"Entertainment Weekly" was kind enough this week to remind us that Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of the television sitcom "Seinfeld."
You may notice in my bio that I refer to myself as a "Mets historian." There are only two other subjects about which I'm cocky enough to label myself as a historian. One is the comic strip "Peanuts." The other is the show whose anniversary we're celebrating.
So, figuring that this is a good opportunity to pair passions, I thought I'd reminisce and mix two of them in the best way possible. The website Seinfeldscripts.com allowed me to find all the "Seinfeld" episodes in which the Mets were referenced. Let's go through them:
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS (July 5, 1989)
To say that "Seinfeld" debuted on May 31, 1990, is true but requires an asterisk. That marked the airing of the first of four episodes that marked Season 1.
The actual "Seinfeld" pilot aired nearly a full year earlier, as "The Seinfeld Chronicles," when NBC didn't know what the heck it was going to do with this show about nothing.
In the fifth scene of the pilot, Jerry reveals his baseball affiliation (on the show, and in real life), responding to a middle-of-the-night phone call as he is preparing to flip on his TV.
"If you know what happened in the Mets game, don't say anything, I taped it, hello …"
The call turns out to be a wrong number. Unfortunately, Jerry's hopes of watching the game are ruined when Kramer announces his presence for the first time.
"Boy, the Mets blew it tonight, huh?"
The day this episode aired: The Mets didn't blow it. They actually lost to the Astros, 6-5, with starting pitcher Ron Darling allowing five runs in the first three innings.
When the first "real" episode aired on May 31, 1990, Mets fans could watch. Their team had the day off.
THE BABY SHOWER (May 16, 1991)
What does Kramer say to convince Jerry that it's worth installing an illegal cable box for his TV?
"No, no, now look now, Jerry, Jerry, it's no risk. I swear. The Mets have 75 games on cable this year …"
Jerry's response: "Put it in."
Jerry decided, at the end of this episode, that he didn't want the illegal cable. His TV screen was broken by the cable installer.
The day this episode aired: No cable was needed. The Mets sandwiched wins by Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola around a Thursday off-day, allowing Seinfeldian Mets fans to get their proper fill of the show.
THE BOYFRIEND (Feb. 12, 1992)
This is the episode most associated with Jerry and the Mets -- the one featuring former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez.
Hernandez and Jerry become friends, with Jerry spending much of his free time worrying about how he can impress Hernandez.
Hernandez and Jerry's ex-girlfriend, Elaine, date, and meet Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson (unseen) in a local restaurant. The relationship breaks up when Elaine sees that Hernandez is a cigarette smoker.
The highlight is the mystery surrounding whether Hernandez spit on Kramer and his friend Newman, after the two yelled insults at the Mets first baseman, following another game the Mets blew (based on a game "Seinfeld" creator Larry David and friends attended in 1986).
Using the same principles regarding the "magic bullet" theory in the John F. Kennedy assassination, Jerry attempts to debunk the story.
In the end, it's revealed that the spitter was actually Hernandez's teammate, Roger McDowell, who was getting revenge for Newman's spilling beer on him in the bullpen.
The day the episode aired: Mets fans could watch. Their team was still three weeks away from its first spring training game under new manager Jeff Torborg.
THE LETTER (March 25, 1992)
Elaine skips work to sit in the owners box for a Yankees-Orioles game. She makes the mistake of wearing an Orioles cap and is subsequently taken away after refusing to remove it.
Unfortunately, a picture of the foursome ended up in The New York Times, and Elaine has to be creative to make sure her boss doesn't see it. To stall, so that she can remove the page with the photo, she tells her boss: "There's nothing to read, it's just yesterday's news. You know, the Yankees won, the Mets lost, Rickey Henderson's unhappy …"
The punch line comes later in the episode, when Elaine's boss is offered Yankees tickets (the same seats Elaine got ejected from). He invites Elaine and tells her to wear her Orioles cap.
The day the episode aired: Dwight Gooden, recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery, pitched five innings in a 3-1 win over the Astros, and was subsequently named to start the Mets' home opener.
THE KEYS (May 6, 1992)
A dispute over which character gets to have the other's spare apartment keys is interrupted by a question from George to Jerry.
"How'd the Mets do?" George asks.
"They lost," Jerry replies, moments before the two receive the stunning news that Kramer has moved to Los Angeles.
Mets fans would get used to the losing. Their team would lose a lot over the next few seasons. Jerry wouldn't mention them again by name for five years.
The day the episode aired: The Mets lost to the Reds, 5-3, in a game of historical significance. It was the first of 27 consecutive losses for Mets pitcher Anthony Young.
THE MILLENNIUM (May 1, 1997)
Baseball believability needs to be suspended to appreciate this episode, in which a subplot revolves around the Mets attempting to recruit George, then working as the Yankees' assistant to the traveling secretary, to become their scouting director.
To do so, George must get out of his Yankees contract, and he does a variety of silly things in an attempt to get fired, including wearing Babe Ruth's uniform while eating.
Just when it looks like George has succeeded, his boss (Wilhelm) tells Yankees owner George Steinbrenner that he ordered George (Costanza) to misbehave. Steinbrenner fires Wilhelm, who reveals he'll be taking the job as Mets scouting director.
The day the episode aired: You could say their scouting was an issue. The Mets allowed four home runs, two to John Flaherty, in a 7-3 loss to the Padres.
THE PUERTO RICAN DAY (May 7, 1998)
This episode may be the one least seen by "Seinfeld" fans, because it was not repeated on NBC after its original airing due to protests related to a scene in which Kramer accidently burns a Puerto Rican flag. It's shown in local syndication occasionally, and is featured in the "Seinfeld" DVD set, but it's oft-forgotten as the next-to-last episode of the show.
The plot stems from a drive home after the quartet left a Mets game with the team trailing 9-0. (Jerry, showing his true fandom, was the only one who wanted to stay.)
As the gang listens on the radio, they have to deal with the issues of a massive traffic jam. A Mets rally (two runs in the eighth, six in the ninth) makes Jerry antsy, but in the end, the Mets fall just short of victory.
The day the episode aired: The Mets won a game Jerry probably wouldn't have left early, with Masato Yoshii and two relievers combining on a two-hitter in a 4-1 win over the Cardinals.
THE FINALE (May 14, 1998)
The word "Mets" was never actually used in the series finale, but this episode does feature an unspoken cameo from Keith Hernandez, bringing proper closure to the relationship between the show's namesake and the team for which he roots.
The day the episode aired: The Mets got swept in a doubleheader in San Diego, losing both games late, in a fashion that an oft-tortured Mets fan like Seinfeld could definitely appreciate.
For those wanting to read about the top tie-ins between "Seinfeld" and sports (with a few references to the other New York baseball team), follow this link.