Keith Hernandez voted into Cards' HOF

May 5th, 2021

The career of has been marked by full-circle moments. His father, John, served in the Navy with Stan Musial in Pearl Harbor during World War II. When Hernandez was traded to New York in 1983 and then was a fully established Metropolitan by ’84, his former and current clubs would trade off winning NL pennants. Several of the last games of his career (by then playing for Cleveland) came in his home state of California.

So it should be no surprise that Wednesday -- the first Cardinals-Mets doubleheader in St. Louis since June 28, 1983, when Hernandez made his return to Busch Stadium II as a member of the Mets for the first time -- is the same day in which Hernandez received an honor which was a long time coming.

Hernandez was voted in by fans into the Cardinals Hall of Fame, the club announced on Wednesday in conjunction with Bally Sports Midwest, putting a final bow on his illustrious 10-year career in St. Louis and making him a rare member within the walls of two club Hall of Fames.

“I know the history of the Cardinals; 11 World [Series] championships, second to the Yankees,” Hernandez said in a Zoom session with reporters. “They are the benchmark in the National League, and to be a part of the Hall of Fame, and all the great players who are the tradition of the Cardinals, is just a tremendous honor.”

Hernandez will be joined in this year’s ceremony -- currently planned to be an in-person festivity on Aug. 21 -- by John Tudor, Tom Herr and Bill White, last year’s voted inductees whose ceremony was postponed by the pandemic. The trio shares Cardinals-Mets ties that were emblematic of the rivalry between the two titan franchises of the 1980s; Hernandez and Herr spent time playing for each club, and Tudor missed out on the 1985 NL Cy Young Award only because he was up against one of the best single pitching seasons in MLB history by the Mets’ Dwight Gooden.

“The rivalry between the Cardinals and the Mets, I think it enhanced baseball enormously,” Hernandez said.

For Hernandez, though, Wednesday’s announcement put him over other nominees in Steve Carlton, Lee Smith, Matt Morris and Edgar Renteria. Among the group, Hernandez spent the most time in a Cardinals uniform, famously winning the first six of his 11 consecutive Gold Gloves at first base as a Cardinal starting in 1978 and sharing the NL MVP Award with the Pirates' Willie Stargell the following season.

Hernandez was a key cog in the 1982 World Series team. Though it wasn’t close to his best regular-season showing, he laced a two-run single off Brewers left-hander Bob McClure to tie up Game 7 of the Fall Classic in the sixth inning, concurrently setting up George Hendrick’s game-winning swing an at-bat later.

In 1983, the Cardinals traded Hernandez to the Mets in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Hernandez went on to play seven seasons for New York, winning a second ring there in 1986, and he's now a mainstay as a color commentator in the Mets’ broadcast booth.

But he’s been a Cardinal at heart all his life. Musial would leave the Hernandez family tickets for Cardinals-Giants games at Candlestick Park when Hernandez was growing up in the Bay Area. It instilled a Cardinals love that began as a child around 8 or 9 years old, and it persisted until he received the call on Wednesday that many expected to be coming for years.

“Certainly there was a point where maybe I thought that wasn't going to happen,” Hernandez said. “But it has now, and I'm really thrilled about it.”

Big day on the farm
On a day marked by a postponement in St. Louis on Tuesday, there was no shortage of excitement up and down the system. Several top prospects made their long-awaited professional debuts; players closer to the Majors were able to begin what they hope is an ascent to The Show; and already highly touted prospects seemed to pick up right where they left off almost two years ago.

Some highlights from Minor League Opening Day:

• Cardinals 2020 first-round Draft pick Jordan Walker (the club's No. 6 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) needed to see merely a single professional pitch before he hit his first professional home run for Low-A Palm Beach -- in a stadium not known to be friendly to home runs, no less.

No. 2 prospect Nolan Gorman, whose future at third base was muddied by the acquisition of Nolan Arenado, showed he can provide assurance at the hot corner nonetheless, making a peach of a diving stop to save a run for Double-A Springfield. Gorman will get looks at both third and second base this season in an attempt to make himself as flexible as possible.

No. 19 prospect and 2020 second-round pick Alec Burleson turned in an early candidate for catch of the year with a sweet robbery for High-A Peoria.

• Tommy Parsons -- an undrafted Division III product who turned heads in big league Spring Training -- began his Opening Day nod for Triple-A Memphis with five punchouts across three perfect frames before getting hit around in the fourth and pulled in the fifth, totaling seven whiffs on the day.

Worth noting
Claimed from the White Sox this April, left-hander Bernardo Flores Jr. was tabbed as the 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader, placing another southpaw option in the bullpen with Andrew Miller still sidelined.