Cards All-Time Top 40 – Keith Hernandez #26

The Top 40 countdown of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals of all time continues with their co-Most Valuable Player from 1979, first baseman Keith Hernandez.

Keith Hernandez

The Basics

Position

Bat

Thw

Total Yrs

Yrs in StL

HR

RBI

SB

Avg

First Base

Left

Left

1974-1990

1974-1983

81

595

81

.299

The Awards

Hall of Fame

Ret. #

World Champ

All-Star

MVP

Cy Young

Gold Glove

 

 

1

2

1979 (co)

NA

5

Note: All stats and awards listed are for years as a Cardinal only.
Hernandez' career stats available from baseball-reference.com.

Voter Comments

Rob Rains (21): One of eight first basemen -- including some players who also played other positions -- to earn a spot in this top 40 ranking of the all-time Cardinals, Hernandez had the misfortune of playing on mostly mediocre Cardinal teams except for the World Champion 1982 team.

Hernandez was the league's co-MVP (with Willie Stargell) in 1979, when he led the National League with a .344 batting average. He won five consecutive Gold Gloves and remains perhaps the best defensive first baseman in team history.

He had a team-high eight RBIs in the 1982 Series, including his two-run single in the siixth inning of game seven -- on his 29th birthday -- which drew the Cardinals out of a 3-1 deficit and propelled them to victory.

Ray Mileur (30): Winning 11 consecutive Gold Gloves, Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman that I ever saw play the game. He played first base like a center fielder. He had exceptional range around the bag and was constantly making position adjustments depending on who was pitching as well as who was at bat.

He led the league in assists five times, fielding percentage twice and total chances four times. He played the bunt better than anyone and had a very strong and accurate arm that shut down a lot of potential rallies.

In 1979 he was an All-Star and the first infielder ever to win a batting title, the MVP and Gold Glove awards in the same season. Hernandez a two-time All Star and Silver Slugger award winner with St. Louis, won five of his Gold Gloves with the Cardinals before being traded to the Mets in 1983.

Jerry Modene (23): The circumstances of his departure notwithstanding – the trade to New York for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey, which confused everybody until Keith's cocaine habit became known to the public – Hernandez was nevertheless a solid line-drive hitter who won a batting championship and an MVP (tied with Willie Stargell in 1979) as well as one of the greatest defensive first basemen in major league history.

I can remember hearing about Hernandez' "sweet swing" as long ago as 1973, when he was still in the minor leagues. If only Hernandez had been able to keep his nose clean; he might well have ranked in the top 10-15 of all-time Cardinals. Then again, then we might never have traded for Jack Clark.

It's taken Keith a long time for Cardinals fans to forgive him for the cocaine years, but the fans seem to be warming up to him again judging by his past few appearances at Busch Stadium.

Brian Walton (28): Not so fast, Jerry! Of all the players in this countdown, I find it hardest to be objective about the man in whom I entrusted my treasured "Most Favorite Cardinal" designation upon Bob Gibson's retirement, only to have my heart broken. Arguably the best 42nd-round draft pick ever, "Mex" had it all – bat, legs, glove, instincts and that special charisma that goes with being a star. Together, we went through some tremendous highs and terrible lows.

That unexpected 1982 World Championship was so special in that it signaled the end of the long draught that began at the end of the 1960's and hung over the entire decade of the 1970's. But what seemed like an instant later, while still in the prime of his career, drug use hastened Hernandez' shocking in-season 1983 banishment to the New York Mets for the forgettable, yet unforgettable pair of Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.

As if it was yesterday, I remember the feelings of "reee-jection", but not the cheesy, good-natured kind that Hernandez and fellow pitchman Clyde Frazier have made famous in television commercials since. For all the reasons stated by my peers above, number 37 firmly belongs here. I just wish I could feel better about it, twenty-three years and counting later.

Voter Comments Key: Voter (Individual Ranking); NR = Not Rated

Master List: To see our entire list of the greatest 40 Cardinals players of all-time as they are unveiled daily, click here.

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

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