DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.
You competence know a guest Keith Hernandez as a big-league ballplayer or as a noted guest on dual episodes of “Seinfeld.” And if you’re a New York Mets fan, you’ll know him as a tone researcher for a team’s TV broadcasts. In 17 seasons in a large leagues, Hernandez was famous for attack disagreeable blind drives and for gorgeous defensive plays during initial base. He won Gold Glove Awards, a batting title, a Most Valuable Player Award and dual World Series rings.
As a broadcaster these days, he’s built utterly a amicable media following, during times posting videos of his aging Bengal cat Hadji. Hernandez has a memoir, now out in paperback, that focuses reduction on his value days in a diversion than on times he struggled, generally when he was immature and perplexing to adjust to big-league pressure, big-league pitchers and a stresses of personification any day. The book is called “I’m Keith Hernandez.” we spoke with him final year, when his discourse was published.
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DAVIES: Well, Keith Hernandez, acquire to FRESH AIR. You know, we recently review in a new book about Tiger Woods that his father put him in a highchair in his garage when he was, like, an tot and had him watch his father holding golf swings. And afterwards he had him overhanging a golf bar when he was a toddler. And we review in your book that your father had a kind of a training supply setup in your garage for your hermit and you. Tell us about that and what it meant to you.
KEITH HERNANDEZ: Well, a garage in Pacifica, Calif., didn’t have Sheetrock on a ceiling, and it was usually all a two-by-fours and a cranky bars and a beams. So – and we did have a strut going across. It was a loft, kind of like – roughly like an open attic. And Dad set up, on a center of a garage – and we were – my hermit and we were both left-hand hitters – so he set it adult some-more on a right side of a garage if we were looking during a doorway so we could take a full representation – a wire tied around one of a two-by-fours and extended a wire down and afterwards put dual white string jaunty hosiery with a tennis turn in it and afterwards tied it to a rope.
And a rope, during full extension, would be a knee-high strike. We started doing this when we were, like, 6, 7 years old. we mean, it was my hermit and I. And afterwards if we wanted to get it adult aloft to a belt-high strike, we usually chuck a – we usually threw a wire over a two-by-four. If we wanted a high pitch, keep throwing it over, maybe two, three, 4 times, and it was a high pitch. And a turn would representation like a pendulum. And it would – a arc of a turn going adult after we stroked it would strike a underside of a loft, that was, like, one-by-fours. So we noted them – we know, single, out, double, fly turn – and we would representation for hours and play games with that.
And my dad, in a beginning, would watch us swing, make certain we were overhanging properly. And eventually, he felt that we had it down flattering good. And we know, he didn’t have to watch. we remember him observant when we was comparison that he’d come home from work – he was a fireman in San Francisco for 30 years – and he’d hear that pulsation of a tennis turn opposite a rafters. And we know, it would give him a headache sometimes. And – though it finished him giggle given we was there holding – we know, we was substantially 500 to a thousand swings a day. we usually positively desired it.
DAVIES: Right. And we know, we and your hermit weren’t usually slapping during it given your father knew something about a game. He would demeanour during your mechanics. Tell us a bit about him. How did he know so many about baseball?
HERNANDEZ: Well, my father was a teenager joining player, and he was creatively drafted by a Brooklyn Dodgers before World War II. He got strike in a conduct his initial year, and his eyes – no helmets those days – eyes gradually got worse. And he eventually played for Cleveland and Oklahoma City and afterwards was traded to a Cardinals and played underneath Johnny Keane in Houston, where he met my mother. And they got married after a season. He was a unequivocally good hitter and a unequivocally excellent fielding initial baseman.
And his career was shortened. And so he put it all – after a fight – he served 4 years in a use – in a Navy during Pearl Harbor in a vessel correct unit, played on a U.S. Navy team, that played a U.S. Army group and Army Air Corps. Stan Musial, in ’45, played with my father. Ted Williams was personification on a teams – a Marine team. So there was all these ex – all these vital leaguers personification in this league, were interesting a troops, basically.
DAVIES: Yeah. So it’s transparent we had talent. But it was all of that use from somebody who knew what he was doing that no doubt honed your skills. You were drafted by a St. Louis Cardinals classification and were a cherished prospect. A lot was approaching of you. And it took years for you, as we write in a book, to unequivocally get your walk as a hitter. And partly that was, we know, adjusting mechanics and training pitches. But a lot of it was emotional. How did your conduct get in a way?
