzog escalated to an even worse level.

The Manager felt Hernandez was a bad influence on his the teams younger players. There were rumors of drug use & other bad habits that were affecting his attitude as well as the teams. In those days he was looked at having a rather casual attitude toward the game with a lack of hustle.

Finally on the June 15th 1983 Trade deadline, Keith Hernandez was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Neil Allen & Rick Ownbey. It was a major acquisition for the Mets & a moment where that turned the franchise around for the better.

At first he was unhappy about being traded from the reigning World Champions to the last place Mets, who had been in shambles for years. But there was a new vibe in the air at Shea Stadium, with lots of good young players on the horizon. Hernandez was now to step up his game to the highest level in the largest media market in the country & a legend was made. The All Star was now to become a superstar in New York.

He was determined to prove the Cardinals wrong for trading him & this led to an even higher level of play. This also help fuel what became an intense rivalry between the Mets & Cards through the mid to late eighties.

With a glove, he certainly the best defensive first baseman of his time & possibly the best the position has ever seen. He would win eleven Gold Gloves in his career, six with the New York Mets. With his glove he led the league in double plays turned six times, assists five times, put outs four times, fielding twice & games played once.

He would anchor the infield, positioning the fielders & coach his pitchers how to pitch to a hitter as well. He was animated & very intense both at bat & on the field. At first he would take pick off throws squatting in foul territory, as to make an easier tag to his right but a rule was made making that illegal. He would also stand in front of base runners, while at his position to block the view of the batter from them. He would also play far off the bag, because his range was so good & his positioning would close up the infield gap.

His quickness allowed him to also stop balls hit down the line. He would often be used as a cutoff man from throws from the outfield as well, since he had such a strong accurate throwing arm. He was certainly the most aggressive first baseman, as he would run down the line when he thought a player was going to attempt to bunt. It was said many times he discouraged opponents from attempting a sacrifice, just by his reputation.

While managing the Reds, Pete Rose, compared bunting against Hernandez to "driving the lane against Bill Russell". Jim Frey, the Chicago Cubs manager, said he wouldn't ask most pitchers to bunt against the Mets. "You're just asking for a force out at second, and now you've got your pitcher running the bases" .

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."

The Met fans quickly fell in love with him & his intense style of play. It's easy to say he was a team leader & helped turn the Mets around from losers to a Championship caliber team in the mid eighties. Hernandez became a Mets legend & will forever be remembered for his leadership.

When he arrived with the Mets he could not use uniform #37 that had been retired by the organization in honor of Casey Stengel. He insisted the number have a "seven" in it in honor of Mickey Mantle, so he chose #17.

Keith Hernandez made his Mets debut on June 17th, 1983 batting cleanup & playing first base in 9-7 loss to the Expos at Montreal. The losing pitcher was Tom Seaver, who hade returned to New York but was in his final Mets season. That night Hernandez got two hits in four at bats.

On June 20th he hit his first Mets career HR, a two run shot off John Stuper & his former Cardinal team mates, leading the team in a 6-4 win. On July 14th, he hit his fourth Mets HR, a three run shot helping in a 7-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds. It was his eighth RBI in the first two weeks of July.

On July 22nd , the Mets entered the top of the 9th inning, down 2-1 to the Reds in a game at Riverfront Stadium Hernandez hit a solo HR to tie the game & Daryl Strawberry followed with another HR two batters later, which was the games winning run.

Three days later on July 25th, the Mets were down 4-1 to the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. Hernandez helped in a four run rally with an RBI base hit scoring Junior Ortiz, he then crossed the plate with the winning run on George Foster's walk off base hit. He closed out the month with RBIs in three straight games & then drove in runs in three of four games to end August as well.

In September he began the month with a two run HR in a 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres. On September 9th, he broke a 3-3 tie in Montreal with an RBI base hit driving in Mookie Wilson. The Mets won the game giving Tom Seaver his next to last win as a New York Met, Hernandez would not play in the game of Seaver's final Mets win.

Hernandez finished out his first Mets season, playing in 95 games with them, leading the team in batting (.306) & on base % (.424%) with 9 HRs 8 doubles 64 walks & 37 RBIs. Although the Mets finished sixth (6894) & had gone through two managers; George Bamberger & Frank Howard, there were some positive signs.

