The tributes to Seinfeld are pouring in as it hits its 25th anniversary in the past week. The unlikely smash hit series chronicled the normal, human moments in life and the four most horrible people anyone has ever conceived. It was also, for what its worth, one of the funniest shows to ever satirize the conventions of sports and sports fandom.
One such episode is an hour-long that features former New York Met — and current SNY analyst — Keith Hernandez. In the 1992 episode, lifelong Met fan — and also intermittent SNY analyst — Jerry Seinfeld befriends Hernandez, whom eventually starts dating Elaine. You know the rest — the story about the “second spitter” parodying Oliver Stone’s JFK — and you could argue its maybe the thing the former MVP and World Series champion is best remembered for.
However, producers were (rightly) set up in case Hernandez didn’t bring his simplistic, deadpan delivery to the show. In an interview with Rolling Stone, not only would the episode have been a half-hour instead of the hour-long it ended up being, but it would’ve likely not focused on Hernandez at all, but on what ended up being the B-story throughout:
“I guess they liked it, because they used it during sweeps. But after I was done, [executive producer] George Shapiro told me they had written in an extra subplot just in case I was unsatisfactory. It was George going for unemployment benefits, the whole ‘Vandelay Industries’ thing. So, with those scenes, it turned into an hour-long show. If I was bad, it was only going to be a half-hour.”
Thank goodness he did. Otherwise we would have never gotten one of the loopiest, weirdest and most popular episodes of a truly great television series. We might also never hear Hernandez talk about once every 25 games or so on SNY.