Two-time World Series Champion, 1982, 1986.
Five-time All-Star, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1987.
Eleven Gold Gloves at first base – A Major League Baseball record.
1979 National League Most Valuable Player Award, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, shared with Pittsburgh Pirates player, Willie Stargell.
1980 Silver Slugger Award winner – The first St. Louis Cardinals first baseman to achieve the honor.
1984 Silver Slugger Award winner – The first New York Mets first baseman to win the award.
Yes, Keith Hernandez accomplished a great deal during his sixteen year Major League Baseball career, but as he states in the opening pages of “I’m Keith Hernandez: A Memoir,” his book, is not going to be another clichéd sports memoir. Hernandez opts not to follow a formulaic structure, and I think his decision served him well. Right from the outset, fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, yearning to learn behind the scenes information from Hernandez about the 1982 World Series championship team will be disappointed; so too, will New York Mets fans, and their desire to vicariously relive, through Hernandez, former days of baseball glory that took place during the Mets 1986 World Series championship season, because the book ends in 1980. The memoir delves into the player Hernandez was at the outset of his quest to become a professional baseball player, and what transpired during the years it took for him to achieve his ultimate goal. I learned, much to my surprise, that when Hernandez was younger, even though he demonstrated tremendous ability for playing baseball, he was plagued by insecurities and a lack of confidence. I had never known Hernandez, through his public persona, to be anything but a confident individual, and a person who is not afraid to speak his mind.
Hernandez always impressed me as someone who was highly intelligent, and the memoir confirmed that for me. Furthermore, while I never questioned his obvious love of baseball, I knew from things that he had said, and the book further elaborates on those points, that his entire existence was not consumed with the game he played so well. Hernandez’s interests extend into other areas. For example, he collects both art and books, and is an ardent student of history, especially the history pertaining to the American Civil War.
In his candid, insightful, and entertaining memoir, which seamlessly shifts back and forth from past to present, Hernandez touches on how his father drilled the importance of baseball fundamentals into him at an early age, as well as his relationship with his brother, Gary. In general, the twice married, father of three daughters, does not provide a great deal of information regarding his private life outside of baseball. Readers looking for that sort of tell all book will be left wanting more. Instead, Hernandez delves into areas such as the good and bad he experienced in the minor leagues, everything from the inordinately long bus trips from one ballpark to the next, coping with life away from home for the first time, and cutting loose at the end of a day or evening of playing his hardest. He also spends a portion of the memoir discussing his chase, during the 1979 season, for the National League batting title, where he bested the all-time hits leader, and perennial All-Star, Pete Rose. Additionally, amongst numerous other subjects, Hernandez details how his approach to hitting evolved over the years, from his earliest sessions with his father, John, ( a good baseball player in his own right, although he never made it to the major leagues), to the critical advice he received in the minor and major leagues from veterans of the game, which wound up both helping him, but also, at one point, had an adverse affect on his swing. (As an aside, Pete Rose, the player Hernandez beat for the batting title in 1979 finished his career with 4,256 hits).
Hernandez intersperses the chapters of his playing career with his current job as a member of the on-air, SNY (Sportsnet New York) television team, where he offers viewers his analysis and commentary. He works alongside former major league baseball pitcher, Ron Darling, who in 1989, became the first Mets pitcher to be awarded a Gold Glove; and play by play, announcer, Gary Cohen, who had previously spent seventeen years on the Mets radio team. Hernandez has nothing but praise and respect for his broadcast partners, as well as the individuals, off camera, who keep the production running smoothly. Included in those chapters, are Hernandez’s feelings regarding the current state of baseball. He talks about his views on the impact of expansion; his belief that saber metrics are relied on too much, as opposed to the gut feelings of a team’s manager and coaches, and how the use of such enhanced data extends the length of the games, which dulls their enjoyment for the fans.
Overall, I don’t think a reader needs to have been a fan of either The St. Louis Cardinals, or The New York Mets – nor for that matter did they have to have seen Hernandez play – in order to enjoy the memoir. I think this is the sort of well written, against standard type sports memoir that baseball fans can really enjoy, and lose track of time reading. I know I did on a few occasions, paying for it at work the next day, but I was just so interested in reading what Hernandez had to say, that I kept pushing myself to read a few more pages.