Today in Sports History – Keith Hernandez trade
29 years ago today, first baseman Keith Hernandez was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the New York Mets for Neill Allen and Rick Ownbey.
The late 70′s and early 80′s were tough times to be a Met fan (I guess it still might be?). After being stuck in the basement of baseball standings for many years, the Mets gained instant respect when they acquired Keith. Easily the best defensive first baseman of his era, if not all time, Hernandez is arguably the greatest all-around player in Mets history .
He was a .300 hitter, but the stats only tell part of the story. Not only was there was no other player on the Mets you wanted hitting in a clutch situation, but also no other Met you would rather have the ball hit to with bases loaded and the game on the line.
The way we used to get excited when guys like Magic or Jordan had the rock, or when a prime Federer stepped on to the court, it was the same feeling for Mets fans when Keith Hernandez walked up to the plate. There was a feeling of comfort, almost a guarantee that something great was about to happen. He didn’t just hit the ball to left field, or right field, but was a pure hitter who got the ball to all portions of the park. On defense, his fielding was the epitome of excellence. I’ve been told by baseball fans that he was able to play his position as a first baseman, and at the same time partly cover the second base position as well. Let’s just say very few balls ever got by him.
So, what makes Hernandez even more special? Duh! He was in a two-part episode if Seinfeld titled “The Boyfriend“. In the episode, he goes out with Elaine and, at the end of their first date, the two are sitting in a car outside of Elaine’s apartment [awkwardly], trying to figure out the best way to end the evening. Elaine waits for Hernandez to make a move, but he has a moment of insecurity. To help get through the situation, he gives himself a little pep talk:
Go ahead. Kiss her. I’m a baseball player dammit. Come on, I won the MVP in ‘79. I can do whatever I want to.
When the two end up kissing, Elaine thinks to herself: “Who does this guy think he is?”
The answer, to him, isn’t too complex:
I’m Keith Hernandez!
And voilà, the “I’m Keith Hernandez” moment was born in sports. Any time we as fans are doubting a star, looking for criticisms before that defining moment, the athlete is most likely just telling themselves, “I can do this .. I’m _____ [insert their own name].” Guys like Magic, Jordan, Tiger, Gretzky, Kobe, A-Rod, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, ask them after a big moment, “how did you do that?!” Their honest answer should be and will be, “Man, I’m Keith Hernandez!” Of course, remember to insert the athlete’s name for the right situation.
Keith Hernandez won the World Series in 1982 with the Cardinals, and later in 1986 with the Mets. Since 2006, he’s been working as a baseball analyst on Mets telecasts for SportsNet New York and WPIX.