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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Met Fan Should Read This Book...
An excellent overview of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets baseball team by first baseman and first-time author Keith Hernandez. He describes in detail the entire season, breaking it down game by game, citing the intricacies of each contest, leading to either victory or defeat. Hernandez also tells of personal happenings of his teammates, (i.e: young...
Published on December 26, 1998

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3.0 out of 5 stars M. Johnson found this book irritating
You'll understand my title in a bit. When I purchased Hernandez and Bryan's other collarboration "Pure Baseball" I noticed that they had also co-authored another book. I picked it up, wondering why I'd never heard of it. Now I know why. This "diary" (sorry, real diaries don't have co-authors) chronicles Hernandez's and the Mets' turbulent 1985 season. Hernandez has...
Published on July 8, 2007 by M. Johnson


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Met Fan Should Read This Book..., December 26, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
An excellent overview of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets baseball team by first baseman and first-time author Keith Hernandez. He describes in detail the entire season, breaking it down game by game, citing the intricacies of each contest, leading to either victory or defeat. Hernandez also tells of personal happenings of his teammates, (i.e: young pitching phenom Dwight Gooden, and how he was able to manhandle each team he faced, and how he handled his newfound success emotionally.)and how Keith corrected himself during slumps. He also writes of how his good friend, Ed Lynch was traded away from the playoff contention Mets to the dismal Chicago Cubs. (which was especially traumatic for Lynch.) Information like this makes "If at First..." an excellent look at the grueling physical and emotional taxes pro athletes must endure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Season That ALMOST Was...., June 3, 2004
By 
frankbif "frankbif" (Wesley Hills, New York United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
If you're a Mets fan, or even a baseball fan who wants to relive a year in depth, you'll like this book. It's from a time that is as far removed from today as the pre-Curt Flood era was back in 1985. It may not seem like that much time has gone by, but it has. Hernandez' book, a diary of sorts, does a good job of recreating the mood of the mid-1980's baseball atmosphere.
The 1985 Mets were a great team. Many Met fans consider the 1985 team the best of those great 1980's Mets teams (remember, there was no wild card back in those days to fall back on). This was an era when you saw the same players suiting up for your rivals year after year. Met fans knew that Tommie Herr, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, and Jack Clarke were going to be in the Cardinals lineup each year. There were 2 divisions in each league, no wildcard, the format that had existed since 1969. It seems like yesterday, but in reality, it was another baseball era.
Hernandez' diary does a good job of talking about his ups and downs, the teams ups and downs, and the behind-the-scenes stuff (including his cocaine problems and the labor dispute that year). He talks about his batting slumps, comically disses certain players, talks about the difference in team pre-game attitudes when a star pitcher (Gooden) takes the mound versus a journey man starter, etc. Hernandez does a good job of recreating the daily atmosphere surrounding the Mets 1985 travails. My one pique was that there was not as much depth of commentary during a couple of late August and September Met stumbles, and more feedback from Keith on his emotions and the teams following the bitter 3 game season-ending series in St. Louis would have been appreciated (the Mets went to St. Louis near the end of the season needing to sweep all 3 games; they won the first two in dramatic fashion, but lost Game 3).
I wish Keith had written this same book a year later when the Mets won it all. The 1985 Mets were hit by injuries (Strawberry's 6-week absence the most noted) and they finished a narrow 2nd to the St. Louis Cardinals. 1985 was the year that Dwight Gooden had his best year, 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA. Gooden never dominated again like he did that year or his rookie year the season before, and Met fans always wonder how far that team would have gone if they had made the playoffs that year when Gooden was nearly unhittable and unbeatable. The probable answer is that they would have breezed through the playoffs and the World Series, unlike 1986 when they had titanic struggles. For reasons that are still endlessly debated on talk shows and in print today, Gooden never again was the pitcher he was in 1985, 1984 (rookie season), or even 1983 (last minor league season). The strikeouts gained and hits allowed both deteriorated, and even though he was a top-flight pitcher for several more years, he never was the dominant "Doctor K" or "Doc" who electrified Shea Stadium during 1984 and 1985, when fans would rather wait on the food lines when the Mets batted than miss watching Doc blow away enemy batsman and watch "The K Korner" put another notch up. Hernandez might have reflected on what made the Gooden of 1984 and 1985 so overpowering; perhaps we would have a better idea of why he became merely very good as opposed to dominant.
All in all, a good book. Knowing how the season ends makes the book somewhat anticlimactic for die-hard Mets fans. The 1985 Mets team was probably man-for-man a better team than the 1986 squad. But the stars were aligned in 1986, not 1985, so Hernandez book, while fascinating and a good read, has that "if only..." air about it.
One More Thing...
LETS GO METS!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1985 Game by Game... 1986 Season Overview, December 18, 2004
This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
A thoroughly involving read of the 1985 season. This is a detailed game-by-game review. He has an "I am the camera" type storytelling method, similar to Jim Bouton's Ball Four. However Bouton's book is focused on ballplayer personalities and the games, while Keith's book focuses predominately just on each game (BTW... Ball Four is a must read for any fan).

