March 3, 2011

Keith Hernandez ..Among Greatest Mets !!

My friend Ed (@lagranderusty) from "The Real Dirty Mets Blog" posted his story on Keith Hernandez being the 6th Greatest Met of All Time ( based on votes submitted to him) ..Here's my response and little Mex Story:

A great Met, a great MLB Career and a player on the absolute cusp of enshrinement in Cooperstown. Not much more can be said about Keith Hernandez and his impact upon the Mets return to the height of Major League Baseball and New York Glory in the mid to late 1980’s.

The acquisition of Mex along with those of Gary Carter and Ron Darling plus the emergence of Doc, Darryl, Nails, Mookie, Sid, Wally and the rest, led by Davey Johnson (linked to 1969 World Series Championship via his fly ball caught by Cleon to end the series) brought the Mets back to the headlines of New York sports pages.

The fiery, cocky attitude backed by their dominance led to our beloved team being known as “Pond Scum” and worse. So what if Mex smoked in the dugout or was in the clubhouse popping a beer when Buckner let the Mookster’s roller go through his legs, so what if all the guys didn’t behave like choirboys at Cooters in Houston, they were scrappy, gritty even dirty but these were winners (Charlie Sheen reference intended) these were OUR METS! And the on field leader in my honest opinion was Keith Hernandez!

At number six in this series, Hernandez, in my opinion may be one of the Top 3 Most important Mets of all Time. RETIRE #17 .Soon!

His numbers and contributions merit his discussion as a Hall of Famer, but I have a personal story regarding Keith.

In July of 1989 I was in Minneapolis on business when the meetings I was attending finished early and I decided to take in a Twins game at the “Homerdome” by myself. It was early afternoon when I went back to the hotel to change and I headed into downtown Minny at about 3:30. I’d been to a few Twins games here before over the years but always with business associates who had tickets and drove to the ballpark. I pulled my rental Lincoln into a parking lot across the street from the Dome and was stopped by someone who I soon learned was a Nun. It turns out the lot was the back side of a church and was not available for ballpark parking. I pled my case to this woman, saying I was in town on business from New Jersey. As our conversation continued she said she’d attended Seton Hall in NJ, and after showing her my Alumni card, she proceeded to inform me that there was a side alley between the buildings on the church property in which I could park and she’d keep an eye on the car for me from her window in the convent. I offered to pay her but she waved me away telling me to enjoy the game. As I walked through the lot I noticed a Bennigan’s restaurant/bar within walking distance so I stopped in for a bite and a few beverages. As I sat at the bar, the barmaid and I struck up a conversation about me being a Mets fan and loving baseball. She informed me about some early bird ticket plan at the dome so I finished up and went to the box office and bought 1 ticket (for $3.50!) It was a GA ticket which, when I presented it was told by an usher to sit just about anywhere I wanted. I sat about 15 rows from the field behind the visitors’ dugout. It turns out that the Twins were playing the Indians and I later learned that only about 7 or 8 thousand fans were actually in the building. I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t get the chance to see Keith Hernandez, one of my favorite Mets, who was on the DL having broken his right kneecap in May. So, I settled in watched BP and then got to watch the Twins get the comeback win in the ninth for none other than Frank Viola. As I headed out on my way back to the car, I of course stopped in at Bennigan’s yet again. The place was a little more crowded but the barmaid remembered me and came over to ask if I’d gone to the game. I explained that it was complete game in about 2-1/2 hours, but that it was too bad I didn’t see Hernandez. At that point she came around the bar and took me to the rear of the place and pointed to a table where sat none other than Keith Hernandez himself. I walked over to him and said how I missed him in that night’s game and was a huge Mets fan. He looked up from what appeared to be at least his 5th drink of the night and stared at me before asking…”Gus?”, I replied yes. To which he reminded me that we’d met back in my days when I was doing some production work at WFAN before it was WFAN (WHN at the time). To say I was stunned is an understatement. He told me to have a seat with him as he ordered another drink and I ordered a beer. He said he was in town with the ballclub while rehabbing and was hoping to start swinging a bat soon and had met with the author of his book “If At First”, Mike Bryan earlier in the evening. We sat and talked baseball and life (and had a few more beverages) for what ended up being almost 3 hours (I think they call it “LAST CALL”). How it took me over 2 hours to get back to my hotel is a story for another day…LOL. Keith said he really hated leaving New York but was anxious to get back to the Indians that season and the next to justify the 2 year deal he’d signed with them. He spoke of how nice the new ballpark (Jacobs Field) was and how the Indians were building and on the verge of winning. He turned out to be quite prophetic as Cleveland became competitive to the point of reaching the World Series in 1995. I recall telling him that my favorite Met had been Jerry Grote; he laughed and said “I think Kid’s pretty good too!” A night I’ll never forget.

Today the expert game analysis provided by Mex on Mets broadcasts is more often than not “Spot On.” His interaction with Ron Darling and Gary Cohen is entertaining and informative. Even his documented “booth naps” and mild indiscretions regarding some comments he’s made, make for enjoyable watching although I’d much rather he work the radio side to get more of his thoughts. I’m old school and there’s nothing like baseball on the radio.

Keith’s book “Pure Baseball,” while a bit drawn and bordering on boring for most is an absolute must read, TWICE at least, for any REAL baseball fan…

Good work Ed (editor?) (especially on the charity information) FYI…I believe Darling is now the JDRC lead guy since the passing of the great Ron Santo….
So Mets fans .What’s the order of the Final 5? Seaver, Doc, Darryl, Piazza and Kooz?

Oh and LET'S GO METS! as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals today in what i hope will be the last time I see Oliver Perez start a game in a Mets uniform

1 comment:

  1. Keith is my all time favorite Met.

    And Ollie? Thanks for the memories Ollie and be sure and turn in your uniform at the door.


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