Top 10: Seinfeld baseball storylines

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.


3 Comments on “Top 10: Seinfeld baseball storylines”

  1. Tom says:

    Great reprise of Seinfeld’s baseball episodes!!!

  2. Robert says:

    Hah… a nice survey. I wish they had done a show on the distinction between the squeeze and the suicide squeeze.

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