Jerry and George with Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter in the Yankee batting cage.
For a show about nothing, Seinfeld sure had something. And a lot of that something had something to do with baseball.
In real life, Jerry Seinfeld is a Mets fan. But most of the baseball storylines in Seinfeld were based on the Yankees.
From George Steinbrenner to Keith Hernandez to the naked fat man on the subway, here are the 10 best Seinfeld baseball storylines.
1. George, by George: The obvious choice for #1 was the natural pairing of two Georges. George Steinbrenner, The Boss, and George Costanza, self-proclaimed Lord of the Idiots.
The two George’s get together when Costanza,convinced that every instinct he ever trusted had been wrong, acted out the opposite. He meets the beautiful Victoria in the diner and through her uncle, gets an interview with the Yankees and lands the job of his dreams, assistant traveling secretary.
Upon hearing the news, Jerry exclaims:
“Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle … Costanza?!”
The fictional Steinbrenner talked nonstop, cancelled a meeting because he wanted Costanza to get him an eggplant calzone, and once traded Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps to Frank Costanza’s dismay.
Frank: What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?! He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin’!
Steinbrenner: Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying “Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.”
The Steinbrenner character was portrayed by Lee Bear, although his full face was never shown. Larry David, the show’s executive producer, provided voice-over whenever “Big Stein” spoke. In all, the Steinbrenner character appeared in 13 episodes of Seinfeld, including the finale.
2. The Second Spitter: This hilarious two-part episode plays off JFK, the film by Oliver Stone. Jerry debunks the theory that Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez once spit on both Kramer and Newman at Shea Stadium — an event that would change them “in a deep and profound way from that day forward.”
Let’s set the scene: June 14, 1987. Mets-Phillies. Hernandez makes a crucial error in the ninth that cost the Mets the game. Newman spots the former first baseman outside Shea Stadium and heckles, “Nice game, pretty boy.” Kramer feels the sting of saliva and yells out, “I’m hit!” before the spit reportedly ricochets toward Newman. Back … and to the left. Back … and to the left.
“Unfortunately the immutable laws of physics contradict the whole premise,” concludes Jerry, who along with Hernandez assists the victims in determining an additional assailant: relief pitcher Roger McDowell.
Newman.: Wow, it was McDowell.
Jerry: But why? Why McDowell?
Kramer: Well, maybe because we were sitting in the right field stands cursing at him in the bullpen all game.
Newman: He must have caught a glimpse of us when I poured that beer on his head.
In one of the many side plots, Hernandex is trying to round third and head for home, but Elaine warns him to watch the third base coach, because she’s pretty sure he’ll be giving the stop sign.
3. Catch One in Your Hat: When George gets squirted in the eye by Jerry’s grapefruit, the ensuing sting instigates a lot of one-eyed blinking, which people assume to be a wink and an understood alternative message to whatever George says.
So when George says he doesn’t want Kramer to take George Steinbrenner’s team-signed birthday card and sell it to a memorabilia dealer, he means it. But Kramer sees the wink and soon, bed-ridden little Bobby is holding the now-framed birthday card.
To get the card back, Kramer gets creative and promises one, then two, home runs from Bobby’s favorite player, Yankee outfielder Paul O’Neill. O’Neill is understandably upset — he’s not a home-run hitter, he claims — and says even Babe Ruth “was not stupid enough to promise two.”
Bobby: Would he hit two home runs?
Kramer: Two? Sure kid, yeah. But then you gotta promise you’ll do something for me.
Bobby: I know. Get out of this bed one day and walk again.
Kramer: Yeah, that would be nice. But I really just need this card.
Kramer follows the game with in the hospital with Bobby, and they’re both excited after O’Neill hits one home run. In the bottom of the eighth, O’Neill hits what appears to be an inside-the-park home run, but the official scorer rules it a triple and an error.
Bobby still won’t give up the card, so Kramer promises that O’Neill will catch a ball in his hat the next night.
4. Costanza, King of Swing: Abstinence turns George into a genius. He speaks Portuguese, studies volumes, and gives Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams batting tips.
