Baseball's role in helping 'Seinfeld' become a classic

Big Stein, Keith, 'second spitter' and more contributed to iconic show

August 29th, 2019

“Seinfeld” debuted 30 years ago and -- yada, yada, yada -- we still love it today.

People love it so much that, 21 years after “The Finale,” debates, using the hashtag #TopSeinfeldEp, about the best episode have raged on Twitter this week (and hopefully nobody actually suggested “The Finale” as the best episode, because it was terrible).

All this talk got us thinking about the sheer number of episodes that have a baseball tie-in. Take a gander at our list of top 25 baseball-related moments on “Seinfeld,” and you see this “show about nothing” sure spent a lot of time with the National Pastime.

25. “Boy, the Mets blew it tonight, huh?” The very first episode (“The Seinfeld Chronicles”) contained the very first baseball reference, with Jerry “avoiding human contact all day” and answering the phone at his apartment by rapidly saying, “If you know what happened in the Met game, don’t say anything, I taped it, hello.” Sure enough, Kramer enters and blows the ending for him.

24. “I hit a whopper last week!” Jerry’s date in “The Slicer” (1996) is a dermatologist who asks him if he has any idea how it feels to save someone’s life, to which Jerry responds, “Is it anything like hitting a home run in softball?”

23. “Singles tables are for losers!” You have to watch the DVD extras of “The Invitations” (1996) to see the real George Steinbrenner’s only actual cameo, when the Yankee owner tried to score a date with Elaine for George’s wedding. The wedding didn’t happen, and the cameo didn’t air.

22. “I’ll have Costanza on the next bus!” George’s illustrious tenure as assistant to the traveling secretary for the Yankees ended in “The Muffin Tops” (1997), when Steinbrenner, voiced by Larry David, traded him to Tyler Chicken in Arkansas, in exchange for chicken hot dogs, chicken pretzels and alcoholic chicken to replace the Yankee Stadium beer.

21. “Oh, Mattingly just singled!” George has his first tinge of regret after “The Engagement” (1995) when his fiancée, Susan, turns off an airing of the Yankee game to watch “Mad About You.”

20. “If they win the pennant, I’ll sit naked with you at the World Series.” When Jerry falls asleep on “The Subway” (1992), he wakes up to find a naked guy sitting across from him, reading the newspaper. Naturally, they start talking ball, ultimately deciding that, while they disagree about the makeup of the Mets, they love the team’s chances.

19. “Hey! Body Suit Man!” George tries to get fired by the Yankees to get out of his contract and join the Mets in “The Millennium” (1997). When wearing Babe Ruth’s uniform around the office doesn’t work, he resorts to scampering across the field mid-game wearing nothing but a flesh-toned body suit. That doesn’t work, either.

18. “Yeah, you make good comments.” After stupidly quitting his job in “The Revenge” (1991), George ponders careers in the sporting world, wondering aloud if he could be the general manager of a baseball team or, failing that, a broadcaster. “Well,” Jerry responds, “they tend to give those jobs to ex-ballplayers and people that are, you know, in broadcasting.”

17. “That’s how they talk in the Major Leagues.” In “The Hot Tub” (1995), George has a meeting with the Astros about the possibility of Interleague Play (“Seinfeld was two years ahead of the curve on that one) – a conversation marked by some colorful language from the Houston brass.

16. “There’s a southpaw down there nobody’s been able to get a look at -- something Rodriguez.” After hearing an ill-founded rumor that George is a Communist in “The Race” (1994), Steinbrenner decides a pipeline to Cuban baseball talent “could be the greatest thing to ever happen to this organization” and wants to send George to Cuba on a scouting mission. Maybe this planted the seed for the Jose Contreras signing.

15. “Like, uh, Joe Pepitone Day. Or Jon Voight Day!” Desperate to meet Voight and figure out if he really bought the actor’s old Chrysler LeBaron convertible, George proposes some ill-advised promotional days for Yankee Stadium in “The Mom and Pop Store” (1994).

14. “As painful as it is, I had to let go of a few people over the years.” In “The Wink,” which aired on Oct. 12, 1995, Steinbrenner details his many managerial firings (including multiple Billy Martin references) and accidentally informs George of his plans to can Buck Showalter. Two weeks later, Showalter was let go in real life. Life imitates art? Or maybe just an easy guess?

13. “Big Stein wants an eggplant calzone!” In “The Calzone” (1996), we learned that while Steinbrenner wasn’t always loyal to managers, he was awfully loyal to lunches, eating turkey chili in a bowl out of bread every day from 1973 to 1982. “There’s nothing more satisfying than looking down after lunch and seeing nothing but a table!”

