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In the past 50 years, only four Cardinals players have hit double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in the same season. By the way, that would have been an impossibility in 2018 because the entire team didn’t have double figures in triples (nine).

Two of the quadruple double players are predictable. Hall of Famer Lou Brock did it for the third of three times with the Cardinals in 1969 at 33-10-12-52. And Cardinals Hall of Famer Willie McGee accomplished the feat twice, in 1985 (26-18-10-56) and 1987 (37-11-11-16).

The third probably would have sneaked through the cracks in second baseman Delino DeShields who did it in 1997 at 26-14-11-55. The fourth you might never guess — not that he wasn’t a Cardinals star, because he was.

Forty years ago, in the course of winning the National League batting title at .344 and sharing the Most Valuable Player Award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell, first baseman Keith Hernandez, not known for his speed, had 11 triples and 11 stolen bases to complement 48 doubles and 11 home runs. Hernandez explains that “Busch Stadium was a good triples park because it was so big. I wasn’t that fast going from home to first but I was good at going home to third.”

The capper to the season was that Hernandez also drove in 105 runs, making him the first Cardinal since Stanley Frank Musial in 1951 to have double figures in the aforementioned categories, plus drive in more than 100 runs.

But Hernandez’s 1979 season was a surprise because he had hit a middling .255 the year before.

“From the All-Star break on, I hit .228 and I think I drove in just 21 runs. It was a terrible second half,” said Hernandez. “So I went into that 1979 season thankful that Ken Boyer was the manager.”

Boyer had taken over for fired Vern Rapp a month or so into the 1978 season and Hernandez said, “Ken Boyer was my guardian angel. The Cardinals were beginning to have doubts whether or not I was going to get it done — live up to what they thought I could be.

“Boyer had seen me play at Tulsa for two years when he managed there and he knew what I could do. But we got off to a slow April and we were going down to Houston after we played a weekend series against the Pirates.

“I was hitting about .230 (.236 to be precise) and he came back to me on the plane and said, ‘You’re my first baseman. You’re my third hitter. I’m going to keep my job or lose my job with you. I know you can play. Just relax and go play.’

“That was a watershed for me,” said Hernandez. “We had an off day and the next day Ken Forsch was pitching for Houston in the Astrodome and I didn’t like hitting there. But I went four for four and I was on my way.”

By the end of May, Hernandez had put together nine more multi-hit games and he had eight in a row covering the end of May and the start of June.

He had been hitting .216 in early May and rose to .315 in a month.

“That was a critical moment in my career,” said Hernandez. “The right person (Boyer) being there at the right time for me. There was just some destiny. I could have gone either way.”

One batting title should have become two, said Hernandez, referring to the 1980 season when he finished at .321, three points behind Chicago’s Bill Buckner.

“I hit .300 all but one month,” said Hernandez. “I would have won a second batting title if I hadn’t got knocked out in Chicago.”

Hernandez, ironically, collided head to head with Buckner on a play at first base. Hernandez doesn’t remember how long he was out but recalls trainer Gene Gieselmann asking him a series of questions. “Forschie (pitcher Bob Forsch) said, ‘I bet he knows his batting average,”’ said Hernandez, laughing.

At the time, he was hitting .336. “I was on my way to .350,” said Hernandez. “That still bugs me because I was red-hot when I got knocked out. I was ready to run away with it. I was a little bit sluggish coming back off the injury.”

Hernandez won one World Series (1982) with the Cardinals for whom he played in 10 seasons and another with the New York Mets in 1986 after being traded there in 1983. But Hernandez seems to bleed more Cardinal red “because my history with the Cardinals goes back to my youth,” said Hernandez, “with my dad (John) playing with Stan Musial on the U.S. Navy team in Pearl Harbor 1945. And then Stan leaving us tickets for Cardinals games in San Francisco.

“When I got called up (in 1974) and walked into that clubhouse in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, that clubhouse was the same as it was when I went there when I was eight years old. Right in that middle, on the stool where I sat, Musial’s stool was on the left and then (third baseman) Ken Boyer had come in, towel wrapped around his waist, sat down on the chair next to me, looked at me, smiled and tousled my hair.

“How fateful was that?” he said, referring to Boyer making that gesture and then later helping to reboot Hernandez’s career. “I’ll never forget that.”

Hernandez, who is 65, was 10 when the Cardinals won the 1964 World Series although he did have ties to both clubs. “I was a Yankees fan, too,” he said. “I was a Mickey Mantle fan because I was born on his birthday, Oct. 20.”

Bob Costas, who will be honored with the Red Medal (in honor of the late Red Schoendienst) at Sunday night’s St. Louis Baseball Writers’ dinner at St. Louis Union Station hotel, also held Mantle as his favorite player, long carrying Mantle’s baseball card in his wallet. Hernandez, too, will be honored on the 40th anniversary of his 1979 season but will be unable to attend because he has been suffering from a herniated disc in his back.

Hernandez said he still laments not being around for the 1985 and 1987 World Series, which the Cardinals lost.

“I still wonder if I had stayed in St. Louis — maybe they wouldn’t have traded for Jack Clark because they had (Andy) Van Slyke coming up — but if they had Jack Clark in right field and me at first base ... I wonder how good that team could have been,” he said.

“I think about those Series as much as the ’86 and ’82 Series. If I had been there, could I have made a difference?”

Cardinal red? Or Mets blue?

“Growing up with the Cardinals in the minor leagues ... I have to be careful about what I say because people in New York get sensitive. But I’m a Cardinal,” said Hernandez. “That’s all there is to it.”

A meaningful illustration of that is that Hernandez has written into his will that when he dies, his Most Valuable Player Award, his 1982 World Series ring, his 1979 Silver Bat and the six Gold Gloves he earned as a Cardinal will be donated to the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame.


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