Magazine article The New Yorker

Post-Dugout

Magazine article The New Yorker

Post-Dugout

Article excerpt

POST-DUGOUT

The day after the New York Metropolitans' final regular-season game--a 1-0 adios to the Washington Nationals that averted a six-game-losing-streak hangover en route to the playoffs--Keith Hernandez, the former All-Star-Gold Glove-M.V.P.-Mets captain first baseman and current First Amendment crusader in the SNY broadcasting booth ("What is he doing? What is he doing! What a rockhead!" . . . "That slide--you can put that slide in the toilet"), began a slightly bumpy transition to his other occupation, man of leisure. His alarm went off at 6 A.M., a shocking hour, so that a driver could deliver him to Kennedy Airport for a promotional event. Discovering upon arrival that he was a day early, he rebuked himself ("Idiot!"), then retreated to Sag Harbor, his seasonal abode. In the early afternoon, he showed up on time for a physical-therapy appointment in a windowed studio with a view of the bay. He wore Levi's, a red T-shirt, and blue Nikes, and spent an hour moving weights and lying on a massage table.

"Rotator-cuff repair," he said--not an old baseball injury but a recent spectator-sport casualty. "Last Christmas, I was home watching a bowl game on TV, I picked up a couple of free weights for a little workout--too heavy, it turned out--and the next morning it let me know. I had shoulder surgery four months ago, was in a sling, and got out of shape. The season's over now, so I can get back into it, get my legs stronger and my wind back up."

When Hernandez was a player, his habits included smoking in the dugout runway between innings, but he wised up a couple of years after retiring, in 1991. He weighed a hundred and eighty-five pounds when he got called up from the Tulsa Oilers to the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1974, a fat-free two-oh-three in his prime, and would now like to get down to two-fifteen, a manageable goal. This month, he turns sixty-two (same birthday: Mickey Mantle, Juan Marichal). He's gray at the temples but not, when he's being fastidious, above his upper lip, where he periodically applies a men's hair-coloring product to his cash-crop mustache, a featured player in commercials pairing Hernandez with Walt Frazier, the bearded doggerelist.

He got off the massage table and said, "Once I'm off the air, I'll shave it off. I don't like it anymore. I'll keep it off until spring training. I do the next commercial next year. …

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