Red Sox Series at London

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"I'm Keith Hernandez"

There are dozens of books that come out every year about baseball, including memoirs from older players recalling their glory days. But it's hard to find one like "I'm Keith Hernandez", (Little, Brown) in which the great Mets and Cardinals first baseman recalls some of his glorious times that led to him being an NL MVP and a two-time World Series champion.

But if you're a Mets fan looking for more inside stuff about the 1986 World Series champions, you won't find it here. Hernandez consciously avoids that discussion, which he feels has been done to death in other books. And he also avoids such things as the other championship team he played in with the Cardinals in 1982, his controversial trade to the Mets the next year, the Pittsburgh drug trials he was a part of in 1985, or his funny role on the TV show "Seinfeld.".

But he still has plenty to tell in this book.

He uses two main timelines to tell his story: his growing up in Northern California with a very demanding father who was obsessed with baseball, and his current day being a respected broadcaster with the Mets. His father was friends with the legendary Stan Musial, and Hernandez talks of the time he and his dad met him at Candlestick Park in 1963. It would come full circle nearly a dozen years later, when Hernandez made his MLB debut there. His father John was a difficult taskmaster as father his influence on the young Keith, and Keith is at once miffed but grateful to his father for pushing in the direction he went.

Hernandez was eventually signed by St. Louis, and tells of the glories of playing minor league ball in the early 1970s. It was filled with bad stadiums, groupies and dodging tornadoes. (Hernandez tells as interesting story what happened to him when jumped into a ditch to avoid a tornado in Oklahoma.) And he also talks about his first forays into the world of drug use, first with marijuana and amphetamines.

The book is actually a fun ride through those early years with Hernandez, long before the world of the Internet, 24-hour news and iPhones everywhere. When Hernandez first makes it up to the Show, it was a bumpy first year for him, as expectations for him being another Stan Musial didn't go as planned. He was sent back to AAA. He credits Cardinals teammates such as Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Hector Cruz for being a good influence on him, especially Brock, who he still talks about reverantly during Mets broadcasts.

On the other end of the spectrum is Keith's foray into the world of broadcasting, and has nothing but love for his broadcast partners, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling. Hernandez also is pretty open about his "faux pas" committed in his time in the booth, especially the dustup he got into regarding women in the teams' locker rooms.

"I'm Keith Hernandez" isn't just about Keith's career on and off the field, but he gives his views on the current state of the game, like the obsession over sabermetrics, the pace of the game, and the fact the game is getting too one-dimensional in this "Home Run Era." I found Keith to be very honest in this book, and it is really how everything that happened to him before 1980 led up to who he is today.

I highly recommend "I'm Keith Hernandez" (which was just released on May 15) to any baseball fan who enjoys a good baseball bio of a recent baseball great. But if the book is successful, do you think he could coxed into writing another, post-1980? I wouldn't bet against it.

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