Hernandez, as well as the Rookie of the Year; Daryl Strawberry (26 HRs 74 RBIs), Mookie Wilson & his 54 team record stolen bases were all bright signs. The next season a young pitching staff would take over from the veterans, including 19 year old phenom Dwight Gooden & the Mets would become contenders. Overall in 1983 Hernandez batted .297 with 12 HRs 23 doubles & 63 RBIs.

At first base he won his sixth straight Gold Glove Award & showed New York how to play first base. He led the league in put outs & double plays turned, coming in second in assists. The 1984 season began with some excitement as Hernandez, was now going to play in his first full season with New York.

On May 1st he hit his first HR of the year, coming in an 8-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Keith drove in runs in the next five games, which included a 2-0 Ron Darling shut out over the Houston Astros at Shea on May 4th. A week later he drove in runs in four more straight games, which included a stretch of seven of none games with an RBI.

By June he was batting .300 & would remain at that level the rest of the season. On June 5th he drove in two runs, in Walt Terrell's complete game 3-0 shut out over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the week of June 11th- June 15th, Keith had three multiple RBI games that included back to back shut outs over his old St. Louis Cardinals team.

He then followed up by driving in runs in four more straight games. On June 25th he hit a three run HR & had three hits in a 10-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium.

By July the Mets found themselves in the middle of a pennant race, the crowds were once again filling up Shea Stadium & it was an exciting place to be. Hernandez drove in runs in ten of the first 15 games of the month as the Mets won 12 of 13 games including a stretch of eight straight.

On July 3rd, his two run HR in the bottom of the 6th inning off Houston's' Nolan Ryan put the Mets ahead & was the game winning runs. After back to back multi RBI games, he had a three hit three RBI day in Atlanta, in a 7-0 Mets win on June 14th.

On July 24th, he had a big three hit day, at Shea Stadium that included four RBI's in a 9-8 win over his old Cardinal team mates. In the bottom of the 9th inning, his base hit off Neil Allen, the player whom he was traded for, brought in Mookie Wilson wit h the games walk off winning run. In early August, the Mets were swept by the first place Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago in a big series. Keith had a three RBI day in an 8-6 in the midst of the series.

Keith & Rodney Dangerfield
On August 26th, he hit a two run HR & drove in two other runs, helping the Mets defeat the San Francisco Giants in a 11-6 win at Shea. In that game he had two hits & drew five walks. Three days later when the L.A. Dodgers came to town, he hit a walk off game winning double off former Met Pat Zachry to score Danny Heep, who had reached on a pinch hit base hit.

In September the Mets entered month, five games in back of the Cubs, from September 7th to the 14th, Keith drove in runs in five of seven games. Four of the games came against the Cards & Cubs, as the Mets took two of three from Chicago at Shea, including Doc Goodens one hitter. Hernandez entered the month with a twelve game hit streak & then hit safely in six straight, 19 of 21 games overall.

The Mets fell short of catching the Cubs finishing up second, six games out winning 90 games. It was the most games the team had won since the Miracle year of 1969 & their best finish since the 1973 pennant season.

Hernandez had a spectacular year, coming in second in the MVP Voting, winning his first of five straight Gold Glove Awards with the Mets. He finished the year batting .311 (7th best in the NL) he had 97 walks (second in the NL) hit 15 HRs with 31 doubles (7th in the NL) & 94 RBIs (8th in the NL) while posting the league's best on base % at .409%.

That year he set a record with 24 game winning RBIs, which was an official record at that time. He also holds the all time record of 129 game winning RBIs in his career. At first base he was first in assists & double plays turned posting a .994% (3rd best in the NL).

Keith Hernandez drove in the first run of the 1985 season, with an opening Day RBI single off the Cards; Joaquin Andujar. Hernandez had three hits & drove in two runs but the Crads tied the game at 5-5. The newest Mets superstar; Gary Carter blasted a walk off HR, in his Mets debut for the 6-5 victory. Hernandez had three more hits the next day, and went on an RBI tear driving in runs in seven straight games.

On April 16th, his 9th inning sac fly scored Mookie Wilson with the game winning run off the Pirates; John Candelaria in a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh.

Then on April 19th, his 9th inning RBI single at Philadelphia, helped Doc Gooden to a 1-0 win over the Phillies. He closed out a strong April with a four RBI day in a 5-4 win over the Pirates at Shea Stadium.

