Hot Stove #104 – Seinfeld Baseball Chronicles

The Mets were in Kansas City this past weekend. Friday night was “Beatles Night” to celebrate the appearance by the band in Kansas City 55 years ago – at Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn, hosted by A’s owner Charlie Finley. Since 14-year-old Rita Leifhelm was at that concert in 1964, we of course had to go to the Royals anniversary party. Rita bought us Beatles tee-shirts to wear and arranged transportation with uber (small “u” – i.e., outstanding) driver Pat Titterington and his wife Cheryl Dillard. The Royals did little during the game to remind you it was Beatles Night, but the band’s music was played during the quite spectacular fireworks show.

The game itself had a déjà vu factor. The Mets pitcher was the long-haired Noah Syndergaard (aka “Thor”). Many KC fans will recall Game 3 of the 2015 World Series when Thor started for the Mets after the Royals won the first two games. To deliver a message that the Mets were still in it, Thor decked Alcides Escobar with the first pitch of the game. He said if the Royals did not like it, they could meet him 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. After the Mets won the game 9-3, much of the TV talk by commentators and players was about the effect of that pitch. Well, it had a short shelf life. The Royals won the next two games to take the Series.

On Beatles Night at Kauffman, Thor had a decent game. He did not deck anybody and allowed only two runs in his six innings. But the Mets bats were silent, and the Royals won 4-1. Keith Hernandez was in town as part of the Mets broadcasting crew, and there was a good tweet on Keith’s analytical analysis on infield defense (click here; may need to tap screen for sound on some devices). Keith also plays a major role later in this post.

On Saturday night, the highlight for the Royals was a photo by Royals photographer Jason Hanna (Brett Phillips made the catch). The Mets won the games Saturday and Sunday to take the series. But we’ll always have 2015.

This is a milestone year for the Mets. It is the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets winning the 1969 World Series. And it is the 30th anniversary of the first episode of Seinfeld, starring Mets superfan Jerry Seinfeld (below, Jerry at Game 3 of the 2015 World Series). The Mets celebrated the Seinfeld anniversary in two games this year, one at Dodgers Stadium and the other at Citi Field.

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I’m guessing that many Hot Stove readers are familiar with the characters in the show: Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer. And Newman. But if you don’t know much about Seinfeld, don’t feel alone. When Seinfeld night was held at Dodgers Stadium, at least one young Dodger was perplexed by all the fuss. Cody Bellinger, the likely NL MVP this year, told a reporter that he “couldn’t put a face to the name” of Seinfeld. To be fair, Cody was two years old when the sitcom ended in 1998. Click here for a clip of Cody’s interview (0:40).

Los Angeles Dodgers: Although Seinfeld was a story of four friends who lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, it was filmed in Los Angeles. The diner where the friends hung out was in New York, but only for exterior shots. Jerry’s apartment exterior was from a building near MacArthur Park in L.A. This was enough for the Dodgers to declare a Seinfeld night when the Mets were in town earlier this season. Jerry’s nemesis, the postman Newman, threw out the first pitch.

MLB: MAY 29 Mets at Dodgers

The Mets did not fare well on Seinfeld night – they blew a 5-run lead and lost to the Dodgers 9-8. At least one New York sportswriter blamed Newman.

The commemorative baseballs for the game were decorated with memorable icons from the show: Junior Mints, puffy shirt, big salad, soup (as in Soup Nazi), partially eaten chocolate éclair, toilet paper, etc. You can visit YouTube to see how these define their Seinfeld episodes. I’ll link the one on toilet paper as a teaser (click here, 1:45).

In another National League park (in 2018), Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer of the Pirates sat together at a game.

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New York Mets: On July 5, the exact 30th anniversary date, the Mets held Seinfeld night at Citi Field. Jerry Seinfeld threw out the first pitch, a sidearm strike. One pundit ran side-by-side videos comparing Jerry to Dan Quisenberry (click here). Jerry then went to the press box for an inning with the broadcasters, one of whom was Keith Hernandez who appeared as himself on Seinfeld back in 1992.

Fans began lining up four hours before game time to claim one of the 25,000 Jerry bobbleheads. “Soup Nazi” Larry Thomas was also in the stadium to greet fans on the concourse.

 

 

The Seinfeld part of the night was real and spectacular. As for the game, Newsday offered an iconic Seinfeld line to describe how the Mets lost.

The nine seasons of Seinfeld included a good number of baseball storylines. For this post, I’ll recount one for each main character.

 

A Jerry Baseball Story – Keith Hernandez: Keith Hernandez had a 15-year major league career, playing 7 seasons for the Mets. He retired in 1990. In 1992, he appeared in a two-episode story arc on Seinfeld.

The setup: Jerry meets Keith at the health club and they become pals. Jerry introduces Elaine to Keith who asks her out. The 11-time Gold Glover tells Elaine that he is an expert on first base, and she teases about him not getting to first base (click here – 0:28). Jerry becomes jealous because he is losing time with his new friend.