George: Guys, hitting is not about muscle. It’s simple physics. Calculate the velocity, v, in relation to the trajectory, t, in which g, gravity, of course remains a constant. It’s not complicated.
The Yankee stars, World Series winners, say that they don’t need help from an assistant traveling secretary who put them up in a Milwaukee Ramada. George reminds them it took them six games to dispose of the Braves.
5. The White Bronco: Kramer gets into an argument with his golfing partner and former Yankee catcher Steve Gandeson, who loses his temper and allegedly murders a dry cleaner.
Kramer is convinced that he caused it all, and helps his buddy. In a scene that mimics the famous OJ Simpson freeway chase, Kramer drives a white Bronco with Gandeson in the passenger seat., pursued by police.
During the slow-speed chases on the New Jersey Turnpike, Kramer negotiates with police, saying Gandeson wants to see his goldfish.
6. Cotton Uniforms: In Danny Tartabull’s first Seinfeld appearance, George gives he Yankees slugger some pointers on how to “improve” his swing. After seeing how sweaty Tartabull is in the jersey, George shares with manager Buck Showalter his idea to have the Yankees wear cotton uniforms.
George: Listen, Buck, I uh…obviously I don’t need to talk to you about the importance of player morale, but uh…I’ve been talking to some of the guys, and some of them – I don’t want to mention any names – but some of them…they’re not too happy with the polyester uniforms.
Buck: How so?
George: Well, they get very hot in the polyester. You know, it’s not a natural fiber. I think they would prefer cotton.
Buck: Cotton, huh?
George: Yeah. Cotton breathes, you see, it’s much softer. Imagine playing games and your team is five degrees cooler than the other team. Don’t you think that would be an advantage? They’re cooler, they’re more comfortable…they’re happier. They’re gonna play better.
Buck: You may have something there, George.
George: Oh, I’ve got something.
Initial reviews were glowing: “Wade Boggs: ‘What a fabric! Finally we can breathe.’ Luis Polonia: ‘Cotton is king.’ Paul O’Neill: ‘I never dreamed anything could be so soft and fluffy.’”
But the cotton unis would shrink, leaving the Yankees, “running like penguins.” Worst of all: Don Mattingly split his pants.
7. Elaine Gets Ejected: Elaine, Kramer and George get tickets to a Yankees game in the owner’s box, courtesy of Jerry’s girlfriend, whose father is an accountant for the team. However Elaine steadfastly refuses to take off her Orioles cap, and is ejected from Yankee Stadium.
As it turns out, Elaine had lied to get out of attending a bris for the son of her boss (Mr. Lippman of Pendant Publishing, not Mr. Peterman). She tries to hide the New York Times Sunday sports section from Lippman, since it contains a picture of her at the game.
Mr Lippman quizzes her on her Maryland allegiance, then invites her to attend a game with him in the owners box and asks her to wear her Oriole cap.
In the final scene, George and Jerry are watching the Yankee game and hear Phil Rizzuto talk about a woman in an Oriole cap causing a disturbance in the stands. Holy cow!
8. Charlie Hustle Costanza: In a softball game reminiscent of MLB’s 1970 All-Star game when Pete Rose bowled over catcher Ray Fosse, George, waved home by third base coach Jerry, flattens Bette Midler and is safe at the plate.
An angry mob chases George and Jerry around Central Park. Meanwhile, Kramer consoles Bette by singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
9. Dunkin’ Joe DiMaggio: Kramer tells of spotting Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts. Jerry can’t believe a man of DiMaggio’s stature would be “sitting at the counter in little, tiny, filthy, smelly Dinky Donuts.”
10. Subway Series: Jerry falls asleep on the subway and then wakes up across from a fat naked man. On the way to Coney Island, they become fast friends and wind up discussing the Mets prospects for the upcoming season
Jerry: (to the naked man) Tell you what, if they win the pennant this year, I’ll sit naked with you at the World Series.
Wherever he is, George Steinbrenner is mighty pissed off.
