If there’s one thing that Jerry Seinfeld loved more on Seinfeld than torturing himself, it was baseball. Both a Mets hat and a Yankees hat were displayed prominently in his apartment, he’s often found watching the game, he had an insightful conversation about the Mets with a nude guy on a subway once, and his best friend worked for the Yankees. The comedian’s fandom also extends to real life where he is a devout Mets fan — an affection that he clearly gave service to while running a TV show, because there were a lot of cameos and baseball mentions over the course of Seinfeld’s nine-season run. So many that it seemed logical to rank them today, which is former Seinfeld guest star Keith Hernandez’s 63rd birthday.
Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams — “The Abstinence”
Basically, not having sex turns George into the Bradley Cooper character in Limitless, so he puts on a master class in hitting for Yankees’ All-Stars Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter — who mostly just stand there and watch. Luckily, Jeter improved a little over time and eventually had a pretty hilarious cameo beside Will Ferrell in The Other Guys, but it wasn’t good enough to erase the memory of this strikeout.
Joe DiMaggio — “The Note”
The unflappable and graceful Joe DiMaggio would have never visited a dinky donut shop in real life, but on Seinfeld, Kramer allegedly stumbles upon him and fails to get his attention. Not a valuable moment, just a wonderfully strange aside.
Buck Showalter — “The Chaperone”
The now-manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter didn’t shy away from the spotlight when he wore pinstripes as the Yankees manager from 1992 to 1995, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman and on one episode of Seinfeld where he allowed himself to be persuaded to let the team switch from polyester to cotton uniforms.
Phil Rizzuto — “The Pothole”
Phil Rizzuto’s signature voice got squeezed into George’s keychain, and then said keychain fell into a pothole and got covered up by a road crew. Not a true Rizzuto appearance, but if you grew up in the New York/New Jersey area listening to Rizzuto call Yankee games in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, that voice was the very essence of the man, and his “Holy Cow” catchphrase was the essence of that essence. So, this counts. Fight me.
Mickey Mantle — “The Visa”
Mantle never appeared in an episode of Seinfeld, but he was mentioned in five episodes. Mantle’s most prominent mentions were in “The Implant” when Jerry equates finding out that his girlfriend has fake breasts to finding out that Mantle corked his bat, and “The Visa,” where there is an unseen backstory that Kramer describes involving a brawl at Yankees’ fantasy camp in Florida and a scene at his restaurant in the city.
Roger McDowell — “The Boyfriend”
Screwball relief pitcher Roger McDowell had a relatively small role in his one episode on Seinfeld, but it was crucial to the majesty of Jerry’s reenactment of the spitting incident that soured Kramer and Newman against Keith Hernandez. Was McDowell the second spitter on the gravely road? Keith Hernandez and the immutable laws of physics seem to think so.
Paul O’Neill — “The Wink”
A first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Very Good, Paul O’Neill had a fantastic run as the Yankees right fielder/cooler-punching mad man, but for all of his achievements on the field, I’m pretty sure he would have been an even better actor. O’Neill really shows a knack for it as he moves from courteous to pissed off when Kramer tries to talk him into hitting two home runs for a sick kid in the hospital. “How the heck did you get in here, anyway?” asks O’Neill at the end of his scene, and it’s a great question, but because Kramer is in the locker room, why not get a ton of Yankee signatures on a birthday card and solve the problem that ultimately led him into an uncomfortable situation with the Yankees’ “Warrior” in the first place? Oh hindsight, you torturous bastard.
Danny Tartabull — “The Chaperone” and “The Pledge Drive”
Danny Tartabull played like a middling slugger after signing a then-gargantuan five-year/$27 million contract prior to the 1992 season to be the Yankees’ next great star, but he surely earned some fans over with his work on Seinfeld. Appearing in two episodes, Tartabull inadvertently put the idea in George’s head to push the Yankees away from polyester uniforms and toward cotton, but his most memorable Seinfeld moment has to be the discovery that he cut his donuts with a knife and a fork. When you get a Seinfeldian idiosyncrasy, it’s more than a cameo — you’re a part of the fabric of the show.
George Steinbrenner — Multiple Episodes
Seinfeld had a way with crafting idiot bosses — Mr. Pitt, J. Peterman, etc. — but none was more entertaining than the “idea” of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who was turned into a bloviating cartoon that was voiced by Larry David during the show’s later seasons when George Costanza worked for the team as the assistant traveling secretary. What did “The Boss” think of his portrayal? Apparently, he liked it… well, all but the voice. Steinbrenner even made a cameo appearance on Seinfeld, but got cut from the final product for untold reasons. In the name of karma, one hopes that they fired and re-hired him at least half a dozen times before making the final decision on that.
Keith Hernandez — “The Boyfriend” (Parts 1 and 2), “The Finale”
Former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez inspired the telling of the “second spitter” story, thanks to Kramer and Newman’s hatred of him, went out on a date with Elaine, sort of went out on a date with Jerry (who had trouble handling the demands and emotional roller coaster of being friends with someone who is much cooler than he is), and inadvertently crushed George’s efforts to get an unemployment extension. That is one magic cameo.
Seinfeld is presently available for streaming on Hulu.