Now, three years later, Herzog says of the trade, "I think we did him a helluva favor. I think he knows we did."
He certainly does. "It was a rebirth for me," Hernandez says. "Something I needed. I was kind of dying on the vine in St. Louis. I had played there 8� years and everything was the same. I came here and got a new park, a new atmosphere, a new city. I got rejuvenated, like a complete blood transfusion. I've had more fun playing in New York the last three years than I ever had in my career."
It surprised him how much he came to enjoy New York. "There's so much here to fill your time—plays, parties, sporting events, great restaurants, museums. I love art." In fact, Hernandez owns a large impressionistic painting by the Spanish artist Beltran Bofill. He also has rows of books on the Civil War; he has been a buff for years. Hernandez, who has spoken at West Point on that war, will all of a sudden start chastising General George Meade for letting Lee get away after Gettysburg, as if it happened yesterday.
One of the first things Hernandez does when he gets up in the morning is begin
The New York Times
crossword puzzle. He'll take it with him to Rusty Staub's restaurant, where he often goes for lunch, and then he'll finish it in the clubhouse. "Lachrymose," he says as he lights up a cigarette. "That's probably 'teary.' "
His smoking habits are worthy of careful study. Hernandez usually smokes only at the ballpark, never at home. Two weeks after the season ends, he loses the urge and does not smoke again until he hits the clubhouse in spring training.
Despite his inner turmoil, Hernandez is a calming, reassuring influence on his teammates. He is looked upon with a reverence and affection rarely seen in a game played by men with large and often fragile egos. When Rafael Santana joined the club as a shortstop in 1984, it was Hernandez who took him aside. "He told me, 'Anything you need from me, any advice, just ask,' " recalls Santana. "He's my best friend on this ball club." Says Darryl Strawberry, "I love him."
Ron Darling and Hernandez are especially close, and Darling sees a man of many natures: "He has a dichotomy of personalities—very personable, very caring, very loving, yet very tenacious and aggressive." Darling recalls the night this season in San Diego when he got yet another no-decision after manager Davey Johnson pulled him after seven fine innings. "The no-decisions had been piling up, and I was a little down. When I got back to my room, there was a bottle of Dom P�rignon waiting, with a note from Keith." The note said, "Enjoy this. I hope it will help you forget. Your friend, Keith."
If only all of Hernandez's relationships were as smooth as the ones in the clubhouse. The divorce fight has grown more bitter, and Hernandez fears that it will end up in court and that his three children—Jessica, Melissa and Mary Elise—will suffer the most. His relationship with his father is more strained than ever, worsened now because Gary no longer mediates their disputes. The falling-out between Gary and John happened after baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth ruled last February that Hernandez was one of seven players who had to either accept a one-year suspension from baseball or donate 10% of his base salary to a drug prevention program and 200 hours over two years to drug-related community service work. John wanted Keith to take the suspension, telling him, "You'll be subservient to this man the rest of your career!" Gary argued that Keith had gotten off easy and that he should pay the fine and serve the time. Gary and John haven't spoken since.
One day Keith asked his father, "Dad, I have a lifetime .300 batting average. What more do you want?"
His father replied, "But someday you're going to look back and say, 'I could have done more.' "