He details how he adjusts to slumps and relating to the media. It was especially connecting for me to read about the last series with the Cardinals. I clearly remember the Gooden-Darling starting pitcher issue.

The book also gives a season overview of the 1986 championship series. A season summary... not game by game. This was added into later addition. You can tell this was more by memory as opposed to the right after analysis of the 1985 season. It still adds to the book as it gives a celebration to the "Oh so close" finish of '85.

Keith Hernandez does not pull any punches, including issues with himself. He is forthright about the drug trial, slumps, teammates, and a few fielding errors. A worthwhile read for any baseball fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Season That Almost Was, April 7, 2007
By 
Slokes (Greenwich, CT USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
From 1984 to 1988, the New York Mets played their longest stretch of great baseball, in large part because of heady, hard-hitting first baseman Keith Hernandez. During the 1985 season, Hernandez kept a game-by-game journal of life with the Mets. While not as famous as Jim Bouton's "Ball Four," Hernandez's "If At First" is still one of the more interesting and readable inside-baseball books out there.

Hernandez fills you in about the battle of the batter's box pitch-by-pitch. He offers candid comments about his teammates and opponents. He probably leaves out the most colorful off-field stuff but does discuss frankly such matters as his drinking and pending divorce. Hernandez isn't burning bridges like Bouton was - he still had a career to protect - but it's not a book of lukewarm platitudes by a jock cashing in on his celebrity. Hernandez has things to say, and a unique way of saying them.

"To ballplayers much of the writing over the game seems besides the point," Hernandez writes. "On one end of the scale is all the junk, on the other is a vision of the game too romantized or intellectualized, or both. Baseball is just baseball."

Another reviewer here, Frankbif, wishes Hernandez had written another book like this one the following year, when the Mets won it all. But 1985 was a more intriguing season, for the Mets and for Hernandez. The Mets missed the championship by a single game, making for an exciting narrative of little things adding up. Hernandez himself went from NL Player of the Month in July to testifying about past cocaine use in September.

Hernandez doesn't seem all that sorrowful about his mistake. He doesn't come across as a nice guy in general, but that's fine because he doesn't mince words or spin situations like a lot of other pro athletes more concerned with their image would. There's a terseness to the narrative by Hernandez and co-writer Mike Bryan that's "If At First"'s secret strength. He really isn't trying to write anything for the ages. Rather, he just tells it like it was.

For the Mets in 1985, that was incredible enough. Pitcher Dwight Gooden was 24-4, the most dominant pitcher of the decade with his routine double-digit strikeout performances. Power-hitting outfielder Darryl Strawberry was never scarier at the plate. The team had not one but three steadily-firing spark plugs, infielder Wally Backman, outfielder Lenny Dykstra, and catcher Gary Carter (who was a NL Player of the Month in 1985, too). The team was also blessed with depth in its pitching rotation and on the bench, all of which Hernandez spends quality time detailing.

The debit on Hernandez's game-by-game approach is that he rarely gets into a subject for very long before moving along, whether it be his annoyance with Orel Hershiser, his problems with a particular umpiring crew, or his dealings with the press. At one point he tells you a line foul in Montreal put a woman in a hospital, but he never follows up to say how she turned out.