Citizens of the Yankee universe were desperately seeking some sort of George Patton-like missive from The Boss following the Bombers timid showing against the Tigers in the ALDS. You know, the front office memo that apologizes to the fans, rips the team and vows to fight to the death for a World Championship next year. We’re Yankees, we’re battered and we’re beaten, but we bleed pinstripe blue. Something like that.
There really are no excuses for the Yankees loss to the Detroit. George would agree, and he’d know where to point the finger.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3….or in this instance 4-5-6. The heart of New York’s lineup, 4-5-6 hitters Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, played like kitty cats against the Tigers and cost the Yanks the series. The numbers don’t lie:
- A-Rod — 2-for-18 against Detroit .180 batting average in his last 14 playoff games.
- Tex — 3-for-18 against Detroit, .170 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
- Swisher — 4-for-19 against Detroit, .160 post-season BA since joining Yankees in 2009.
Wait, It Gets Worse
In the Yankees last two post-season series, losses to the Tigers and to the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, A-Rod is 6-for-39, Teixeira 3-for-32 and Swisher 6-for-41. That’s 15-for-112, a combined .134 batting average.
Rodriguez has six years and $143M left on his contract. An albatross, he’ll be 42 when that contract runs out, and his body is already breaking down. Old-Roid played in just 99 games this season.
Take away 2009, and A-Rod has been a post-season bust. He’s struck out to end each of the Yankees last two playoff series.
Teixeira has five years and $112.5M left his contract, and is signed through 2016, when he will be 36. And Swisher, who turns 31 next month, will be back next year if the Yankees exercise their $10.25M option.
That’s a lot of time and money invested in three middle-of-the-order guys who can’t hit in the clutch.
Red Sox Favorites
After failing to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the Yankees entered the 2011 season in a strange position — underdogs. The Red Sox were the consensus pick to win the AL East.
However Boston fell apart during in an epic September swoon, and the Yankees won the division.
That’s great, but Yankee teams are judged on one criteria — championships won.
As The Boss knows, anything less is a disappointment. A very big disappointment.
The Yankees do it right
Flowers at home plate
Bob Sheppard’s silent mike
And finally, a walk-off win.
A George Tale
My old friend Chuck sent me this e-mail the other day. Wanted to share it with you.
“Met George at Lauderdale by the sea in florida in 2002- He saw my tattered yankee cap -sat down at the bar and ordered a coke and a cheeseburger.I spent almost an hour talkin nothin but yankee baseball- and like you- I was filled with old and new stats and rattled off like a 2 year old on x-mas. What was amazing was this guy was just as into it as … was- talking with his mouth full and ketchup everywhere.In the end- he said come to the game opener and he will give me a new hat. Sure enough- 2 months later – at the stadium- there was my hat- with a note-”Chuck- thanks for the passion- its what drives us on – G.S.” I still got the hat and note- and the experience!”
Must be more George Steinbrenner stories out there. Send me yours.
Never got to meet George Steinbrenner, never got to shake his hand. But like so many other Yankee fans, I wish I had the opportunity to thank The Boss before he passed on. Thank him for making baseball important once more in New York, and for making the Yankees a winner again.
George Steinbrenner saved the New York Yankees. When a group of businessmen led by Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees on January 3, 1973, for a net price of $8.7 million, the once-proud franchise was floundering. Attendance was down, Yankee Stadium was falling apart, and the team hadn’t won a World Series since 1962.
The Yankees were a bottom feeder in the American League East in those days, a baseball laughingstock. Think Horace Clarke and Dooley Womack.
At first George said he would be a silent owner, that in his words he would not “be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all.” That lasted for a New York minute. Before long, Steinbrenner promised he would bring the Yankees back to prominence.
Steinbrenner brought in a number of heralded players at the dawn of free agency, most notably Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. He refurbished Yankee Stadium. And within four years, the Yankees were back on top, winning the World Series in 1977 and repeating in 1978.
Moose Skowron, a Yankee first baseman in the 50s and early 60s, perhaps summed it up best: “This man wants to win, and I respect him for that. Who the hell wants to be a loser.”