HERNANDEZ: Well, we always – we report my infirmity – my romantic fragility. we mean, you’re – we come out of high school. You’re a star in your small area we grew up. we grew adult with a baby boomers, and there was lots of kids to play turn with. And all of a sudden, my initial open training, there’s 700 kids in a camp, and there’s usually 8 teams. And we know I’m going to make a team. we got a signing reward of 30,000, that was unheard of for a 42nd turn pick.
But it usually – a large composition is we play dual games a week in summer joining in – behind in those days, in high school. And now you’re personification – we trust it was 128 games scheduled in a teenager leagues, something like that. And you’re personification any day. And you’re not going to strike .500 like we did in high school. we strike .256 in A-ball. we strike .260 in Double-A a subsequent year. And we know, it was tough. It was depressing.
And afterwards we go in slumps, and it’s your initial knowledge with slumps. And it’s all a training process. And you’re a hotheaded, 18-year-old kid, and we don’t know how to hoop it. You chuck helmets. You chuck bats. You flog dirt. And we know – and you’ve got coaches perplexing to tell we to ease down and you’ve got to learn to play this diversion on an even keel. And it’s all partial of a process. That’s what a teenager leagues are about. But it – we know, it takes a prolonged time, and everybody’s different. It took me a lot longer.
DAVIES: we consider we write during one indicate that one of your coaches suspicion we indispensable to be divided from your father a small bit. we mean, he was such…
DAVIES: …An critical change in your life. Was he – we don’t know, a challenge, a burden? Was it formidable with him, too?
HERNANDEZ: Well, when a Cardinals were scouting me, Dad negotiated my contract. They got a clarity of a strength and a energy of my father. Bob Kennedy – there was an A-ball group in Modesto in a California state league. There was 3 A-ball teams – Cedar Rapids, St. Pete in a Florida State League – and California state league. Bob Kennedy kept me out of a California state league, that he felt we wasn’t prepared to play in given that was a tip A-ball league. And he put me in a intermediate Florida State League, that was a tough league.
And he told me years after he wanted to kind of cut a apron strings from my father. So there we go – Bob Kennedy being a genuine change on my career.
DAVIES: What – do we consider we indispensable to cut a strings from your father a bit?
HERNANDEZ: Yes, no question. It was a right thing to do given Dad – my hermit played in a California state league, and Dad came to all of his games usually whenever he could. And that would have gathering me crazy. Gary had a opposite attribute with my father than we did with him. And yes, it was a right thing to do to get me divided from him and get me to mount adult on my possess dual feet.
DAVIES: Was he hypercritical? You felt like we usually couldn’t greatfully him?
HERNANDEZ: Well, he coached us all by Little League, and he was usually wonderful. And a relatives and a kids were all benefited from his instruction. And he was unequivocally superb with a kids. But once we got into high school, he was so petrified that a manager would harm me. And it was – in other words, he mislaid control. And that’s when things started to get a small dicey between me and him.
He would always watch whenever he can. He was a fireman. He worked 24 hours, off 48. He had dual days off, so he would be during any use in high school, watching. And it was like, we know, “The Central Scrutinizer,” we know, from Frank Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage” album. we mean, it was usually like perpetually watching. And we would feel – it was like a hide over me. And we would come home on pins and needles. we didn’t know if we would, we know, get laid into or he would grin and regard me. It was kind of a tough situation.
DAVIES: And that continued into your vital joining career, too, right?
HERNANDEZ: Yes, it did.
DAVIES: Well, I’m certain he was a good guy. And he died in 1992. Right?
HERNANDEZ: He did, ironically, one year after my retirement. So it was too bad he couldn’t have lived longer.
DAVIES: We’re vocalization with Keith Hernandez. His new discourse is called “I’m Keith Hernandez.” We’ll continue a review in usually a moment. This is FRESH AIR.
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DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR, and we’re vocalization with Keith Hernandez. He spent 17 years in a large leagues, had World Series teams with a St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. He has a new discourse called “I’m Keith Hernandez.”
I wish to speak about personification initial base. First bottom is a healthy place for collisions. Right? we mean, when there’s a belligerent ball, you’re there to locate a chuck from a infielder. And hopefully, it’s on target. But it competence be into a trail of a runner, who might not see it…
DAVIES: …Because a curtain is busting it down a line, not indispensably looking during a throw. When we could see that was going to occur – a turn was going to be into a trail of a curtain – did we have techniques for possibly warning a curtain or usually perplexing to equivocate removing harm or spiteful a runner?
