|Keith Hernandez (right) with Gary Cohen in the Citi Field Auditorium on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Keith Hernandez is one of the most beloved players in Mets history, as he led them to the 1986 World Series championship who will have his number 17 retired on July 9.
Hernandez is known to younger generations of fans as an announcer on the team's games on SNY as part of the broadcasting team with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling, and for his appearance on Seinfeld, hence the title of the new documentary on him.
"He's Keith Hernandez" will air on SNY this Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m., after the Mets' afternoon game with the Houston Astros.
The documentary covers Keith's life, growing up in California with his brother Gary, his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he won the 1979 Most Valuable Player award, the trade to the Mets, and of course, Seinfeld.
It premiered on Tuesday evening in the Citi Field Auditorium, with Keith Hernandez in conversation with Gary Cohen, and took questions from fans in attendance. Here is some of what Keith said:
Gary Cohen: What was your favorite part of the documentary? Keith: Wow, that's a tough question. I think the comments from my teammates is what touched me the most.
Gary Cohen: It comes to mind that there are a lot of players who are beloved by fan bases and respected by the people who root for them. I can't think of a player who is more universally respected by the people he played with. Does that strike you and do you feel that?
Keith: I think there are other players who have had that effect on newer players. For me, we always laugh about it and make a joke, but Lou Brock, what Lou Brock meant to me. He always told me that you can be more than just the numbers you put on the field at the end of the season or at the end of a game; there's much more to it, and that's what he was for me, and I always said that if it came to it, where the situation would reversed, now I'm the veteran, I'm not the 20-year-old kid brown eyed and bushy-tailed looking up at Lou Brock, you know, it's me and I've got Darryl (Strawberry) and all these guys around me, and I just took to it, just embraced it.
Gary Cohen: The parts that struck me the most are the bits with your brother, and it's amazing to me, and other people have talked about this, too, the fragility of the Major League Baseball player, even a storied player like yourself and how much it helps to have an angel on his shoulder, and it seems as though that's what your brother was for you.
Keith: There's no doubt; my brother's two-and-a-half years older than me, which makes him 71 now, which is kind of, you know, you get to that point. He was never jealous of me; Gary was, like I said, he was an All-American at Cal as a sophomore, played against Fred Lynn, who was playing for S.C. then. There's so many instances I can say where he was totally selfless, and he could have been jealous of me. I know that if the situation had been reversed, and he had all the gifts, I would have probably been jealous, but not Gary, he's a special guy.
Gary Cohen: And your father obviously played an enormous role in the development of both of you, and you've spoken about him a lot. When you watch something like this, does it make you think back and reassess your relationship with your father and how he got you here?
Keith: You never forget, you know, when I was a kid, and like I said, we were little four-year-olds and you're throwing awkwardly, those are the first things that he did, taught us how to throw properly, that was the first lesson, and then as we got older, became more complicated and more - he taught me how to hit, like Gary said, he threw BP to us, and he always stressed having a good eye, so I would ask him on a pitch I remember so many times, 'just missed' and I knew it had just missed, but I said, 'Dad, ball was outside by what?' he goes, 'outside by a couple inches, you're right, son.' That's how I developed my good batting eye, and the fact that he threw to us, he was great with Little Leaguers, all the kids, and their parents, that played on our teams, we won championships every year. I just loved my father, and that was back in the day, it was summer, my Dad would say, 'bring your kids on down to the ballfield, pack a lunch and come for them at five o'clock, and we would play or he would throw to us and it would be a World Series, and there were enough kids back then, tail end of the baby boomers, we'd be able to field two teams, and one team would be the Yankees and other team would be the Cardinals or the Dodgers, and he would pitch, and instruct as the game progressed. We'd play a seven-game World Series and he would throw the whole time in Little League, and it was remarkably fun. You know, so many things are regimented for kids today in baseball, I think it bores them, that was a great way to learn because you were playing a game and not having to do drills. You were taught if a guy made a mistake or if a guy did good, it wasn't all a negative, it was a positive reinforcement, it was the greatest way to learn how to play.
Fan question: Do you think this 2022 team has the magic of your teams in the 1980s?
Keith: The difference with this team, this team's a veteran team, it's made to win, I think that we have an average age over 30, whereas in the '80s, it was a young team, you know, it was George Foster, myself, Rusty (Staub), there were some veterans sprinkled int there, but basically it was a young team, so there's the difference. I am just thrilled about this team, how they conduct themselves professionally, it's been a big leap this year. I think a lot of it has to do with the five players that we've brought in that were veteran players that really comport themselves in the clubhouse, on the field professionally (Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Travis Jankowski), and now you see the guys who come back, like (Pete) Alonso, (Jeff) McNeil, they've gravitated to that, and I think they've grown enormously and become professionals, and I only see this getting better and better, and I think we have an organization that's committed to winning. I enjoy covering this team they hustle, they play good defense, it's just been a treat for me, they've got speed at the top, it's not a home run or strikeout, they bunch hits, they take the extra base, it's been very much fun for me to watch them play, and I mean that...Even if they were playing .500, I would love to watch this team.
Fan question: Is this team more inquisitive than former Mets teams in seeking out guidance from you?
Keith: I think a little bit of both with this group. There is an awareness of who I was and my career. I always find it interesting that today you have computers today, and Google, and all this information at your fingertips, and a lot of players don't know who I am, I've had a couple players look at my press pass to see who the hell I am, and they were Mets, this happened a while ago. This is New York, it's a tough broadcast, we are told by the network and by ownership to tell the truth, and I think the best thing that Buck Showalter told the guys, I'm sure, was that if you don't want the media coming down on you, the press, or us, radio, then go out and perform. You go out and perform, they can't get on you. I think a lot of players when they're young, and I was the same way, you're more sensitive to criticism and as you get older and you become a veteran, and you feel like, 'OK, I'm a Major Leaguer, I know I'm gonna go into a slump, and Bob Klapisch, when I go 4-for-44, he's going to write about it. I've left men on base, I've been stinking it up for ten days, but I know I'm gonna come out of it.' So, it just never bothered me, but when you're young, you're trying to establish yourself, players are, like Gary said, you know, we're fragile, we're not these Greek gods out there playing, they're human beings, and some players are more confident than others, and some need a pat on the back, and some fight their way through it. Either you make it or you don't, and everyone has their time when they cross the Rubicon, and some don't and some do.
Fan question: Does it still surprise you how many people know you through Seinfeld and do you find it odd when it's juxtaposed against your career, or how do you feel about it?
Keith: Well, that was the second year of the show when I did that episode, and the first year of the show, it really didn't take off. Larry David told me after the show, a year later, I ran into Larry, he basically told me they knew they had a really good script and they wanted to use it on Sweeps week, and they wrote the show with an extra subplot, which was George trying for unemployment, and it was all going to revolve around me. If I was a dud or a stiff, it was going to be a half-hour show, and they weren't going to use it on Sweeps. I still have a hard time watching it, I haven't watched it in years, I get embarrassed when I see it, but evidently it passed the grade, and Larry said they used it on Sweeps and they felt that the show took off after that episode. So, it's very fortunate for me, it was a great experience, and you know, it's all about New York, you know, I got traded to the last-place team, and no one at the ballpark, and it turned out to be such a life-changing event for me in such a positive way.