On one hand, it wasn’t a surprising endorsement since I had seen him in a local cable ad for the same establishment. On the other hand, I nearly dropped my groceries when I saw it. What the fudge was the great Keith Hernandez doing shilling for some coin store? It instantly brought to mind the time in 1982 my father told me heard something on the news about Mark Gastineau autographing pumpkins on Jericho Turnpike to make a few bucks before Halloween during the NFL players’ strike.
Keith Hernandez should not be doing anything that reminds anybody of Mark Gastineau. But he does. He endorses Coin Galleries of Oyster Bay (now with 2 locations to serve you!). He broadcasts other people’s dates alongside Clyde Frazier. He recently popped up on eBay offering a signed Keith Hernandez jersey as a bonus if you were high bidder on a Mercedes from a Palm Beach-area dealership. I assume he is compensated in satisfactory fashion by Long Island’s Largest Rare Coin Store just as he is by Just For Men Haircolor, just as he probably gets a break on a car in Florida.
If you see him in these gigs, let alone his analyst role on SNY, Keith Hernandez comes off as something of a cartoon figure (and not just because he has been animated as a cartoon figure by the very same network). He has very much become Crazy Keith, tittering over names like Jon Coutlangus and Pete LaCock, roaming tangents regarding wine and lollipops and generally playing the cranky, kooky uncle card that ex-ballplayers have been known to play in front of a camera or behind a microphone.
It was an article of faith circa 1986 that you shouldn’t get up to buy a hot dog if you knew Darryl Strawberry was coming to bat in the bottom of the inning. Well, you couldn’t leave your seat for any of the Met seasons in which Keith Hernandez was in his prime. You had to watch him work a count, jaw at his pitcher, confront his catcher, bear down on a bunter, give a quote. It is not hometown bias that leads me to say that Keith Hernandez was the most fascinating player I ever saw.
That’s my Keith Hernandez, my Mex. The one on TV and in the Pennysaver, Crazy Keith? He’s somebody else as far as I can tell.
Hernandez turned 54 last October. I think he’s entitled to a) earn a living and b) play the clown as often as he likes. I can understand why an admirer of Keith’s would flinch at some of the commercial activity he’s involved with, but that’s exactly the sort of work a part time broadcaster might need to avoid autographing pumpkins by the side of the road. Unless and until Mex turns to reality TV, his legacy is largely safe.