Keith Hernandez Marks 37th Anniversary of Spitting Incident on ‘Seinfeld’

One of the most memorable episodes from Seinfeld’s early years found Jerry befriending his idol, New York Mets star Keith Hernandez, who Jerry clearly adores, but not enough to go all the way — i.e., help him move. 

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In order to beef up “The Boyfriend” into a two-part episode that could help boost ratings during sweeps week, the writers also wove in a storyline in which Hernandez dates Elaine and, most notably, they concocted an elaborate parody of Oliver Stone’s JFK.

As documented in a mock Zapruder film, Kramer and Newman accuse the first baseman of spitting on them following a 1987 loss to the Phillies. But as Jerry points out, via his “Magic Loogie” theory, their story is contradicted by the “immutable laws of physics,” suggesting the presence of a second spitter.

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According to Larry David, this piece of the episode was inspired by one of the show’s writers, Tom Leopold, who was “a real assassination buff.” Wayne Knight recalled that Leopold had seen him in JFK playing a “character named ‘Numa’” and got the idea to have Knight perform the “same re-enactment” from the acclaimed drama, but this time as Newman.

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Well, this past week marked the 37th anniversary of the spitting incident, which Newman mentions occurred on June 14, 1987. And to celebrate the occasion, SportsNet New York caught up with the real Keith Hernandez who weirdly acted as if the incident were 100 percent real, pointing out that he “ruined” Kramer and Newman’s day by making a crucial “error against the Phillies.”

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Incidentally, Hernandez made no error against the Phillies that day, because the Mets weren’t playing the Phillies on June 14th. As detailed by Baseball Almanac, the team wasn't even in New York, they were in Pittsburgh playing the Pirates. It, too, was a memorably confrontational game that featured several ejections and a bench-clearing brawl in just the second inning. It’s unclear whether or not any of the players weaponized their saliva.

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But now the fake game is far more famous than the real one, and Hernandez may actually be more famous for Seinfeld than for his baseball career. As Hernandez once admitted in an interview with Vulture“Baseball revolves around people that like sports. With Seinfeld, our entire society basically watched that show. People from all walks of life, and all interests, gathered to watch it every week. So it just gave me a second life and more recognition.”

Even the role of the second spitter has proven to be surprisingly beneficial. The part was originally supposed to go to Darryl Strawberry, but Hernandez worried that, due to some unrelated “bad publicity,” it wasn’t “the right time for Darryl to be someone spitting on fans.” So instead they tapped relief pitcher Roger McDowell, who, despite having zero lines in the show, reportedly receives $13.52 every time the episode airs.  

Although, in retrospect, they probably should have cast Roberto Alomar. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).