It's Retirement Day For Keith Hernandez' No. 17 !!
ALSO: DODGER STADIUM PEANUT VENDOR CAN'T FLIP HIS PRODUCT ANYMORE
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Did you know…
When Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell tied for NL MVP honors in 1979, it was the only deadlock since Most Valuable Player honors were created in 1931 . . .
Lack of power (162 home runs in 17 seasons) may be standing between Hernandez and the Baseball Hall of Fame . . .
Oakland rookie Jonah Bride, who can play every infield position, got hits in six of his first seven games . . .
Kansas City is counting on big things from the bat of just-promoted Vinnie Pasquantino . . .
San Francisco will miss starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, who is out for the season.
Mets To Retire Keith Hernandez’ Number Today
By Dan Schlossberg
Unlike their crosstown rivals, the New York Mets have been notoriously slow to honor their stars by retiring their numbers.
The Yankees not only started the tradition of retiring uniforms — Lou Gehrig’s No. 4 was the first — but have used up every single digit, even retiring one of them twice (No. 8 for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra).
As for the Mets, fans can count their number retirements on one hand.
Not counting the universally retired No. 42 for Jackie Robinson, they are Tom Seaver (41), Casey Stengel (37), Jerry Koosman (36), Mike Piazza (31), and Gil Hodges (14).
Keith Hernandez, who spent seven years playing first base for the team and the last 23 years in its broadcast booth, will join them today.
He will be only the fourth former Mets player honored (Hodges was with the original Mets but was honored for his work as a manager).
Think of all the stars thus far overlooked by the team: Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Rusty Staub, Tug McGraw, John Franco, Tommie Agee, Mookie Wilson, and many more.
The Mets say they prefer to retire numbers of players in the Hall of Fame but broke that tradition when Koosman was honored last season. It’s also worth noting that Hernandez has been in the Mets Hall of Fame since 1997 — along with 30 others.
A former batting champion and MVP who came to the Mets in a one-sided swap with the St. Louis Cardinals on June 15, 1983, Hernandez had countless big hits for the club. A lefty hitter not bothered by lefty pitchers, he had key hits in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS against Bob Knepper of the Astros and in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series against Red Sox southpaw Bruce Hurst.
“I was locked in whenever it was an RBI situation,” said Hernandez, who had a club-record 24 game-winning hits for the 1985 Mets. “If I could have had my way, every at-bat in my career would have been with men on base.”
Hernandez batted .297 over his 17-year career, .294 in late and close situations, and .291 with runners in scoring position. He also won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves, a record for any first baseman.
HTP contributor Jeff Kallman adds, “Hernandez is still the greatest fielding first baseman of all time according to total zone runs: he has +120, higher than any first baseman ever (Todd Helton is a distant second at +107). Between that and his on-base machinery, it should actually be enough for an Eras Committee to elect him to the Hall of Fame. I suspect Hernandez didn't make the Hall cut with the writers because he wasn't the standard big-bopping first baseman (he was really more of an on-base machine at the plate) and it took time to appreciate that he'd revolutionised the position in the field, making first base a critical point of infield play and leadership usually reserved for middle infielders or third basemen, but he does deserve the honor.”
A five-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, Hernandez was elected by teammates in 1987 to be the first team captain in Mets history. The Civil War buff famously dated Elaine Benes, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, on Seinfeld. He’s won two Emmy Awards for his work as a baseball analyst on SNY.
Hernandez, no fan of New York winter weather, has a permanent home in Florida.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has written 40 baseball books and thousands of articles about the game since graduating from Syracuse in 1969. Now on a speaking tour about baseball, he can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dodgers Bench Veteran Peanut Vendor
By Dan Schlossberg
Roger Owens has pitched peanuts to Presidents, showcased his talents on The Tonight Show, and become as big a hit as Freddie Freeman at Dodger Stadium. But his legendary bag-tossing ability has gone the way of the buffalo nickel and Sunday doubleheader.
Worried about fans getting hit with flying bags of peanuts, Levy Restaurants has ordered Owens to cease and desist. He can still sell peanuts but can’t toss them.
“I’m so heartbroken about this,” he told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times.
Owens has been a star at Chavez Ravine longer than any other Dodger. In fact, he’s been on the active vendor roster ever since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. He even worked at the L.A. Coliseum, where the team played when it first arrived from Brooklyn in 1958.
When the home team stinks, Owens is always worth seeing. He’s even been in two movies and three TV series — always in his true-life role as peanut vendor.
He can toss a bag behind his back or between his legs. It’s part of the show.
“They have time to see it coming,” Owens said when asked whether fans worry about wayward throws. “It’s not some bullet that goes straight through. I’m always wanting to make sure that whomever I am throwing to will catch the bag of peanuts. I want them to catch it, to feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Fans actually buy bags just to put Owens into action. On nights the team is losing, Owens is still winning. And how many teams have celebrity peanut vendors, anyway?
He’s befriended celebrities of his own; Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton and former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley were guests at his wedding.
The fans are divided in their rooting loyalties — home or visitors — except when it comes to Owens. If he were a politician, he’d be running unopposed.
All teams, including the Dodgers, have put up more extensive protective netting to avoid fans getting hit with foul balls. But nobody needs netting for peanuts.
Maybe Levy got skittish after a fan sued for damages because he was injured by hot coffee at a concessions stand. But language on Dodger tickets ostensibly protects both the team and the concessionaire.
It releases them from liability from incidents “prior to, during, or subsequent to, the actual playing of the game, including but not limited to the danger of being injured by players, other fans, thrown bats or portions thereof, thrown or batted balls or other objects or projectiles.”
They’re not taking away Roger Owens but they are taking away his act. It’s like asking Don Rickles — a frequent Dodger Stadium presence — to stop insulting people.
With the All-Star Game scheduled for Dodger Stadium July 19, the timing couldn’t be worse. Maybe Levy and the team will come out of their shell for at least one night.
“Pitching peanuts to the fans brings a lot of joy and happiness,” said Owens, who even wrote an autobiography called The Perfect Pitch. “That joy and happiness hasn’t been there.”
At 79, the ageless vendor with the golden arm deserves a last hurrah.
HTP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ loves roasted, unsalted peanuts. He eats them between innings while writing for forbes.com, Latino Sports, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. Contact him via email@example.com.
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Long-time Dodger Joc Pederson, now with the Giants, should be a big hit in his return to Dodger Stadium for the All-Star Game July 19 . . .
NL manager Brian Snitker of Atlanta is virtually certain to make All-Stars of both Pederson (Giants) and Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), key men in winning the 2021 world championship for the Braves . . .
World Series MVP Jorge Soler (Marlins) could go too, especially if Jazz Chisholm is still hobbled by injury in a couple of weeks.
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