'Seinfeld': The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of 'Steinbrenner'
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Larry David always wanted to work for the New York Yankees. And since David never got the chance, at least his Seinfeld doppelganger could.
“I was thinking, What’s a cool job for George?” says David in Peter Botte’s The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the New York Yankees. “So I said one day, ‘Maybe he can work for the Yankees.’ And that was it. You know, we didn’t put as much thought into these things as people think.”
Somehow, George Costanza’s job as Assistant to the Traveling Secretary lasted through parts of four seasons, amazing since he was predictably terrible at the job. How did someone like George even get a shot at the gig?
He was in his “do the opposite” phase -- a successful gambit that had George ignore every one of his natural impulses. Not being himself led to successfully picking up a young woman at Monks then he tried the bit again when he got his job interview with the Yankees. George is introduced to off-screen Yankee boss Steinbrenner, who greets Jerry’s pal with a polite “Nice to meet you.”
George’s do-the-opposite response?
“Well, I wish I could say the same, but I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past 20 years, you have caused myself and the city of New York a good deal of distress, as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughing stock all for the glorification of your massive ego.”
Steinbrenner shouted: “Hire this man!”
Well, actually. It was Larry David’s voice as Steinbrenner, getting a chance to lampoon a man who David blames for screwing up his favorite baseball team.
“I turned him into a bit of a nut,” David says. “That’s what he sounded like to me — that abrupt, staccato style he had. You know he would talk very quickly and very emphatically about things, just going on and on about different topics in different directions, kind of all over the place. I did my version of it for what we should be looking for, and Jerry said to me, ‘You know, you should just do it. It’s perfect.’ ”
Somehow, Steinbrenner gave his blessing to Seinfeld essentially turning him into a recurring cast buffoon. Which gave David the opportunity to use NBC’s airwaves to blast the Yankee boss for all of his baseball sins. When Fake Steinbrenner shows up at George’s parents’ house to (wrongly) inform them their son is dead, Frank Costanza interrupts the news to scream about a botched baseball trade:
“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 doing!”
IRL Steinbrenner’s grandkids loved that their Pop-Pop was on Seinfeld, raising his cool factor way more than bungling Yankee trades could ever do. So it’s no surprise that he agreed to actually appear on the show. He filmed the Season 7 finale where he volunteers to escort Elaine to George’s wedding.
As you can see, Steinbrenner … wasn’t great.
Jerry and Larry agreed -- the real Steinbrenner wasn’t nearly as funny as the fake one that only showed him from the back over David’s rambling offscreen rants. Who was going to inform the billionaire he was cut from the show?
“I had to be the one to tell him that,” says David. “He said in that famous voice of his, ‘You can tell me. I can take it like a man.’ So I said, ‘Look, I’m sorry, Mr. Steinbrenner. We have to cut you from the show. I just wanted to let you know.’ He didn’t seem that disappointed about it. It just didn’t work.”
Eventually, George Costanza also had enough of Steinbrenner. He wants to take a scouting job with the Mets (not coincidentally, Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite team), but despite his best efforts, including wearing Babe Ruth’s old uniform and rubbing strawberry juice all over it, he can’t get fired.
He’s eventually traded to Tyler Chicken in exchange for Yankee Stadium agreeing to sell all poultry products, including a beer substitute made of fermented alcoholic chicken. If you’re inclined to sample that brew, we encourage you to pull a George and do the opposite.
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Top image: Columbia Pictures Television