Keith Hernandez caught off guard by Jersey retirement, reveals Mets alumni day plans
It took him by surprise.
When Keith Hernandez received a phone call from Mets owner Steve Cohen on Tuesday, he thought they were going to discuss the team.
And while it was a topic of conversation for the first 10 minutes of the call, it turns out that Cohen was actually contacting Hernandez to let him know the Mets were going to retire his No. ceremony at Citi Field next season on July 9.
“It took me completely by surprise. I had no idea,” Hernandez said at a press conference Wednesday. “It’s just kind of soaking in and sinking in today .”
While Hernandez admittedly never thought about receiving the honor, he’s thrilled with the franchise’s decision.
“I feel like I’m lost in space that this happened to me, an honor like this and something I never dreamed of,” Hernandez said. “You dream of being on a world championship team, you dream of being a batting champion or an MVP. The thought of having a retired number, I can tell you, didn’t bother me. never crossed my mind when I was a kid playing in St. Louis or New York.
Playing for the Mets from 1983-1989, Hernandez won six Gold Glove Awards, produced a .297 batting average (second all-time in Mets history), and helped them win a World Series title. in 1986.
As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez won the 1982 World Series, was the NL co-MVP in 1979, and was awarded five Gold Gloves.
Hernandez was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Cardinals Hall of Fame last year. Hernandez will now join Casey Stengel (37), Gil Hodges (14), Tom Seaver (41), Jerry Koosman (36) and Mike Piazza (31) in the Mets’ elite squad to have their jersey numbers retired.
The Cardinals traded Hernandez to the lowly Mets in June 1983, and although he was initially hesitant to stay long-term, his father convinced him to stay put.
According to Hernandez, he bought his father a satellite during the 1981 strike. With ESPN televising minor league games with the major league season on hold, Hernandez’s father watched promising youngsters such as Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry .
Because of what he saw of Gooden and Strawberry, Hernandez’s father thought the Mets were up.
As Hernandez pondered a return to the West Coast after the 1983 season, his father’s advice led to his decision to sign a five-year contract with the Mets. And it ended up paying off.
During the following spring training in 1984, Hernandez was smitten by the talent of the Mets and knew he had made the right call.
Ultimately, Hernandez helped transform the Mets into a winning baseball team and would become one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Hernandez was also named the first captain in Mets history in 1987.
And speaking of the Mets’ all-time greats, Hernandez is very pleased with the direction the organization is taking to honor their history.
“It’s important,” Hernandez said. “There’s a history and there should be a tradition…I think it’s very important for the fans to have a sense of their team’s history. It’s generational.”
After buying the Mets in 2020, Cohen made it a priority to honor the club’s history. Last season they retired Koosman’s number 36, and this year they will unveil a statue of Seaver outside the stadium.
Hernandez also let slip that the Mets might also host an alumni day.
Mets team president Sandy Alderson was also on hand and confirmed it was “definitely on the agenda.” But it all depends on logistical and planning factors whether this event actually happens next season.
Hernandez, who has been a team broadcaster on SNY for the past 16 years, has built a remarkable career with the Mets. From now on, no Met will ever wear their number 17 again.