Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Remembering Fernando. No, the other one. Um, not that one either. Just read the post.

Fernando Hernandez made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers on April 3, 1997. Over the course of his career -- which lasted two days -- he allowed nine base runners in an inning and a third, six of whom scored. And that was after a fast start. Retrosheet reveals that he struck out his first batter faced -- the Twins' Greg Myers -- bailing Willie Blair out of a horrific seven run second inning in Minnesota. The Fernando Hernandez era had begun!

Coming out for the third inning, he retired Marty Cordova, and followed that up by allowing a walk and a single. Reaching down for that inner-Fernando we all knew he had, he struck out Todd Walker. After allowing a double and another walk (intentional, man! Fernando totally could have gotten Knoblauch out!), Hernandez' was lifted. Three-fourths of the way through his illustrious career, Hernandez had pitched one inning, allowing two to score. It would have been three if not for a runner-kill at home plate via a throw by the immortal Brian Hunter after a single to center. Teammates were always going that extra mile and giving a little extra for Fernando. He was just that kind of guy.

The rubber would hit the road in Hernandez' next and final big league appearance two days later. Coming on with one on in the second, he allowed a single. Then, in a moment which is probably still discussed over after dinner cigars and cognac at the Fernandez home, he retired future hall of famer Frank Thomas on a pop out. But Hernandez was not all about quiet efficiency and finesse. To the contrary, his intrepid bravery was on full display against the very next batter when he beaned Albert Belle. Hernandez' page shows that he is still alive, but I'm sure Belle is biding his time somewhere, waiting for the right moment to take his revenge. Fernando no doubt waits, ever-prepared to see his ancient foe and once again engage him in battle.

While he may not have known it at the time, Fernando's best days were behind him. He followed the Belle beaning with a walk, a double, and a triple, and with that the Felix Hernandez era was officially over. In a moment of poignant symmetry which reveals just how much Hernandez had meant to his teammates, Tigers' manager Buddy Bell arranged for Willie Blair -- the man Hernandez bailed out at the dawn of his career -- to come in and retire the final batter in the final inning at its twilight, saving Fernando one extra earned run. Retrosheet doesn't reveal if the Comiskey Park crowd gave Hernandez a standing ovation, but I think it's safe to assume they did.

The career totals for Fernando Hernandez: 2 games, 1 1/3 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 hbp, and 6 runs allowed, all of them earned, for an ERA of 40.50.

Why do I go on so about Fernando Hernandez? Because I just learned that my friend Todd, a man who (a) loves baseball; (b) likes to save money when he can; and (c) appreciates the obscure, encountered the perfect sartorial storm yesterday when he purchased an official Fernando Hernandez Detroit Tigers jersey. That means someone, somewhere cared enough about Hernandez to order that jersey and keep it in wearable condition for a decade. They then thought highly enough of it that, rather than simply toss the thing, they figured that it was worth money, and sold it to a second hand clothing store. Todd has it now, and if I know Todd like I think I do, he will have it for at least another decade.

If someone cares enough about Fernando Hernandez to treat his ephemera with tenderness and care, the least I can do is to document his legend.