Orlando Hernandez hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger in the big leagues since 2007, and he hasn’t thrown a pitch anywhere this year, but he had not announced his retirement. Until now. At least according to multiple Tweets to that effect, most notably by Jon Heyman.
El Duque pitched nine seasons in the majors, most memorably with the Yankees, for whom he was a key part of their 1998, 1999 and 2000 World Series championships. He got another ring with the White Sox in 2005. In those nine seasons he went 90-65 with an ERA of 4.13 while registering 1086 strikeouts to 479 walks.
But Hernandez was obviously more than a line of stats and some World Series rings. One of the most celebrated Cuban baseball players ever, he famously defected in December 1997. The story was that he was on a leaky raft, risking life and limb. The reality was that he was on a fishing boat with a big-ass engine, and once he reached the Bahamas he was flown to New York on a chartered jet. Hey, it’s showbiz.
Most famously, of course, and certain to be the subject of lots of one-liners as the morning wears on, was the matter of his age. He claimed to be 28 when he defected, but hardly anyone believed that. A few years later it was revealed in some leaked divorce papers that he was born in 1965. While Major League Baseball still lists a 1969 birth date for him, everyone else who matters — Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN, etc. — uses the 1965 date. There have been rumors, however, that he is much older still. It’s rather academic now, at least until he applies for medicare or wants to access his 401K or something.
Always a fun guy, and the dude that should probably have his picture next to the word “crafty” in the dictionary, El Duque — though he has been off the scene for some time — will be missed.