Kramer and Newman find out that Jerry and Elaine have befriended Keith and become very upset. They had been to a Mets game before Keith retired and had berated him for an error costing the Mets the game. They believe that Keith then spit at them as they walked past him. Jerry shows Elaine how this could not have happened, using a trajectory analysis akin to that for the JFK assassination. I’ll let the video take it from there – you have to see to appreciate the “magic loogie” (click here – 3:37).

Baseball Roundup: 30 Years Ago Weds., Kramer Was Hit By A Second Spitter

When Hernandez shows up later at Jerry’s apartment, he convinces Kramer and Newman that there was another player on the other side, in an area by a “gravelly road” (like a…grassy knoll). This was pitcher Roger McDowell, a suspected “Second Spitter” (click here – 2:05).

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McDowell was honored with a bobblehead (and grassy knoll) by the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones in 2016.

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An Elaine Baseball Story – The Orioles:  Jerry’s girlfriend gives George four complimentary tickets for the owner’s box at a Yankees game. George takes Kramer and Elaine to the game. Elaine wears a Baltimore Orioles hat, and the person who arranged for the tickets asks her to take it off. After all, she is sitting in George Steinbrenner’s box. It does not go well (click here – 1:13).

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A Kramer Baseball Story – Yankee Fantasy Camp: Kramer attends a Yankees fantasy camp, but comes home early after a brawl at the camp. He explains that he was pitching and gave a little “chin music” to Joe Pepitone and then “plunked” him on the next pitch. A brouhaha breaks out and Kramer takes a swing at someone grabbing him from behind. He lands his punch and finds that he has floored his idol Mickey Mantle. Click here – 2:13.

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A George Baseball Story – Mickey Mantle (#7): In season five of Seinfeld, George goes to work as the assistant traveling secretary for the Yankees, a job he keeps through four seasons of the show. George has many classic scenes with a faux George Steinbrenner, and these are likely to be chronicled in a future Hot Stove. But for today, let’s listen in on George and his fiancé Susan as they discuss potential baby names. George likes “Seven” – a   name that he thinks would be beautiful and also a living tribute to Mickey Mantle.

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Susan is not convinced. Click here (1:26). Don’t miss the baseball poster in Jerry’s apartment. James Rizzie’s serigraph of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” achieved cult status for periodically appearing in the show.

 

Image result for james rizzi take me out to the ballgame

 

Game over for today. Below, some post-game fireworks for those who have time to linger.

 

Lonnie’s Jukebox – Seinfeld Music Scenes: These music selections feature scenes from Seinfeld where things do not go well for Elaine. Please click on the name of each song to view the scene.

“That’s the Way of the World” (Earth, Wind and Fire) – Not much of this soul/funk song is heard, but it backs one of the most famous scenes in Seinfeld: Elaine dancing in front of her fellow workers. It does not go well. (1:35)

 

“Theme From the Godfather” (Nino Rota) – Jerry and Elaine are asked to be the godparents for a baby at a bris. Jerry starts talking like Marlon Brando. Elaine arranges for the mohel to perform the bris, but he is kind of crazy, and so …it does not go well. The mohel nicks Jerry’s finger in addition to the intended target. Kramer succeeds Jerry as godfather. (1:42). As Godfather aficionados know, the last scene of this Seinfeld episode has its counterpart in the first Godfather movie (click here – 1:13).

[Bonus clip (no pun intended) that may only be interesting to Seinfeld addicts: Researching a Hot Stove can take me down a lot of rabbit holes. For example, when I checked out “bris” on Wikipedia, I was redirected to the full Hebrew term “brit milah.” The first entry at the redirected site states “For the Seinfeld episode, see The Bris” – good evidence of how Seinfeld is ingrained in our culture. I next went to my Hot Stove editors for Judaism, Bill Carr and Pete Levi. They also are long-time Seinfeld aficionados, and in our email exchanges, I learned that the mohel in this episode exhibits a classic case of “tsoris,” a Yiddish term for trouble, suffering and distress. I then found a clip of scenes from the episode that were dubbed in Yiddish (with English subtitles). It’s long, but it shows the bris ceremony, and I think hard-core Seinfeld fans will enjoy it (click here – 8:40).]

 

“Desperado” and “Witchy Woman” (Eagles) – Elaine is dating a guy obsessed with “Desperado.” She seeks a song for both of them. It does not go well. (4:01)

“War, What is it Good For?” (Edwin Starr) – Elaine works at a publishing house, and she and her boss are to meet with a Russian author. Jerry convinces Elaine that the original title of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” was “War, What is it Good For?”. When Elaine and her boss meet with the Russian author, she shares Jerry’s trivia about War and Peace. It does not go well. (1:25). The Edwin Starr song is not played, but you can listen to it here.

PEACE