This Date In Mets History: February 12 — Meet Keith Hernandez, TV Star

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Mex is “The Boyfriend” in a memorable episode of “Seinfeld.”

At 9 PM EST on Feb 12, 1992, NBC broadcast the first hour-long episode of “Seinfeld,” with special guest Keith Hernandez as himself… more or less. Although it’s titled “The Boyfriend,” it’s better known by such catch phrases as “Second Spitter Theory,” “Vandelay Industries,” and “I’m not driving him to the airport!” Spoiler alert: We’re not going to rehash the plot, but a few details will be revealed here. If you’ve never seen it, go out and buy or rent the “Seinfeld Season 3” DVD… NOW!

A crucial plot twist (yes, there is a plot) is when Keith breaks his “date” with Jerry to go out with Elaine. What ensues inspired me to versify:

Keith flashed his glove with grit and grace
Like Bird shot hoops and Ashe played tennis
He knew his way around first base
But couldn’t get there with Ms. Benes

Well, he and Elaine do kiss (“between a peck and a make-out,” she tells Jerry), but Keith ultimately strikes out with her because he smokes. However, he does get Kramer and Newman to help him move some furniture, so overall Keith fared better than these other Mets on TV and film in the ’90s:

  • 1993: Bobby Bonilla gets struck out by a 12-year-old in “Rookie of the Year.”
  • 1996: Ten Mets players read a disparaging Top 10 on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
  • 1997: Bernard Gilkey gets conked by a fly ball when he is distracted by a UFO in “Men in Black.”
  • 1997: Todd Hundley appears, with several other big leaguers, in an overlong, unfunny sketch on “Saturday Night Live.”
  • 1999: Members of 1969 Mets get dissed in a diner in the “Big Shots” episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

In 1994, Keith himself had a credible turn on a “Law and Order” episode and successfully reprised his role as Keith Hernandez in the Albert Brooks comedy, “The Scout.”

Birthdays

Right-hander Tim Redding, 35 today, saved the best for last. He began the 2009 season in the Mets rotation, but after posting a 6.99 ERA through his first eight starts he was sent to the bullpen where he didn’t fare much better. Returning to starter status in late August, he pitched to a 2.98 ERA in eight starts, his last in the major leagues to date. That was good enough to drop his career ERA under five. He was last seen hurling for the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters in the independent Atlantic League in 2012.

As a knuckleball pitcher, Dennis Springer, 48 today, was no R.A. Dickey. He wasn’t even Bob Moorhead. It took only two starts in April of 2000 — one bad, the other horrible — for the Mets to understand why five other teams over the previous five years gave up on him.

Happy 64th birthday to speedy switch-hitter Lenny Randle who, in 1977, gave the Mets their first legitimate leadoff hitter since Tommie Agee. He led the team in on-base percentage, runs scored, and a then-club record of 33 stolen bases. A record not to be proud of was a criminal one that loomed after the usually mild-mannered Randle uncharacteristically pummeled (and hospitalized) Rangers manager Frank Lucchesi during spring training that year. Charged with assault, he pleaded no contest to battery. Persona non grata in Texas, Randle was shipped to New York for a reported $50,000 and a journeyman utility player to be named later. The Mets got a bargain, but one with a short shelf life as it turned out. Randle’s stats dropped considerably in almost every offensive category in 1978 and he was released the following spring.

The Mets’ first Mexico-born player, Francisco "Frank” Estrada, turns 65 today. He is most famous for being one of the three players dispatched to the Angels along with Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. In his only major league game (September 14, 1971), Estrada took over for Jerry Grote in the sixth inning of an all-but-meaningless contest. with the Mets trailing the Expos 12–0. He went one-for-two, making him a career .500 hitter.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

The lovely and talented Joanna Kerns turns 60 today. From 1985 to 1992 she played TV mom Maggie Seaver on the sitcom “Growing Pains.” The Seavers lived in Long Island next door to the frequently referenced though rarely seen Koosman family. You might say the Koosmans were living in the Seavers’ shadow.

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