George Steinbrenner, who died the other day following a massive heart attack at the age of 80, was a larger-than-life figure. As owner of the New York Yankees for 37 years, he presided over 7 World Series titles and 11 pennants -no small feat for anyone in baseball, especially someone who took on such an obsessively managerial role in virtually every aspect of the game, from the merry-go-round hiring and firing of managers to on-field calls that really weren’t the purview of a team owner.
That he was a controversial figure in baseball and sports in general is an understatement. Blustery and often mercurial, he is blamed (or credited) with driving up players’ salaries and it’s no coincidence that the Yankees have long had the highest payroll in major league baseball. But he was also a major pop cultural figure as well, able to laugh at himself by hosting “Saturday Night Live” while his team was playing the World Series, and most famously, his “stint” on “Seinfeld” over the course of several episodes.
Loser George Costanza, friend of Seinfeld’s, you will recall, worked for Steinbrenner in the Yankee front office. As a lowly, put-upon, overworked and frequently hectored-at assistant. The real Jerry Seinfeld, it is reported, lobbied hard to get the real Steinbrenner to agree to a character in his show, and he finally got his support. But he himself didn’t appear on the show, except for one interesting cameo appearance in season 7. On all other occasions, viewers would only see the back of Steinbrenner’s head, usually in his office chair, complaining to George about some mishap or about his work habits. The swift voice of Larry David, the co-creator of “Seinfeld” and upon whom the character of George Costanza is based, nailed the stentorian Steinbrenner voice every time.
As we say RIP to another cultural figure, much like we did when we did last year with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy and his likeness as Mayor Quimby on “The Simpsons”, we pay tribute to some of Steinbrenner’s defining moments on “Seinfeld”.
The real Steinbrenner: “I don’t sit with losers”
This is the only clip where Steinbrenner actually appears in a segment. George is finally getting married and Elaine complains that she doesn’t have a date and wasn’t selected as an usher. She also doesn’t want to sit at the singles’ table. Steinbrenner storms in and asks her to be his date because he doesn’t want to hang around with losers. The Yankees are only winners. The other two clips are interesting -the first is Elaine knocking back some pills, probably to withstand all the bluster that sitting with Steinbrenner would produce. The tiny clip that follows was a deleted scene, with the two switching seats and Elaine suddenly not really sounding like Elaine.
“You’ve got some bats in the belfry!” Larry David, the show’s co-creator, and upon whom the Costanza character is based, voices Steinbrenner as he brings in his assistant and complains about a report he submitted. He then grills his assistant pretty mercilessly then brings in two white-shirted guys to cart him off to a mental hospital .
People Steinbrenner has fired.
In this hilarious rant from the 7th season, Steinbrenner calls George in to say he has hired him to replace someone else, Mr. Morgan, in his front office. All over a ridiculous card that Kramer put together based on an unintended wink that resulted from a piece of grapefruit pulp that hit George in the eye in the morning during breakfast. (Ah, the plot details about a show about “nothing”) What makes this funny are all the people Steinbrenner names that he has fired in his lifetime, including Billy Martin, whom he (voiced by Larry David) names four times. He does mention Buck Showalter, the then-current Yankee manager, very briefly. When this show aired, Showalter would soon find out that he too would be replaced in real life by Joe Torre.
George’s tips for hitting the ball.
We added this bonus because it shows real Yankee players, a very young Derek Jeter and former center outfielder Bernie Williams. Steinbrenner doesn’t appear in this scene but his assistant to the traveling secretary does, and George feels he can apply the laws of physics to help these two star players better improve their hitting game.
Visit to George’s parents. “The kid was a human dynamo.”
In this wacky episode from season 7, “The Caddy”, George’s co-workers believe George is dead from an accident that occurs when Kramer and Jerry take it to car wash and Kramer is distracted by a woman named “bra-less wonder”.
Not being able to find George and seeing his car totaled, Steinbrenner is informed of his supposed demise and he pays a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Costanza to break the news. Citing his hard work ethic and long hours, Steinbrenner rapidly fires off his condolences. They think he must be describing the wrong George. At which point, George’s father loudly lays into Steinbrenner (again, Larry David) for the infamous trade of Jay Buhner, considered a very dumb move in 1988, since he then became an accomplished All-Star when he became a Seattle Mariner.