Some owners were hobbyists, but for George Steinbrenner ownership was serious baseball business.
Sometimes too serious. George wanted to win, but for a time in the 80s and early 90s his competitive instincts got the best of him. The Yankees endured an 18-year championship drought following the 1978 World Series, and failed to make a single playoff appearance between 1981 and 1995.
Then came 1996 and a surprising World Series triumph over the Atlanta Braves, followed by three straight World Championships from 1998-2000. That 1998 team with manager Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and the rest of the Core Four won 125 games and ranks amongst the greatest in baseball history.
And of course last year the Yankees opened their beautiful new Stadium — the Home Office — and capped the season with their 27th Championship, most of any North American pro sports franchise.
In retrospect, it’s almost like two George Steinbrenners owned the Yankees, two different personalities. The first was the tyrannical despot who ranted and raved, belittled Dave Winfield and other members of the organization, phoned the Yankee dugout and hired and fired Billy Martin five times.
George seemed to mellow in his later years as he built the Yankee brand. A softer side of George emerged, a kinder, gentler George, a benevolent George who not only treated his players and managers with respect, but also honored the military and police officers and helped charities, schools and individuals in need.
And in the end, the Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Championships in the Steinbrenner regime, and had the best record in baseball during that 37-year span.
“I care about New York dearly,” George told Sports Illustrated several years ago. “I like every cab driver, every guy that stops the car and honks, every truck driver. I feed on that.”
The Boss bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in 1973 — the team is now worth more than a $1.6 billion according to a recent report in Forbes magazine. Not a bad investment, by George.
Sadly, George Steinbrenner was not selected for the Hall of Fame before his passing. Perhaps the Hall can do him right now, and open its doors for George Steinbrenner.
Related Blog: Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall
(Note: The SportsLifer took the day off from work to to attend the Yankees championship parade in lower Manhattan. No crowd estimates were available, but the ‘Lifer counted a million Yankee fans. Here is his report.)
The big city with an even bigger heart poured out its love for the New York Yankees as players, fans and the entire Yankee family celebrated the team’s 27th World Championship with a ticker-tape parade down the famed Canyon of Heroes.
These Yankees didn’t win the 2009 World Series because they had the biggest payroll, or the newest stadium, or the loudest fans. They won because they were the best team, with the emphasis on the world team. They played with pride and guts and resiliency, qualities appreciated by the citizens of the city they represent, the greatest city in the world, New York, New York.
The Yankees won not because of fat wallets, but because of gritty at-bats, steady pitching, an underrated defense and an amazing ability to come from behind dozens of times, as evidenced by their incredible string of walk-off victories in their new Yankee Stadium home.
A Band of Brothers
They won because they were family, a band of brothers, a bunch of guys who had one another’s back and were determined to give an honest effort, day in day out, throughout a long season and pressure-filled playoff run.
They won because they have ownership that truly cares about the team and its fans, and which constantly reinvests in that team in an effort to put the best product on the field. The bar has been set high by the ailing George Steinbrenner, The Boss, who must have been a happy man as New York honored its heroes.
Sure the Yankees have talent, probably the most talent in baseball this year. But talent is no guaranteed ticket to success, no E-ZPass to a title, no automatic ring.
The Yanks have had talented teams in recent years, but they were unable to grab the ultimate prize since winning three straight championships ending with the 2000 World Series victory against the Mets.
The Yankees didn’t break any rules. They built this team by the laws of the game. They accomplished what many Americans dream about: and attained their goal to be the best.
Win over Phillies Ends Drought
Their nine-year drought ended on a chilly November night, when the Yankees vanquished a tough Phillies team in six games to win that unprecedented 27th championship.
The moment the World Series ended with the Yanks 7-3 win in Game Six, the party began. And it culminated with a paraded attended by more than a million fans who showered their love on their pinstriped heroes for giving them a season to remember.
Perhaps columnist Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post summed it up best:
“Really, in many ways, the era this team most resembles is the Old-Time Dynasty Yankees, the ones that inspired such devotion among their fans and such resentment everywhere else, teams built to batter you and to better you, teams that inspired so many fans in America League outposts like Detroit and Cleveland and Chicago (and yes, Boston too) to wail “Break up the Yankees!”
