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Old 04-24-2006, 12:48 PM
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Default Hernandez's on-air sexist remarks tick off Padres

Hernandez's on-air sexist remarks tick off Padres

San Diego Union Tribune

April 24, 2006

To think, Elaine Benes didn't like Keith Hernandez because he smoked.

Imagine if she knew everything.

The best performance Hernandez has offered since retiring from baseball was a two-part episode of "Seinfeld." The worst - or so we hope, for his sake - occurred Saturday evening as part of a Mets-Padres telecast from Petco Park.

It seems all those Gold Gloves he won as a first baseman never came with a manuscript on the importance of present-day respect. It seems ol' Keith is a few back-door sliders short of reality. He needed just minutes while commenting as part of SportsNet New York's broadcast team to remind us sexism is alive and pitiful, openly questioning the presence of a woman in San Diego's dugout.

The victim of his insensitive remarks was Kelly Calabrese, in her third season as the Padres' massage therapist and the first female to be employed full time in a major league training room. There isn't a person more respected in San Diego's clubhouse, confirmed yesterday as players and coaches charged to her defense. Players who often would not have seen the field if not for her skill.

Mike Piazza had just homered in the second inning Saturday when television cameras panned San Diego's dugout. One of those offering the veteran catcher congratulations was Calabrese.

Here is what viewers then heard from Hernandez and play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen:

Hernandez: "Who's the girl in the dugout with the long hair? What's going on here? You gotta' be kidding me."

Cohen: "She's excited. Got a fist bump and everything."

Hernandez: "We'll get back to her. I'm not through with her."

A minute later, cameras again showed Calabrese.



Hernandez: "I thought she was Morganna (referring to the woman who for more than two decades became baseball's unofficial mascot by jumping onto fields and kissing unsuspecting players) for a minute, but she wasn't a blonde. . . . I won't say women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout."

Cohen: "There's only trouble brewing if you say that, you know."

Hernandez: "You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there. I always have. . . . Only in California. I just can't believe it. You think you've seen everything and, you know, there's always something new."

Then came the fifth inning - after the station undoubtedly received countless calls and e-mails demanding to know when Rush Limbaugh was hired as lead analyst - and the subject was revisited:

Hernandez: "I know I made some strong statements that she didn't belong in the dugout. I stand by those statements. I think it's a man's game."

Calabrese was raised believing that if she studied and worked hard enough, nothing was unattainable. For those women who wrestled for equality in the workplace years ago, she regards her position as one that can continue enacting essential universal change. The kind Hernandez likely couldn't fathom.

"Hopefully, if anything, we can turn what is obviously a negative into a positive," said Calabrese, who learned of the comments from her parents, who were watching off a Major League Baseball feed in Cleveland. "If I can be a role model for young girls who aspire to hold positions not typically held by women, I'm happy to be that person.

"It amazes me someone who has played the game and is talking in front of an audience of millions would say those things. It's uncalled for."

Marty Caswell, a producer at XX Sports Radio who covers the Padres and Chargers, agrees. "I think it's ridiculous," she said. "Where does this person come from? What type of social life does he have that he would actually be put off by a woman in a dugout?"

If it takes awareness to defend rights that have been gained, it takes a few uneducated remarks by someone such as Hernandez to confirm there is more road to travel in the struggle for equality. And while it is unreasonable to paint anyone with a single brush of intolerance based on a few innings of videotape - Hernandez has been a crusader in the battle against Alzheimer's and has worked tirelessly on behalf of those with the disease - it is more than acceptable to portray him as profoundly ignorant.

Chris Young is in his first year as a pitcher for the Padres. His wife was also watching the telecast.

"It was offensive to her and the other women she was watching with and I'm sure to a lot of other viewers," said Young. "(Calabrese) handles herself in a completely professional manner and all the guys in here handle it with professionalism. She makes each and every one of us better.

"It's 2006. Wake up. We have women fighting on our front lines in Iraq. I think they can be in a baseball clubhouse. My wife is in law school. Imagine that. Women can be lawyers, too."

Hernandez issued an apology on air during yesterday's game and yet still couched it by insinuating that major league baseball's rules are strict about which members of a training staff can be present in the dugout. After the game, he refused comment twice. When asked a third time while walking into a restroom, he said: "What did I say?"

At that point, I decided it best not to follow for fear there wouldn't be any witnesses. After all, what if he had whacked me over the head with a copy of Bobby Riggs' autobiography?



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