Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller died Monday at age 92, and fans are remembering his countless contributions to film and television.
One of Stiller’s more famous roles was playing George Costanza’s father, Frank, on “Seinfeld.” George, of course, worked as the assistant to the traveling secretary of the Yankees, working under team owner George Steinbrenner. And in the 12th episode of Season 7, all of these characters became tied together.
The episode is called “The Caddy” and George ends up going on an unapproved vacation and yadda yadda yadda he’s later presumed dead. Mr. Steinbrenner pays a visit to the Constanza household, where Frank gives the Yankees owner a piece of his mind, even after accepting the news that his son has passed.
That scene is followed by a voicemail message of Frank saying, “Jerry, this is Frank Costanza. Mr. Steinbrenner’s here. George is dead. Call me back.” Jerry Seinfeld later said this was one of his favorite lines from the entire series.
Frank: 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 doin’!
Steinbrenner: Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying ‘Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.’
You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to recognize the comedy in this scene, and that’s what makes it so great. But if you aren’t aware, the Jay Buhner trade is considered one of the worst in Yankees history. The deal was made on July 21, 1988, in just his second season with the Yankees. Buhner only played in 32 games for New York.
The trade details were as follows:
- Mariners get: Jay Buhner, Rich Balabon and Troy Evers
- Yankees get: Ken Phelps
Phelps was a decent player, but he didn’t stay with the Yankees for very long. He played in 131 games before being traded the following season to Oakland.
Buhner, meanwhile, became a legend in Seattle where he’d finish his MLB career in 2001. He later got inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, and the team reportedly played the “Seinfeld” clip during his induction ceremony.
In 2015, Buhner and Phelps got together during a Mariners game to discuss the trade and, briefly, the scene. Buhner and Phelps were joined by Stiller to talk about the scene at length in a Sirius XM radio interview with Jody Mac and Jeff Nelson.
“I loved it, because everyone’s a ‘Seinfeld’ junkie,” Buhner said. “So to be mentioned on that show made me a household name, more so than being a professional athlete for sure.”
Stiller said the Steinbrenner jokes were mostly the result of Larry David adding them in to have some fun. Stiller also joked David had “many more lines he had to not put in the show” because there would have simply been too many jokes about the Yankees.