Keith Hernandez played first base better than anyone of the late 1970s and ’80s. He was an acrobat in the field—snaring line drives, tumbling and throwing out runners, charging bunts to within 15 feet of the batter, when few other first basemen would charge within 45 feet ... For the chatty, informative, witty I’m Keith Hernandez, it’s as if Mr. Hernandez has met us—his reader—for a drink one early evening, and he’s going to divulge a bit about his past ... Keith Hernandez, you must understand, does things his way—and if you’re sharp enough to notice—it’s usually a better way ... a grand slam home run of a book about 1970s and ’80’s baseball, and a wonderful book about the hardest thing to master in all of sports: swinging a stick to mightily redirect a curving sphere zipping 95 miles per hour.
Keith Hernandez doesn’t like baseball memoirs. 'It feels like they’ve become a paint-by-numbers exercise,' the former first baseman laments at the outset of his own entry in the genre. What he offers instead is an impressionistic account of his baseball boyhood, a kind of “Remembrance of At-Bats Past,” complete with a baked good to set the memories in motion.
I’m Keith Hernandez is stuffed with bad writing choices. Almost half the pages have a footnote that offers a superfluous fact or purposeless story. Some passages are inset for no evident reason ... Hernandez’s writing style is frustrating, but the book is a failure because he resists any clear-eyed reckoning with his insecurities ... Hernandez does not explain why he lacked self-belief. Perhaps it is unclear to him. But it is obvious to any reader: His father, John, a former minor league first baseman, forced his major league dreams upon his son ... I’m Keith Hernandez does not grapple with the irony of his rise to stardom. Without his father’s tutelage and drive, he may have never reached the big leagues. Yet to be truly great, he had to shape his own destiny and become his own man ... 'I realized why he’d been so hard on me,' he reflects [about his father] ... This final gesture of acceptance seems inauthentic, reflecting an unwillingness to confront his demons. It provides an unsatisfying ending to a flawed book.