It’s nothing short of amazing that New
York Mets great Keith Hernandez continues to throw his support
behind the Cobble Hill Health Center and its annual "Field
of Dreams" gala.
The latest benefit was held on Nov. 19 in the spacious ballroom of the New York Hilton in Manhattan.
Even more amazing is the fact that the ballplayer is so beloved by celebrity friends of all walks of life - from actress Kathleen Turner, to former "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris to his beleaguered ’86 Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry - that he gets them all to turn out for his annual fete to benefit the construction of an Alzheimer’s assisted-living center near the health center.
It’s no secret to his celeb pals that Hernandez lost his mother, Jacquelyn, to Alzheimer’s disease in 1989, at the age of 59. Hernandez has already lent his support to help raise funds to expand Cobble Hill Health Center programs, including an Adult Day Health Center for Alzheimer’s patients, named in memory of Jacquelyn Hernandez.
"I am proud to be the chairman of the Field of Dreams gala and to be associated with the Cobble Hill Health Center," said Hernandez. "There is a tremendous need to create alternatives for a growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease who cannot remain safely at home, yet do not require expensive nursing home care."
Mets pitching ace Al Leiter told GO Brooklyn he came out to support the health center "because like so many charities and important causes [Cobble Hill Health Center] makes this world a better place.
"Keith’s a good guy who gets it," said Leiter. "People who give back do it because we know how fortunate we are. It’s not just our money, it’s our time and our money that’s needed."
YES network sportscaster Michael Kay told GO Brooklyn, "This is a great cause. Keith asked me to come and it’s hard to argue with this cause. It seems like more and more people are affected by the disease in some way."
The gala honored Gary Carter, a newly inducted baseball hall of famer and former Mets World Series teammate of Hernandez; the loquacious Nachamah Jacobovits, senior vice president of the New York Mercantile Exchange (who had jocular TV sportscaster Warner Wolf announcing after her acceptance speech concluded that breakfast was about to be served); and Joe O’Neill, executive vice president of the New York Board of Trade.
The celebs were good sports about signing autographs - and they should be, as tickets were $1,000 a pop. And in their wake the popping flashbulbs of papparazzi lit up the room. Among Hernandez’s friends were former Met and Yankee Dwight "Doc" Gooden, Brooklyn-born Mets reliever John Franco, former ’86 Met and Brooklyn Cyclones manager Howard Johnson, Met legend Rusty Staub, artist LeRoy Neiman, ’86 Mets manager Davey Johnson, former Mets pitcher and Brooklyn Cyclones pitching coach Bobby Ojeda, 1969 Amazin’ Met Ed Charles, former ’60s-era Met and Yankee Phil Linz, former New York Ranger hockey great Rod Gilbert, Lafayette High School grad and CEO of the New York Mets Fred Wilpon and former New York Giants Super Bowl winner Phil McConkey.
"There are so many celebrities here tonight, I’m the only one I’ve never heard of," joked Wolf.
Upon accepting his award, Carter said, "It’s a tribute to Keith for all the ballplayers to be here tonight. I continue to say he was the best first baseman I’ve ever played with."
Carter also pointed out Strawberry in the audience.
"There’s a united feeling amongst all of us of how terrific it is to see Darryl Strawberry here tonight. I’m so proud of you, to see you here tonight."
Carter also thanked his wife of 29 years, Sandy, and thanked the Cobble Hill Health Center for honoring him.
"I know how much this means to Keith Hernandez," said Carter. "It’s a dread disease that I hope they one day find a cure for."
And if sports giants aren’t your thing, the elegant affair had swinging music provided by the Mark Stevens Star Light Orchestra and a bar carved from ice. Bartenders poured the libations via the bar’s frozen chutes into martini glasses. Those drinks must have had a hand in making it easier to bid high at the silent auction overflowing with coveted sports memorabilia.
"This event means the world to Keith," Hernandez’s girlfriend of two and a half years, Kai Thompson, told GO Brooklyn. "His mother died of Alzheimer’s at a very, very young age and ever since he’s retired he’s been working tirelessly - for 10 years - for this cause. We’re hoping as of tonight to have raised a million dollars for the center."
Broadway and film actress Turner and "long time" friend of Hernandez told GO Brooklyn she came out to support the center because of Keith’s family’s story. "He has a real compassion for what this disease does to families."
Other supportive VIPs included New York 1 sportscaster Budd Mishkin, restaurateur Drew Nieporent (who arrived without his Tribeca Grill partner Robert DeNiro), Channel 4’s Len Berman and Sal Marciano, and WCBS sportscasters John Sterling and Charlie Steiner.
The funds raised will go towards the construction of a planned $16 million Alzheimer’s facility.
Lipschitz, who said she didn’t want to get "mushy," presented Hernandez with an enormous portrait of his mother.
"My mother was 18 when this photograph was taken," said Hernandez. "I don’t know how many times more beautiful she was inside."
For more information about supporting the Cobble Hill Health Center, located at 380 Henry St. between Congress and Warren streets, call (718) 855-6789 ext. 138.