HERNANDEZ: Well, No. 1, a curtain can’t run inside a baseline. He’s got to be on a chalk. So a chuck into him or we got to widen towards home plate, we feel flattering assured that I’m not going to get hit. It’s adult to me to make certain that we walk in satisfactory domain towards a turn – we stretch. Excuse me.
And a usually time we was ever frightened – when we was older, in my final year in Cleveland, Oakland Raider regulating behind that played for Kansas City, All-American Bo Jackson, strike a belligerent turn to shortstop. And a chuck was down a line into him. And we listened him regulating like – he was like a flock of buffalo.
HERNANDEZ: I’m not exaggerating. I’d never had that knowledge before, and we played opposite some large guys.
He was regulating so fast, and he was such a big, clever male that when we – we remember we cringed when we held a turn usually in hopes that he wouldn’t shave me on my left shoulder. And he missed me. Thank goodness. we finished certain we stretched adult a line, though that’s a usually time ever in my career.
If a chuck is too distant adult a line, we make a judgment. First bottom was a partial of me, and that’s also an prolongation of meaningful where a curtain is. we have good marginal vision. we have good clarity of where a curtain is. Can we come off a bag? Instead of stretching, can we usually come off a bag and get a turn and make a tab instead of staying on a bag? we was means to do that. It was usually all second inlet to me.
The easy partial of a diversion for me was fielding. If attack could have been as easy as fielding, we would have strike .400.
The other thing about personification initial base, it’s a one place where there are a lot of – there’s time to inverse with an hostile player. A actor – a bottom curtain gets on. And we know, we mean, a pitcher and catcher – we mean, a hitter and catcher are nearby any other, though they’re kind of busy. The catcher’s removing a signs.
When you’re with a curtain during first, you’re mostly watchful for a pitcher to get ready. And we can see there’s chatter.
DAVIES: Is it friendly? Were there guys who’d try and use that to get in your head? Or would we try to get in other players’ heads?
HERNANDEZ: we was a blabbermouth and for one reason. we would ask a hitters how they felt during a plate. And if a hitter would – it was usually a commencement when a – in a aged days, we would never speak to a hostile actor during a game, before a diversion in BP. There was no – it was a enemy. And that was starting to change in my era. It started to change in a ’60s. And in a ’70s, it even got – it modernized further.
But I’d always ask, we know, if a male came to a – initial base, how do we feel during a plate? And if they start, well, we know, we don’t feel so good da-da-da-da-da (ph). Oh, man, we feel great. Well, I’m in a prohibited streak. You know, well, we would send that information.
DAVIES: To your pitcher.
HERNANDEZ: Rick – yes. And – actually, to a pitching staff and – or a pitching coach. Rick Monday had a humorous story. Rick Monday’s a unequivocally dear friend. He now does radio for a Dodgers. He goes, oh, we’re drifting into St. Louis. Hernandez is on initial base. We improved all strike doubles…
HERNANDEZ: …So they wouldn’t have to speak to me (laughter).
DAVIES: You know, diversion has altered given we played. we mean, we now have – they count visits to a mound. There are challenges. There are present replays. What do we consider of a diversion today?
HERNANDEZ: Well, we unequivocally feel that they’re – a diversion is going by radical changes. we don’t – all a analytics, I’m kind of – when we finished this book, my – we wish it had been 9 months after given I’m kind of removing a grasp of analytics. And I’m kind of – I’ll never 100% go with them, though I’ve talked to too many former players, teammates that are in front offices and say, hey, we can unequivocally be astounded what we can wean from analytics. It’s so precise, so in-depth. OK. Fine. I’m entrance around on that.
But still, statistics are sterile. we skip a finish diversion – a pitcher going 9 innings. And we know, we can’t censure a pitchers today. That’s what – how they’re brought adult – we know, 5 innings and they’re gone, a hundred pitches, they’re gone. we can’t penetrate my teeth into it. we can’t hang my arms around that. we consider it lowers a bar. And it’s all about excellence, essay to be a best that we can be. we don’t wish someone to come in and finish that diversion for me. we wish to finish a diversion – or if it’s an inning and you’re in difficulty and they take him out – that they do given it’s a representation count – let him finish a inning.
