A Man in Full Unleashes His Inner Goof
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
This is what was visible from a few feet behind Keith Hernandez in the SNY TV booth during Thursday night’s Mets game:
He giggled. He banged his desk with a nearly-empty popcorn carton.
His face shifted from the monitor to his right, to the field below him, and to his left, to communicate, sometimes with just a wink, with Ron Darling and Gary Cohen.
He gesticulated with karate chops at infield gaps for hitters to shoot through.
He read his friends’ text messages to him (lots of OMG’s these days).
He moved his hands almost frantically to fill his scorecards. His arsenal of six Sharpie markers (toted in two schoolboy’s pencil cases) let him connect the color chosen for a reliever (say, orange for Pedro Feliciano) to the batters he faces. With the fleet of relievers being hauled in by Mets Manager Jerry Manuel, Hernandez often uses his green, yellow, pink, blue, purple and orange markers, then starts again with color No. 1.
“It’s my ‘Disraeli Gears’ scorecard,” he said, referring to the psychedelic cover of the Cream album.
Baseball is an emotional excursion for Hernandez. Just look at his face.
His eyes bugged out when Ryan Church eluded a tag to tie the score.
He and Darling cringed on cue at Daniel Murphy’s bunt attempt on a 2-1 count.
Hernandez’s expression turned to astonishment when Murphy struck out while trying again to bunt. “Look at Jerry!” he shouted into his mouthpiece at the production truck, hoping the exasperation of Manager Jerry Manuel would be captured on screen.
“Oh, my word,” Hernandez said, using a vaguely Victorian phrase that can evoke his disappointment, surprise and amazement all within a few innings.
He is a playful and odd character, an admitted goofball who swears that he is on a diet but will wander into the booth licking an ice cream cone. He might discourse on the proper way to execute a rundown one day, then discuss a recent liver flush the next.
“He said the bile was disgusting,” Darling said. Hernandez said he enjoyed an occasional liver flush’s health benefits but did it only in the off-season.
He is a baseball man having as much fun as possible short of winning the World Series. He is happily married. His wife, Kai; his three daughters; a granddaughter; his dog, Duncan; and cats are frequently mentioned, and sometimes seen, on the games.
“He’s our Ralph Kiner, our Phil Rizzuto,” Darling said. “He’s enjoying life a million times more than anybody else. He’s got it together.”
You could not predict Hernandez’s evolution into a character. As a player, he was so intense. As a broadcaster, he did not stand out until he arrived at SNY. In his previous years with MSG, he did not seem overly ambitious.
Still, he played a fascinating version of himself on “Seinfeld.”
“I didn’t work enough at MSG, and I never did full games,” he said. “I was gone after the sixth inning, like Rizzuto.”
He credits Gregg Picker, who produces the Mets games for SNY, with allowing his silly side to emerge, in a way that mirrors Leslie Nielsen’s liberation from serious leading man to deadpan comic actor in “Airplane!”
“Gregg doesn’t want the average broadcast,” Hernandez said. “He wants me to be quirky. I have Gregg encouraging me in my ear to be myself and Webby telling me not to become the class clown.” (Bill Webb directs the game broadcasts.)
A game with Hernandez will veer between baseball analysis and references to Douglas MacArthur, the Civil War, cartoons, his museum visits with Kai, “The Three Musketeers” (loved the book, disliked all the film versions), his beans-and-sprouts diet, his father or his achy quadriceps. An occasional motif in his commentary is drinking, which Hernandez knows a little bit about. Earlier this week, he castigated Cubs reliever Carlos Mármol for throwing too many sliders with a five-run lead.
“In our day,” he said, “cutting into our cocktail hour, I’d be all over him.”
Cohen is amused by doses of Hernandez unbound.
“I’d love to do a full brain scan on him, to find out what happens when he goes from Point A to Point B,” Cohen said. “It’s an absolute trip every day.”
Picker added, “I love that he broadcasts as if the mic were not on — which can be a slippery slope.”