12. “No one gives us the finger! We’re Yankees!” George’s plan to bring Danny Tartabull to “The Pledge Drive” (1994) go astray when another driver seemingly gives him the finger. George (and Danny) chase him down an hour outside of New York City, only to discover the man’s finger was only extended because of a cast on his arm.

11. “I think you better take off that Orioles cap.” When the gang gets invited to sit in the owner’s box at Yankee Stadium in “The Letter” (1992), it turns out Elaine is not exactly free as a bird to support her native Baltimore. The guy who supplied the ducats demands she remove her O’s hat, an argument ensues and one is left to wonder if freedom of expression ought to apply in “The Boss’” box.

10. “Well, maybe he likes Dinky Donuts.” In “The Note” (1991), Kramer insists he saw Joe DiMaggio in an unexpected place -- a filthy donut shop. He is vindicated later when the gang spots “The Yankee Clipper” himself at Monk’s, dunking his donut in his coffee. “The Yankee Dipper.”

9. “I’m Keith Hernandez. After squiring Elaine about town with some of the ’86 Mets (“Mookie was there. Do you know him?”) in “The Boyfriend” (1992), Hernandez boldly goes in for a first-date kiss, telling himself, “Come on, I won the MVP in ’79. I can do what I want.” Elaine later tells him the third-base coach isn’t “waving him in.”

8. “You knocked Bette Midler out of ‘Rochelle, Rochelle: The Musical’!” George plays the part of Pete Rose to Midler’s Ray Fosse in “The Understudy” (1995). Some impressively aggressive baserunning on the part of Costanza. But if you watch closely, you’ll note that he misses home plate.

7. “I never dreamed anything could be so soft and fluffy.” In “The Chaperone” (1994) George gets Showalter on-board with his belief that being “five degrees cooler than the other team” would be a competitive advantage. Thus begins the short-lived experiment of the Yankees wearing cotton uniforms. Alas, one wash (and shrink) renders them unusable, particularly after Don Mattingly splits his pants.

6. “I looked down and, whoa man, it’s Mickey!” In “The Visa” (1993), Kramer attends a Yankee fantasy camp (even though “his whole life is a fantasy camp”), and he plunks Joe Pepitone with a pitch. A brouhaha breaks out, and Kramer knocks out his hero, Mickey Mantle. That was the end of that camp.

5. “Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle … Costanza?!” Wandering through life, George decides to follow “The Opposite” (1994) of every instinct. It culminates at a job interview with his favorite team and a face-to-face with Steinbrenner in which George tells “The Boss” he has reduced the Yanks to a “laughingstock, all for the glorification of your massive ego!” Steinbrenner’s response? “Hire this man.” Just don’t try this type of tactic if you’re a job-seeker at the next Winter Meetings.

4. “It’s hard to hit home runs. And where the heck did you get two from?” Hoping to barter with a sick little boy for his Yankees-autographed birthday card in “The Wink” (1995), Kramer tells the kid he’ll get Paul O’Neill to hit two home runs for him. O’Neill is naturally non-committal, but he does, indeed, hit a homer in one at-bat and an inside-the-park job the next. Unfortunately, the second is scored a triple and an error, but Kramer gets the card anyway when he promises the boy O’Neill will catch a fly ball in his hat.

3. “Aren’t you the guy who put us in that Ramada in Milwaukee?” When George refrains from certain activity in “The Abstinence” (1996), he suddenly has home-run-hitting prowess that he hopes to pass on to Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter. They look on unimpressed, having just won the World Series. “In six games,” George reminds them, before cranking out another homer.

2. “What the #$@% did you trade Jay Buhner for?” George’s disappearance in “The Caddy” (1996) prompts a Steinbrenner appearance at the Costanza residence in Queens, where George’s dad is not nearly as concerned about his son’s whereabouts as he is about an infamous ’88 trade made by the Yanks. And after Frank fulfills the fantasy of every frustrated sports fan in history, Steinbrenner explains, “My baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying ‘Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps!”

1. “Nice game, pretty boy.” Those infamous words out of the mouth of Newman, directed at Keith Hernandez after a Mets loss, prompt a response that would change Newman and Kramer “in a deep and profound way from that day forward.” Hernandez spit on them. Or did he? Jerry’s “JFK”-like breakdown of the crime scene prompts the theory of a “Second Spitter,” and subsequent discussion with Hernandez himself in “The Boyfriend” (1992) reveals the one and only spitter to be none other than Roger McDowell.