My first thought upon hearing Keith Hernandez was in trouble was that he was doing drugs again.
OK, that was a cheap shot. It’s been two decades since the former All-Star first baseman came clean about his cocaine use, and there is no evidence he’s been smoking anything lately.
Still, there has got to be something to explain what came out of his mouth Saturday night in San Diego.
Apparently “Just For Men” isn’t just a hair dye that Hernandez endorses. It’s his way of looking at life.
You know, the stuff made by men just for men?
Turns out Hernandez is a real believer.
In case you missed it, Hernandez was helping broadcast a Mets-Padres game when he tried to turn the gender equity clock back to the days when he was paid to play rather than talk.
The object of his ire: a 33-year-old woman who makes her living as a member of the Padres’ training staff.
Kelly Calabrese, San Diego’s full-time massage therapist, caught the attention of Hernandez when she high-fived Mike Piazza after he hit a home run. But it wasn’t Calabrese slapping hands with Piazza that offended Hernandez the most.
It was that she dared enter some sacred male-only zone.
“Who is the girl in the dugout, with the long hair?” Hernandez said. “What’s going on here? You have got to be kidding me. Only player personnel in the dugout.”
Hernandez should have stopped there. But there was more.
“I won’t say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don’t belong in the dugout,” he said.
And that last one came after he found out that she’s Padres player personnel, after all.
Twenty years past your prime, 20 years behind the times.
Sure, you probably already knew that women have the right to vote, and may have even seen some drive their own cars to games. But did you know that they can be doctors, CEOs and, yes, even get involved in baseball?
There’s even one who is a senator from New York and is an early favorite to run for president.
But enough about them. You’ve apparently always had a way with women.
After all, didn’t you once date Elaine on an episode of “Seinfeld?”
“You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there – always have,” Hernandez said by way of addendum to the kitchen comment, chuckling as he inserted his foot even deeper into his mouth.
Across New York City, old guard male chauvinists had to be cheering. They probably hadn’t heard stuff this good on television since Archie Bunker lived with Edith in Queens.
The sad thing is that, like Hernandez, they don’t realize that this is 2006, not 1986. Like Hernandez, they don’t understand that there are roles for women in sports beyond the ones played by the blondes who hang out in the players’ parking lot.
Men aren’t the only ones who want to be involved in sports anymore, just like women aren’t the only ones who dye their hair anymore. Since the Mets won the World Series 20 years ago, an entire new generation of women have grown up watching, playing and even running games.
Women are being paid to play basketball, and women are acting as role models for young soccer players. There are aspiring women umpires, a woman who is the assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even women in the broadcast booth.
The fact that there is a woman in the Padres dugout shouldn’t be a shocker. Thousands, perhaps millions, of young girls occupy dugouts while playing softball, and some even share them with boys while playing Little League baseball.
If Hernandez had opened his eyes he might have noticed some of them. Then maybe he wouldn’t have been caught so off guard when he saw a woman standing amid the soggy sunflower shells that litter every major league dugout.
Padres manager Bruce Bochy is in that dugout almost every day. Unlike Hernandez in the broadcast booth up above, he gets it.
“I didn’t think gender was even an issue anymore,” Bochy said.
To her credit, Calabrese didn’t just shrug it off as a boys-will-be-boys moment. That would have been the easy way out, but this called for some outrage.
“It amazes me that somebody of that caliber that has obviously played the game before and is in front of an audience of millions of people would say something like that,” she said. “He not only discredited me as a person, but he discredited women.”
Hernandez said later he was sorry if he offended anyone, and the network that employs him, SportsNet New York, said he had been reprimanded.
It was a token slap on the wrist, but Hernandez is probably being punished enough. He’s the one, after all, who comes out of this looking like a sexist moron.
Hernandez may have a tough time hanging onto that “Just For Men” endorsement.
That’s because real men don’t act like that anymore.