I’m Keith Hernandez
Little Brown and Company, May 2018
Full disclosure: A Die-hard Mets fan, I have had full-season tickets for 32 years, and attend an average of 75 games each season. I have also been an avid fan of Keith Hernandez, formerly the Mets first baseman and currently a member of the broadcast team that announces each Mets game, and the author of this wonderful memoir. So I cannot lay claim to impartiality. That said, this book is every bit as terrific as were/are the talents of its author. When a book begins with the words “I Love Baseball,” what else can it be to its readers, most if not all of whom feel the same emotion?
To say that the book is replete with statistics and historical recreations of wonderful moments in the sport would be an understatement. But that is all to the good! To quote the author: “I want to talk about my development as a baseball player and how it got me to the major leagues; I want to talk about how I gained the confidence to thrive in the bigs despite a grueling haul; and, finally, I want to talk about how my development as a young player affects how I see the game today from my seat in the broadcast booth.” And he does all of that, and more! As he also says: “I want to get to the core of my baseball story.” And he does just that, and more.
The tale begins in 1972, when Keith Hernandez “was getting ready to go to my first spring training.” I should state here that the biggest influences on this young man – 18 years old at this point in time, were, and always continued to be, his father (a former professional baseball player), and his brother Gary (the starting first baseman for the University of California Golden Bears baseball team), to both of whom he pays tribute throughout the book, deservedly. His Dad is a first-generation American, his parents having emigrated from Spain via the Pacific, arriving in San Francisco in 1916. His father “broke all kinds of school records, leading his team to a championship game at Seals Stadium, Mission High School, was named MVP, and was christened by the city as the next big star to come out of the Bay Area.’ Keith had been signed by the St. Louis Cardinals minor league team, whose spring training complex was in St. Petersburg, picked in the 42nd round of the June 1971 amateur draft, one of the 500 players taking part in the spring training games, with a mind-set of “baseball superstar or bust.” At age 18 he played in the Florida State League in 1972 “Some execs, scouts, and coaches claimed that young Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman – at any level – they’d come across in quite some time.” He talks about Pacifica, in 1961, when he was 7 and Gary 9, both trying out for Little League. We then jump to the time after the 1972 season in St. Pete, when he was “itching to get back home to San Francisco.” But unexpectedly he joined the Tulsa Oilers, the Cardinals’ AAA team, at his father’s insistence.
The author’s prominence in his chosen field of endeavor is indisputable. He earned more Gold Glove Awards (11) than any first baseman in baseball history. Since 2000, he has served as an analyst on Mets telecasts for the SNY, WPIX and MSG networks, and is a member of the Fox Sports MLB postseason studio team. Personally he and Gary Cohen are the absolute best in the business, and if I ever have to miss a game, at least I make sure I always have his play-by-play in close proximity. His book is reflective of all of that brilliance, and it is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2018.