So we don’t wish to go on and on and on. But that’s a approach a diversion is, and that’s a approach it’s going to be. And I’ve come to – I’m during assent with it, so I’m not going to get all riled about it. And it’s usually a approach it is. And we do skip how a diversion was played before – we know, a integrate decades before.
DAVIES: Well, we don’t mind we removing riled during all. What about a gait of play?
HERNANDEZ: Well, we consider a large culprits are a pitchers. And we see so many 0-2 depends where they’ve got a hitter unequivocally corroborated adult opposite a wall. I’m in difficulty when I’m 0-2. And they don’t know how to representation and put a – blow a pitcher – blow a hitter away. It goes, inevitably, to 3-2. That adds to representation count. That adds a – now you’re not going to go 7 innings. Now you’re going to go six, maybe 5 and two-thirds.
And here comes a bullpens. And a lot of a bullpens scent and – guys that come in and don’t chuck strikes. I’ve talked to scouts. They demeanour during a male get a turn a farthest ’cause of home runs in and a pitcher that can chuck a hardest. It’s no longer representation to contact.
Warren Spahn wasn’t a tough thrower, a biggest left-hander of all time. Warren Spahn had a oddball – examination Warren Spahn representation was like examination Rembrandt paint a masterpiece – on a corners, low, a small additional here, a small off there, oddball here, up-and-in fastball there. These tough throwers – they don’t have a authority of their violation ball. And Major League hitters can strike fastballs, and that creates for prolonged depends and creates for prolonged games. And now we got a analytics, and I’m adult there going positively out of my mind.
DAVIES: I’m not adequate of a turn geek to unequivocally know what Hall of Fame numbers demeanour like, but, we mean, you’ve won 11 true Gold Gloves. You were a career .296 hitter with 162 home runs. You had a batting title, an MVP award, dual World Series rings. Why aren’t we in a Hall of Fame?
HERNANDEZ: Well, my father – we was a really, unequivocally good athlete. And we used to be means to run flattering good – not fast, though above average. we stole 19 or – 19 bases in 1982. Home runs – finished a lot. we played in St. Louis. It was 386 in a gaps. It was 335 down a lines.
DAVIES: Big park.
HERNANDEZ: It was a outrageous park.
HERNANDEZ: And it was fallen and subterraneous one travel level. And a usually alfresco partial of a ballpark was from left-center to right-center, and it would blow in. And when it got prohibited in a summer, we had to strike line drives. And we called it Death Valley. And we was a line expostulate hitter anyway.
So a 162 home runs, whatever it is – we know, if I’d have played during Wrigley Field or if I’d have played during Veterans Stadium or Three Rivers Stadium, we substantially would’ve strike over dual home – 200 home runs, and that would’ve helped, that means some-more RBI. we gathering in over a thousand runs. So we mislaid some time personification with some two-strikes and dual lockouts, we know? Those are games that won opposite a house that we wasn’t means to play.
DAVIES: Does it worry we that you’re not in the…
HERNANDEZ: No, and I’ll tell we why. When it’s all pronounced and finished and I’m prolonged gone, who’s going remember? And we know, I’m not going to worry about it. What bothers me a most, Dave, is my .300 lifetime batting average. I’m during .296.
And ironically, my childhood statue – innate on a same birthday as him – Mickey Mantle, Oct 20 – when we got my initial turn label and we saw that, he was my idol. we always had a 7 on my back. That is Mickey’s pet peeve. we review in his autobiography that he lost, ’cause of damage – he stayed around too prolonged – he mislaid his .300 lifetime batting average. And ironically, I’m in a same boat. I’m a .300 hitter. I’m not a .296 hitter.
DAVIES: Keith Hernandez, it’s been fun. Thanks so many for vocalization with us.
HERNANDEZ: we can’t appreciate we adequate for carrying me.
DAVIES: Keith Hernandez is now a broadcaster for New York Mets games. His book, now in paperback, is called “I’m Keith Hernandez.”
After a break, we’ll remember former pitcher Jim Bouton, whose book “Ball Four” is still regarded as a classic, and actor Rip Torn, best famous as a plain-spoken writer Artie on “The Larry Sanders Show.” Both died this week. Also, John Powers reviews a British radio array “London Kills.” I’m Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”)
DR JOHN: (Singing) Take me out to a ballgame. Take me out to a crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. we don’t caring if we never get behind ’cause let’s root, root, base for a home team. And if they don’t win, it’s a contrition ’cause it’s one, two, 3 strikes, you’re out, during a aged ballgame.
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