There's not a lot of depth to "If At First," especially with a supplementary section about the 1986 championship season that frustrates nearly as much as it enlightens. But from first page to last, this feels more like the real thing than just about any other baseball book out there. If Hernandez leaned on his co-writer to do the majority of the work while he hit the town, there's no sign of it here.

Definitely a must-read for Mets fans, especially those like me who remember 1985 and thought it presaged more than one World Series ring to come.
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3.0 out of 5 stars M. Johnson found this book irritating, July 8, 2007
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This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
You'll understand my title in a bit. When I purchased Hernandez and Bryan's other collarboration "Pure Baseball" I noticed that they had also co-authored another book. I picked it up, wondering why I'd never heard of it. Now I know why. This "diary" (sorry, real diaries don't have co-authors) chronicles Hernandez's and the Mets' turbulent 1985 season. Hernandez has an excellent memory of daily happenings during each game. He frequently discusses how he's hitting with his father, who serves as Keith's personal hitting coach. Hernandez's insight into hitting is excellent. You will learn something from reading about what he says about hitting. He also clearly thinks very highly of Dwight Gooden, as is evident throughout "If At First..." Hernandez is at times both arrogant and doubtful during the book. He brags about his career numbers and also allows wollows in self-pity during a slump.

Hernandez doesn't come off as a likable person in "If At First..." What made Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" and Jim Brosnan's "The Long Season" classics was because the common man could identify with Bouton and Brosnan. Hernandez angrily hangs up on reporters interested in finding out more about the impending players' strikes. As player rep, he should've given the press something. Both Bouton and Brosnan doubt their abilites and wonder how long they can hang on. Bouton especially goes into great detail about his family, and Brosnan does as well to a lesser extent. While Hernandez makes it clear his love for his brother, mother, and in particular his father, he rarely talks about his kids. I think he mentioned his new girlfriend more than them. Hernandez was going through a divorce during the season and does mention the time spent with lawyers.

What I really didn't like about the book was Hernandez endlessly referring to himself in the third person. There have to be at least thirty instances of that in the book. There are also multiple typos. Montreal manager Buck Rodgers' last name is misspelled every time "Rogers." The 1986 afterword has more spelling blunders, as Rafael Santana's first name is spelled "Raphael" and Tim Teufel's last name is spelled "Teuful." The errors are made even more comical when you read the acknowledgments. Who's the first person Hernandez and Bryan thank? Their editor. Another thing that struck me as weird in the afterword was Hernandez using one full paragraph saying that Len Bias and Don Rogers died of drug overdoses. The next paragraph he spends talking about Ed Lynch being traded. Huh? Man, what a segue. Seriously, did anyone edit the afterword?

Keith sort of comes clean about his cocaine use. He considered himself a "recreational" user, which reminded me of people who call themselves "social drinkers." He thought the reason Whitey Herzog had him traded to the Mets was because he spent pre-games doing crossword puzzles and not mingling with his teammates. In reality, Herzog found out about his cocaine habit. That's why he was sent to New York. His views on lineups and stats sound outdated. He believes RBI's are a more telling stat than homers. When I read that, I said to myself "He's kidding, right?" A stat that is almost completely reliant on your teammates? Hernandez comes off as rather arrogant in the book. I wouldn't recommend this unless you're a Hernandez fan or a Mets fan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's about another Keith, November 23, 2012
This review is from: If at First: A Season With the Mets (Hardcover)
I have to preface this review by saying I am a HUGE Keith Hernandez fan, so this will be biased.

My only issue with this book is that it is about the 85 season and not the 86. I thought the book was informative, and written in a diary format. I believe Hernandez said that his goal was to make the book from the onset of the season, so it makes sense that it goes on from the daily grind of a baseball season. It is a nice look at what a superstar goes through during a season and i am sure he would have liked not having to go before the grand jury about the cocaine use. I would have liked to hear more about the partying and rock star lifestyle of those Mets.

It's a shame they didn't bring home more titles. But, if you're a fan of Keith, or baseball in general this is a book worth reading.
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If at First: A Season With the Mets
If at First: A Season With the Mets by Keith Hernandez (Hardcover - June 1986)
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