Jerry Seinfeld answered the phone in his apartment.
“If you know what happened in the Mets game, don’t say anything, I taped it. Hello,” he said.
It was the first episode and the very first line delivered inside what would go on to become one of the most iconic apartments in television history. And it was about the New York Mets.
Yes, sports debuted on “Seinfeld” before Kramer, before Elaine, before the show was even called “Seinfeld” – it was known as “The Seinfeld Chronicles” for the pilot episode.
Kramer – actually called Kessler in that first episode – entered Jerry’s apartment for the first time shortly after and immediately spoiled the outcome of the Mets game.
“Boy, the Mets blew it tonight, huh?,” he said.
That sports reference was the first of many on “Seinfeld,” which aired on NBC from 1989 to 1998 and launched on Netflix on Friday. It had everything from George Steinbrenner and Michael Jordan to a face-painting hockey fan and alarm-clock hating Olympian to attending the Super Bowl with your mailman and being in desperate need of a napkin while eating ice cream at the U.S. Open.
For a show about nothing, it’s sure got a little of everything about sports.
Here are the top 25 sports moments on “Seinfeld.”
Honorable mention: Kramer throws a hot dog at Reggie Miller, Danny Tartabull and George get flipped off, Kramer gets struck by tennis balls, George talks interleague play with the Houston Astros, Kramer gets strict about a golf rule, Joel Rifkin is paged at Giants Stadium, Jimmy’s training shoes, the Phil Rizzuto keychain, “It’s like finding out Mickey Mantle corked his bat.”
25. “You gotta love sports”
Jerry escapes insufferable small talk at dinner with Peterman, leaving an excuseless George behind. As George listens to tales of fashion, Jerry gives a fist pump as he lounges on his couch, eats popcorn and watches the New York Giants game. “It’s fourth-and-inches and the Giants are going for it.”
24. “Seven Costanza?”
George wants to name his first-born “Seven” as a living tribute to his idol Mickey Mantle. His fiancée Susan hates the name, but her pregnant cousin loves it and plans to use it, forcing George to try to convince her otherwise all the way to the delivery room. “What about Six? Nine? Thirteen. Thirteen’s no good. Fourteen!”
23. “They got pitching. They got no hitting.”
In what would make for a great SubwayCreatures Instagram post, Jerry wakes up on the subway across from a naked man reading the newspaper. Clothing isn’t needed for Jerry to talk Mets baseball. “Tell you what, if they win the pennant this year, I’ll sit naked with you at the World Series.”
22. “Stan the Caddy”
Kramer begins taking pointers from his golf caddy even when away from the tee box and putting green. That includes legal advice in the courtroom over the objection of his lawyer Jackie Chiles during what was a parody of the O.J. Simpson trial. “You’re close. You’re on the green. You just have to go for the cup.”
21. “Who goes to the Super Bowl with their mailman?”
Re-gifting goes full circle as Super Bowl tickets change hands, leading to Jerry sitting next to his sworn enemy Newman. “An inch. Can you move over an inch?”
20. “Oh, no. He’s taking out the woods!”
Elaine’s is nearly outbid by her nemesis Sue Ellen Mischke at an auction for President John F. Kennedy’s golf clubs, driving the price far over the budget Peterman authorized. The clubs, after being in the back seat when Jerry’s car is stolen by his mechanic, are badly damaged when the thief tosses them at Kramer as he gives chase in a mail truck. Peterman eventually receives his $20,000 clubs. “I never knew Kennedy had such a temper.”
19. “What do you say we climb a rock mañana?”
Elaine’s dreamy boyfriend – and George’s crush – took a bit of a tumble after Kramer and George failed to not his rope while rock climbing. “His face! Did something happen to his face?!”
18. “I just saw Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts.”
Kramer spots the Joe DiMaggio dunking his donuts and, even after pounding on the table and making loud yelps, fails to break the concentration of the Yankee Clipper – who nearly made a cameo on the show. “He can just black out anything going on around him. See, that’s how he played baseball. He dunks like he hits.”
17. “It’s ball boys, not ball men. There are no ball men.”
A spry Kramer aces his tryout to be a ball boy at the U.S. Open, silencing his much younger competition, but while retrieving a ball during the tournament, collides with and injures Monica Seles. “Thus ends the great ball man experiment.”
16. “He’s nine years old! You don’t need karate, you can just wring his neck!”
Kramer, after taking up karate, brags about dominating the dojo and becoming class champion. He later reveals that he’s competing against children. “We’re all at the same skill level, Jerry.”
15. “Boy, I bet you that guy could cover a lot of court.”
George sits down to eat an ice cream sundae at the U.S. Open and ends up on national television, as Kramer says, wearing that chocolate on his face like a beard. “Hey, buddy. They got a new invention, it’s called a napkin.”
14. “As we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughingstock.”
If every instinct George has is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. He used that reverse-effect logic while interviewing for a job with the New York Yankees, lambasting owner George Steinbrenner, who is known for firing people like it’s a bodily function. Still, he gets the job as the Yankees assistant to the traveling secretary. “Hire this man.”
13. “Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man with little-girl legs.”
Years later, George tries to get Steinbrenner to fire him so he can accept a job as head scout for the New York Mets. He intentionally spills strawberries on Babe Ruth’s uniform, drags the World Series title by a rope from the back of his car, and streaks across the field in a bodysuit, all to no avail. He doesn’t get fired but eventually is traded by Steinbrenner for a bunch of Tyler chicken. “Attention Steinbrenner and front-office morons! Your triumphs mean nothing. You all stink.”
