- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Meet The Mex (But Don't Call Him That)

Terrific profile of a Met legend in a place I wouldn't have expected it — no offense to nycPlus,a free monthly paper “for the 50+ crowd with a zest for living”. My social worker wife brought it home because the November cover story features Keith Hernandez (and the cover features a tabby, though not one as adorable as our Hozzie).

Keith's in this publication on merit. He's 50+ if you can believe that. He's 52. And, as ever, he's candid because he can't not be.

Regarding his lashing out at the Mets as quitters in 2002 and then feeling compelled to retract: “They got all pissed off. I meant what I said, but I had to apologize. It was a blanket indictment of the whole team, and that was unfair. They went on to win seven in a row and then went back to their old ways.”

On his most famous off-field appearance, his Seinfeld episodes: “Terrifying. A live audience. Lots of lines. Not a good experience. Just living in New York makes these things happen.”

The drug habit that eventually got him in trouble: “I basically somoked pot till I was 29. Because I needed to. Somewhere down the road, someone was traded for, again I won't mention the name, and that was that. Cocaine. The slippery slope. Not recommended for anyone.”

And his nickname, the one that bears no resemblance to his heritage: “I hate that 'Mex' and my dad hated it worse. 'Spain!' he'd yell. 'Where is that on the map? Europe!'”

Keith Hernandez has always seemed difficult to pin down in retirement. Fun to listen to but a little slippery himself. Not that what he does is any of our business, but he is one of our greats. We want to believe we know guys like him and Seaver and Piazza. Jerry Tallmer captures Mex (I mean Keith) splendidly [1].

Also worth reading between taking stabs at The Quiz [2] is Mike Vaccaro's recollection in last Sunday's Post about the girl who challenged him with a “me or the Mets” ultimatum during the 1986 National League Championship Series. Given his profession, you can guess which curtain he chose, but his reflections [3] on why we as fans don't have to think twice about such a choice is moving and, in the wake of the White Sox' breakthrough, relevant.

And if you can get a hold of the October 31 SI or can wade your way through their subscriber/nonsubscriber moat [4], check out Steve Rushin's tribute to Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison. The reviews of the Lane/Broderick revival of The Odd Couple were lukewarm at best, but to anyone with unfettered access to a television over most of the past 35 years (M-F, 4 AM, Channel 5 these nights), the small screen-version is the definitive one. If you don't read the whole column, read this paragraph:

Oscar's unfettered existence — an endless whirl of football games and dizzy dames — made me want to be a sportswriter. To a 12-year-old, it seemed the ideal life: a cockeyed Mets cap on my head, a meatball hero in my bed.

One more endorsement, a few weeks late and pretty much off-topic. There hasn't been a more controversial baseball book in the past decade than Moneyball, which was not written by Billy Beane no matter what a surprisingly large number of people seem to think. It was written by Michael Lewis and as it good as it was, it's only slightly representative of what this man can do. I'm just now finishing his cover story from the October 9 New York Times Magazine on his return home to New Orleans in the days following Katrina. It is, to bestow Metsopotamia's highest accolade, amazin'. I don't know how the Times archive operates these days (it and my kerosene-powered browser didn't get along before they started selling gym spots), but get your eyes on Lewis' piece. You won't be sorry.

Now that I've distracted you from the business at hand, an update from Quiz Country. A few of those I've heard from are beginning to get the hang of it. Things are not as they appear, you know. It was either clever or sadistic of me, or both, to frame questions in such a way that you would automatically be certain that a famous Met ballplayer is the answer to a particular question, and make it so he is almost certainly not the answer to that particular question. My broadest hint remains read the entire question and think about every word and why, perhaps, each word is there. It's not there to make it simple but it is there to guide you.

And don't be scared of pre-1970 guesses. I haven't received a single grope for between 1962 and 1969. There were Mets playing their last games then, too. Give 'em a shot. Use the resources at your disposal to narrow things down.

I apologize that the flotsam and metsam rattling around in my otherwise unoccupied head isn't one of them.