“You hear that a lot now, and those shouts are sure to get louder and you know something? That’s OK. Let them all roar. Today in the Canyon of Heroes nobody will be able to hear anything other than a city and a baseball team thanking each other, loudly, for the ride of their lives. It’s a rite of autumn the Yankees know better than any team who ever lived.”
Let the quest for 28 begin.
Origins of The Ticker-Tape Parade
New York knows how to throw a party. In fact the term ticker-tape parade originated in New York City after a spontaneous celebration held on October 29, 1886, during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty
Since then, New York has held more than 200 or these lovefests, for luminaries like Charles Lindbergh, Albert Einstein Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, and astronauts, Vietnam veterans, Olympic medalists, and New York sports teams.
Strangely, the first ticker-tape parade for the Yankees wasn’t held until April of 1961, to celebrate the 1960 American league pennant. The first World Champion Yankee team to be honored was the 1977 club which beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
SportsLifer is in the midst of summer vacation. Just spent a week on the beautiful, yet underrated, Jersey Shore. It’s a tough life, making decisions like whether or not to bring the suntan lotion, when to go in the ocean and where to buy the ice.
Gave me some good ideas about the wireless cabana of the future.
Anyway, a lot happened while I was away. Trying to sort it all out, but I now know:
- Brett Favre is quarterback of the Jets.
- Mike and the Mad Dog are no longer a couple.
- Michael Phelps is a pretty good swimmer.
- Sergio Garcia feels the power of The Jinx.
- Hank Steinbrenner has more quit in him than George ever did.
- There’s such a thing as a too hot tub.
Been offline for a few days. Connectivity issues.
There’s a baseball team with issues here in New York — the Yankees. Hitting in the clutch issues. Pitching issues. Fielding issues. Winning issues.
Start with the captain, Derek Jeter, having the worst year of his career. The young hitters, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano, aren’t showing signs of improvement.
Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have been disasters so far this season. Since Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera came up, name me one guy beside Chien-Ming Wang who’s risen through the Yankee farm system to become a decent major league pitcher. (Joba Chamberlain shows promise, but it’s early).
There are too many veterans on this team who have never won, in New York or anywhere else. Mike Mussina. Jason Giambi. Bobby Abreu, Kyle Farnsworth. And the true Lord of the Ringless, Alex Rodriguez.
Hey Alex, how about spending less time hitting on Madonna and more time hitting under pressure?
George Steinbrenner turned 78 on the Fourth of July, and must be wondering about this $200 million plus payroll. Heads must roll.
I’ve got a solution for George and his son Hank. Take me out to the ballgame. Since last July 31, I’ve been to four Yankee games, and they’ve won them all. 16-3 against the White Sox, tying the team record with eight home runs in a single game. 12-0 over the Orioles in September. 13-2 against the Mariners this past May. And 18-7 over the Rangers earlier this week. That’s 59 runs in the last four games, do the math.
If you’re reading this, George or Hank, gimme some tickets. Nothing else seems to be working.
Willie Randolph got the shaft. Plain and simple. You don’t keep an employee hanging for weeks, then fire him.
If Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya and the rest of the Mets brass really wanted to fire Randolph, they should have let him go following last September’s colossal collapse when they below the division to the Phillies.
The Mets decided to bring Willie back for another season. That’s fine. But once they continued the death spiral this year and speculation about Randolph’s firing intensified, Minaya should have pulled the trigger.
Instead they dragged things out, fueled even more fan and media speculation, then fired him in the middle of the night under cover of darkness in Southern California, 3,000 miles from home.
“And in the history of New York baseball, there has not been a more cowardly, indecent, undignified or ill-conceived firing of a manager,” said Bill Madden, baseball scribe for the New York Daily News.
That’s saying something when you consider some of the other memorable New York managerial firings. Does George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin ring a bell?
Good luck with these Mutts, Jerry Manuel. The Mets once again proved they’re second-class citizens in New York.