12. “You ever seen Michael Jordan? Maybe you’ll see him do one of those 360 dunks.”
Air Kramer attempts to impersonate Michael Jordan by doing an acrobatic dunk but ends up launching into a pile of garbage. The night gets worse as Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer – believed to be going to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play Jordan’s Bulls – end up at a Neo-Nazi rally with George mistaken as head of the Aryan Union. “We are going to the Knick game! Michael Jordan!”
11. “It’s hard to hit home runs, and where the heck did you get two from?”
Kramer, in order to get George Steinbrenner’s signed birthday card back for George, promises a hospitalized kid that the Yankees’ Paul O’Neill will hit two home runs in a game for him. Kramer enters the Yankee clubhouse to tell a surprised O’Neill, who says he’s not a home run hitter. He hits one homer and follows with what is initially believed to be an inside-the-park home run but instead is ruled a triple and an error, which doesn’t satisfy little Bobby. Kramer renegotiates. “Tomorrow night, Paul O’Neill has to catch a fly ball in his hat.”
10. “Move in. Move in everybody. Get your shrimp here. Bigmouth shrimp on special today!”
Trash talk between George and Bette Midler during a softball leads to a collision between the two at home plate. The injured Midler can’t perform in her leading role in the musical “Rochelle Rochelle,” creating a conspiracy that the hit was intentional to get Jerry’s understudy girlfriend into the spotlight. “Fellas, come on. That was a clean play. It’s just a game.”
9. “If I’d been with you there in Barcelona, you’d be polishing that medal right now.”
Elaine takes in marathon-runner Jean-Paul, who overslept during the Olympics after an alarm clock misset. WHY SEPARATE KNOB?! WHY SEPARATE KNOB?! Elaine cracks under the pressure of having to wake him up, Jerry takes over, angering a hotel wake-up call employee in the process. They return to Jerry’s apartment, where Kramer’s heat pump for his hot tub blows a fuse that causes the electricity to go out. Jerry just barely gets Jean-Paul to the race in time but it doesn’t end well. “Make way! I’ve got a runner here!”
8. “Gotta support the team”
Overly-intense New Jersey Devils fan Puddy paints his face when going to a playoff game against the New York Rangers with Elaine, Jerry and Kramer. Elaine later attempts to break-up with him because he’s a face-painter and he promises to stop. Next game he paints the letter “D” on his chest to help spell “Devils” with five friends. “I said no more face painting, and as you can see, this is not my face.”
7. “Oh my, God. Mattingly just split his pants.”
George tells Yankees manager Buck Showalter the Yankees should switch from polyester to cotton uniforms because being five degrees cooler than the other team will give a competitive advantage. The fabric change initially goes over well – with rave reviews in the newspapers from Wade Boggs, Luis Polonia and Paul O’Neill. Not so much in the following game after the uniforms shrink. “It’s their uniforms, they’re too tight. They’ve shrunk. They’re running like penguins. Forget this game.”
6. “I think you better take off the Orioles cap.”
Elaine, George and Kramer are given seats in the owner’s box at Yankee Stadium, though George is disappointed its second row and not first because he can’t put his feet up on the dugout. Elaine is asked to take off her Baltimore Orioles hat while sitting in the owner’s seats and refuses. She is asked to leave, taking her friends with her, but not before Kramer gets hit in the head with a foul ball. “I am at a baseball game. This is America.”
5. “I punched Mickey Mantle in the mouth”
Kramer has to intimidate when he’s on the mound, even when at Yankees fantasy camp. So, when Joe Pepitone continued to crowd the plate, he plunked him. That led to a brawl between campers and Yankee legends, during which Kramer punched Mickey Mantle’s lights out. “Mickey! Mickey! What have you done with Mickey?! You’ve killed Mickey!”
4. “Hitting is not about muscle. It’s simple physics.”
George is thinking a lot clearer thanks to abstinence and, as Jerry says, a previously useless lump of his brain is now functioning for the first time in its existence. He shares his new-found knowledge with Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams while taking batting practice, telling them hitting is a calculation combining velocity, trajectory and gravity, as he drills a ball over the fence. Jeter informs him they won the World Series but George isn’t impressed. “In six games.”
3. “Is that a Titleist?”
Kramer returns from the beach where he was hitting golf balls into the ocean. He throws his clubs down in frustration, saying he hit only one really good ball that went way out there. Turns out it landed in a whale’s blowhole. Luckily, a man pretending to be a marine biologist that day was on site to remove it: George Costanza. “Hole in one, eh?“
2. “What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!”
When George Steinbrenner goes to the home of Frank and Estelle Costanza to inform them that their son George is dead, Frank berates him for trading Jay Buhner, who had 30 home runs, over 100 RBIs and a rocket for an arm. It leads to a memorable message on Jerry’s answering machine. “Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza. Mr. Steinbrenner is here. George is dead. Call me back.”
Frank snaps at Steinbrenner again in the series finale during his son’s trial…
The real George Steinbrenner also once made a cameo on Seinfeld. The scene was cut but lives forever on YouTube…
1. “Nice game, pretty boy.”
A bromance moves too quick when Mets first basement Keith Hernandez asks his new friend Jerry to help him move. The relationship is further complicated by Hernandez taking Elaine on a date, and by Kramer and Newman despising Hernandez for spitting on them after a game in 1987. Jerry refutes the spitting incident in a brilliant JFK parody, demonstrating that it was “one magic loogie” and there had to be a “second spitter.” Turns out it was Mets pitcher Roger McDowell, who was getting revenge after Newman poured a beer over his head. Kramer and Newman then help Hernandez move. “I’m Keith Hernandez.”