He began May by hitting three HRs in the first nine games but a slump had him enter July batting just .251. He was down in the dumps & then reached out to his father who was such a strong influence in his life.

His father, a minor league first baseman (1941-1949) had played ball with Stan Musial in the Navy during World War II. Keith credits his father with getting him out of the slump. While watching him on TV, he noticed he was not seeing the uniform numbers on his back as he was in full stride with his swing. This meant he was bailing out on inside pitches, trying to pull the ball & was more vulnerable to the outside pitches. Things got better and he began hitting well again throughout the summer.

In the six hour; Fourth of July epic in Atlanta, he went 4-10 with a HR & three runs batted in, in the Mets 16-13 nineteen inning affair. The Mets went on a nine game win streak. winning 15 of 17 games, as Hernandez got hot to hit safely in 25 of 27 games. In that Atlanta series he had driven in five runs, & then as the Mets rolled into Cincinnati Keith hit two HRs & drove in six runs in the three game sweep. He closed out the month driving in ten runs in a five game span from July 24-the 29th. & was back over .290.

On August 3rd, the Mets were down to Lee Smith & the Cubs in the 9th inning at Chicago. Hernandez doubled in Wally Backman to tie the game, in which the Mets went on to win 5-4.

On August 8th; Keith drove in three runs in a 14-7 romp over the Expos at Montreal. He then drove in three runs as the Cubs came to Shea for a three game sweep & followed with another three RBI game in a 4-3 over the Phillies.

He began September by hitting HRs in back to back games at San Francisco & San Diego respectively. On September 12th, in a crucial series at Shea with the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez won the game with a walk off base hit off Ken Dayley scoring Mookie Wilson in the 7-6 win. The win kept the Mets in front of St. Louis by one game in the NL East Standings.

He closed out the year strong, hitting safely in all but one game from September 18th on, while driving in ten runs. On September 24th he had a three hit game at Philadelphia & then added a four hit day three games later in a 8-7 loss at Pittsburgh. On October 3rd, he had a big five hit day driving in two of the Mets three runs in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis to the Cardinals.

The Mets had taken the first two games of the series to get within two games of the Cards in first place, the loss put them at three back with two games to play, eliminating them. The Mets split the final two games against the Montreal Expos & finished in second place three game out. That year the Mets had three players finish in the top ten in NL MVP balloting that season (Gooden 4th, Carter 6th and Hernandez 8th).

Hernandez finished 1985 batting .309 (6th best in the NL) with 10 HRs 34 doubles (5th in the NL) 91 RBIs (10th in the NL) & a .384 on base % (7th in the NL). He came in 8th in the MVP voting, won his second straight Mets Gold Glove award, leading the NL in fielding at .997% as well as in assists. His ten sac flies were second in the NL, as his 185 singles were 4th most in the league & his 263 times on base were third most.

Drama of The Pittsburgh Drug Trials: In September of 1985, Hernandez was called before a grand jury in Pittsburgh to testify in the now famous "Pittsburgh Drug Trails". There he admitted using cocaine back in his St. Louis Cardinals days, in the late seventies into the early eighties.

He claimed that 40% of major leaguers were using & later backtracked, saying that that number could have been wrong. He was one of twenty three players called to testify, including Willie Mays, Lee Mazzilli, Vida Blue, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Dale Berra & others. It was determined that the players were to be granted immunity for their testimony.

In the end seven men were convicted for distributing cocaine & MLB suffered an embarrassing blow. It was the biggest scandal & most penalties to be handed down since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Hernandez & some other Players (Berra, Parker, Joaquin Andujar, Enos Cabell, Lonnie Smith & Jeffrey Leonard) were suspended for a year by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, but were allowed to play if 10% of their salary was donated to drug related community service.

It was during this trial that former Met John Milner admitted to purchasing amphetamines from Willie Mays while with the Mets & Willie Stargell while in Pittsburgh. Also Tim Raines said during a period he would only slide head first because he had a glass vial of cocaine in his uniform rear pocket.

Keith Greeting Former Manager Whitey Herzog
at St. Louis Cardinals Reunion

It was learned that while in St. Louis, much of the tension between Hernandez & former manager; Whitey Herzog had a lot to do with his drug use. Eventually Hernandez had stopped using by 1982 & made a full recovery.

Mets Hall Of Fame Museum at Citi Field