That edge of candor was reached in the 2006 season when Hernandez spotted Kelly Calabrese, a full-time massage therapist for the San Diego Padres, sitting in the team’s dugout. “I won’t say that women belong in the kitchen,” he told Cohen, “but they don’t belong in the dugout.”
Hernandez later apologized. “I like to walk the line,” he said Thursday, “but I know how far I can go.”
Picker said, “Keith has no inhibitions about what he’ll say or admit to.”
A personality like Hernandez’s can be dangerous, bracing or just plain amusing.
“One time,” Picker said, “the number 44 came up and Gary and Ron were naming guys who wore 44 and Hank Aaron’s name came up. Keith said, ‘Hank Aaron wore 44. Really?’ ” Really.
Hernandez does not mind being corrected, as if being set straight on when a third baseman should guard the line were part of his quest to complete his life’s education.
But Darling said his partner and former teammate resisted harping too much on players’ lapses in their fundamentals. “He doesn’t pout, but he grabs my right arm or shakes it or writes down what should have been done,” he said.
Hernandez said that his 105-game schedule was enough. The 90-minute postgame trips home to the Hamptons from Shea Stadium are exhausting.
So he has packed up his East End home and is ready to return to his house in Jupiter, Fla. He will, as usual, read voraciously from his collection of 700 leather-bound Easton Press books. He will do so, for hours at a time, in his bathtub.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
― Dr Morbius, Monday, 29 September 2008 20:22 (ten years ago) link
― Every Day Jimmy Mod Is Hustlin' (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Monday, 29 September 2008 22:19 (ten years ago) link
he and this article rule
― gabbneb, Monday, 29 September 2008 22:35 (ten years ago) link
i almost noted this on the mets thread for the benefit of those at the game
Darling replied, after a pause, "You've changed."
― gabbneb, Monday, 29 September 2008 22:37 (ten years ago) link
“I won’t say that women belong in the kitchen,” he told Cohen, “but they don’t belong in the dugout.”
ok, maybe not as cool
― gabbneb, Monday, 29 September 2008 22:39 (ten years ago) link
Hernandez = at least 30% of why I watch the Mets
― Andy K, Monday, 29 September 2008 22:57 (ten years ago) link
I didn't hear one anti-Hugo Chavez rant his year.
Made me want to scream with his "Ryan Howard is gonna be the NL MVP this year" mantra the last 2 weeks; like Joe Morgan, he doesn't appreciate players who are more like the way he was!
― Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 13:11 (ten years ago) link
Keith was telling tales today of his year in the Texas League and marathon bus rides over hundreds of miles, the longest being 23 hours. It was a Greyhound bus, and the players took shifts SLEEPING IN THE OVERHEAD LUGGAGE RACKS just so they could stretch out.
― Pope Rusty I (Dr Morbius), Friday, 8 March 2013 01:06 (six years ago) link
texas league would be a nightmare -- it's 850 miles from springfield, mo to corpus christi, it's crazy fucking hot all summer, and there are only eight teams so you're making those trips too often.
i think the florida state league would be best. it's too humid, but the longest trip is like 200 miles and there are at least a lot of rainouts.
― mookieproof, Friday, 8 March 2013 01:18 (six years ago) link
he mentioned waking up at dawn in the bus and being laid low by passing an EL PASO 498 MI sign.
He played in Little Rock that year, yowza.
― Pope Rusty I (Dr Morbius), Friday, 8 March 2013 01:54 (six years ago) link
on Chris Stewart's passed ball: "Oh my word -- inopportune!"
― ballin' from Maine to Mexico (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:36 (six years ago) link
could someone just tell him pitchers are bigger and stronger than they've ever been? Every 2 weeks it's the "residual effects of the steroid era" lamentation.
― son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Friday, 20 June 2014 00:00 (five years ago) link
did anyone catch the subject of Keith's ad lib "Keep them in baseball and out of politics" 15 minutes ago? Was he talking about Ivy Leaguers?
