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Keith Hernandez was born on October 20, 1953 in San Francisco, California), and attended Capuchino High School and the College of San Mateo (also known as San Mateo Junior College).
Hernandez was drafted by the Cardinals in the 42nd round of the 1971 draft, as the 776th overall player. He quickly rose to the upper echelon in the League. In 1979, he led the league with a .344 batting average, 48 doubles, and 116 runs scored, and went on to share the National League MVP award with Willie Stargell.
Hernandez was quickly given the nickname "Mex," apparently because his teammates, given his surname, believed he was of Mexican descent. They were incorrect—Hernandez is of Spanish descent—but the nickname stuck.
After several disagreements with Cardinal management, Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983. The Cardinals received pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey in return. While this trade was probably the best in Mets history, it was a terrible one for the Cardinals.
In 1985, Hernandez's cocaine use, which had been the subject of persistent rumors and the chief source of friction between Hernandez and Cards manager Whitey Herzog, became a matter of public record as a result of the Pittsburgh trial of drug dealer Curtis Strange. Hernandez is believed to have stopped using cocaine since.
Hernandez wore uniform number 18 for the first two years of his career. In 1976, he switched to number 37, insisting that his uniform number end with a 7. The Mets had retired number 37 for former manager Casey Stengel, so Hernandez switched to number 17, which he wore for the remainder of his career. His arrival and veteran leadership seemed to give the Mets confidence and credibility. In 1984, his first full season with the team, the Mets improved from a record of 68-94 to 90-72. The Mets finished second behind the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and the Cardinals in 1985, but won the World Series in 1986. The following season, Hernandez was named the first team captain in franchise history.
Hernandez was often compared to New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly. Both had won several Gold Gloves, a batting title and a Most Valuable Player award. Unfortunately, both players also had their careers curtailed by back injuries. Hernandez also suffered from knee and hamstring problems. By 1988, at the age of just 34, Hernandez began a sharp decline, and the Mets chose not to re-sign him after his contract ran out at the close of the 1989 season.
Post Baseball Career
In 1997 Hernandez was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame. In 2002, in celebration of the Met's 40th anniversary, fans voted Hernandez as the Met's all-time first baseman. However, the voting body for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), was never convinced by Hernandez' qualifications. In 2004, after a nine year period of eligibility, Hernandez failed to garner the requisite 5% of the votes that are necessary to remain on the following year's ballot. Hernandez received 22 votes with the threshold for that year being 25.
Hernandez' last opportunity for Hall of Fame consideration remains with the Veterans Committee, where his name will appear on their ballot no earlier than 2011, which is twenty years from the date of his retirement.
In 1991, Mets pitcher David Cone switched from 44 to 17 in tribute to Hernandez. Former teammates Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell all wore number 17 in tribute to Hernandez for teams they played for after leaving the Mets.
Hernandez authored Pure Baseball: Pitch by Pitch for the Advanced Fan, which gives fans a detailed pitch-by-pitch player's look into baseball strategy, and currently serves as the Mets game analyst on SportsNet New York, where he recently found himself in hot water after making inappropriate remarks about the San Diego Padres team trainer, who happened to be female.
- All-Star Games: 5 (1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1987)
- World Series Champion: 2 (1982, 1986)
- 1979 MLB MVP
- Winner of 11 consecutive Gold Glove awards ('78-'88)
- Selected by St. Louis Cardinals in the 42nd round of the free-agent draft (June 8, 1971).
- Traded by St. Louis Cardinals to New York Mets in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey (June 15, 1983).
- Granted free agency (November 13, 1989).
- Signed by Cleveland Indians (December 7, 1989).