― son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 17 August 2014 18:25 (four years ago) link
didnt see, tho i did catch him doing the ice bucket challenge in a popeye tee and showing appropriately sw0le guns, maybe he'll be in expendables 4
― johnny crunch, Sunday, 17 August 2014 20:08 (four years ago) link
keith says the '63 mets are the worst team he's ever managed in stratomatic
― mookieproof, Monday, 18 August 2014 16:42 (four years ago) link
this bunch is back to hitting like the '63 Mets
― son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Monday, 18 August 2014 18:02 (four years ago) link
just called 'careless whisper' a 'great song'
― mookieproof, Wednesday, 20 August 2014 21:43 (four years ago) link
^isn't it? who are you, Steve Albini?
Keith is now basically the protagonist of the novel John Updike and Dan Jenkins never collaborated on....
― skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 30 September 2015 03:28 (three years ago) link
i have nothing against careless whisper; i was merely surprised to hear keith weigh in on it during a baseball game
otoh gary thorne gave listeners a crash course on mariachi music earlier today, so
― mookieproof, Wednesday, 30 September 2015 22:08 (three years ago) link
― skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 20 October 2015 15:44 (three years ago) link
Andrew Perloff @andrewperloffKeith Hernandez says he heard Dodgers gave scouts a 3-question essay test, stressing Sabermetrics, and scouts who didn't pass were fired.
keithlaw @keithlaw I have confirmed that this is utter nonsense.
― skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 22 October 2015 17:05 (three years ago) link
Former Met Keith Hernandez to release tell-all memoir in 2017
― mookieproof, Monday, 7 December 2015 17:20 (three years ago) link
Classic Keith moment
― Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 20 July 2017 14:16 (one year ago) link
David Ortiz on FS1: "I thought the Mets were supposed to own the town this year."Keith Hernandez: "Only when I was here, brother."— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) October 18, 2017
― mookieproof, Wednesday, 18 October 2017 20:52 (one year ago) link
Keith just said he reads Victor Hugo aloud to himself in an empty house— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) April 5, 2018
― mookieproof, Thursday, 5 April 2018 19:12 (one year ago) link
Ordinarily I'd criticize a man for tucking in his windbreaker. But Keith Hernandez obviously knew how special that goddamn waistband was. pic.twitter.com/0TVfkB2Lup— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) April 6, 2018
― Andy K, Friday, 6 April 2018 12:11 (one year ago) link
Is that Ken Oberkfell on right before he grew his beard? Tommy Herr on the left I believe.
― earlnash, Friday, 6 April 2018 12:39 (one year ago) link
I heard the resding aloud thing. He has a(n audio) book coming out in May.
― the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Friday, 6 April 2018 16:24 (one year ago) link
Gotta be Oberkfell River.
― Andy K, Saturday, 7 April 2018 00:01 (one year ago) link
Okay all your sceptics! I’m officially blue checked! I’m Keith Hernandez! Have a good day. Feel good about your Mets. I do. Long way to go.— keith Hernandez (@kher8286) April 10, 2018
― mookieproof, Tuesday, 10 April 2018 15:21 (one year ago) link
Seinfeld Night V on Saturday, August 4th. The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a Keith Hernandez Talking Alarm Clock Giveaway. It's real, and it's spectacular -- tickets on sale at 10 AM. pic.twitter.com/jfudmEOGlk— Brooklyn Cyclones (@BKCyclones) April 25, 2018
― mookieproof, Thursday, 26 April 2018 15:33 (one year ago) link
What a night and early morning last night. Gary said he never been longer at a ballpark in his entire career. Bus left hotel at 10am. Game finished at 1:30am, didn’t get back to hotel till 2:30am. You do the math. Second game was horrific. Typical, young, unpolished relievers— keith Hernandez (@keithhernandez) May 29, 2018
― the ignatius rock of ignorance (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 29 May 2018 17:19 (one year ago) link
― WilliamC, Tuesday, 29 May 2018 17:34 (one year ago) link
actual booth dialogue from a blowout game:Gary Cohen: We looked up your 3 career pinch home runs, Keith, and you're gonna like this; all 3 came off of Cy Young Award winnersKeith Hernandez: That makes my heart soar like a hawk.— Matthew Callan (@scratchbomb) April 24, 2019
― mookieproof, Wednesday, 24 April 2019 02:18 (two months ago) link