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Derek Jeter and Yankees on the big and small screen

One of the fringe benefits of playing for the New York Yankees is that you get offered a number of endorsement deals as well as cameo roles on television shows and theatrical movie releases. Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle and others have made a number of appearances as themselves over the past six decades.

No Yankee, (and arguably no other Metropolitan athlete), has been as popular as Derek Jeter over the last 20 years. So, it makes sense¬†that Jeter was a major media attraction during his playing days. In the big screen¬†comedy,¬†“The Other Guys“, policeman Mark Wahlberg has aspirations of becoming¬†a big time detective…until he shoots Jeter.¬†His punishment entails¬†being paired with bumbling partner Will Ferrell. Jeter and Roger Clemens also had small cameos in the Adam Sandler-Jack Nicolson starrer, “Anger Management“.

Jeter Mrs Soriano

But, Jeter on the small screen had even¬†more entertainment value. As one of only three hosts to represent the Yankees, (George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin were the others), on “Saturday Night Live“, Jeter was a smash hit. ¬†Jeter really let his “fade” down when he donned a long wig and dress to portray teammate Alfonso Soriano’s¬†wife, “Mrs. Candice¬†Soriano”. ¬†Jeter was later joined by David Cone and David Wells, both in drag, playing a pair of baseball groupies.

Perhaps an even more talked-about skit on the December 1, 2001 SNL airing was when Jeter, replete¬†with sombrero and guitar, advertised “Jeter’s Taco Hole”.

However, no show on television was more Yankees-oriented than the hit comedy, “Seinfeld“. ¬†A¬†baby-faced Jeter and Bernie Williams took hitting lessons from the assistant-to-the-traveling secretary, George Costanza.¬† The normally down-on-his luck Costanza (actor Jason Alexander) had a life-altering experience¬†when he decided to do the opposite of every instinct he’d ever had. It included a scene (see¬†clip below) that shows Costanza smashing one batting practice pitch after another into the seats.

Perhaps no one had a bigger role on “Seinfeld”¬†though than the¬†caricature of an actual person. That, of course, would be George Steinbrenner’s recurring persona on the comedy.¬†“Big Stein” was always shot from behind to maintain¬†the illusion that it was the real Steinbrenner.¬†Fake George drove Costanza crazy in scene after scene, until Costanza would back out of the room while Big Stein continued to ramble on. The best line, however, had to belong to Constanza’s¬†father Frank, when told by Big Stein that his son was (purportedly)¬†dead. “What the¬†hell did¬†you trade Jay Buhner for?”, bellowed the elder Costanza, echoing what every Yankees fan had thought since that dreadful¬†deal took place in 1988. True to form, the pseudo-Steinbrenner blamed the deal¬†on his “baseball people”. You can watch the full scene below. The real Steinbrenner reportedly found the portrayal very funny.

The real deal – George Steinbrenner himself – filmed an appearance¬†on one episode “Seinfeld” that dealt with Costanza’s wedding. There were two scenes, one in which character Elaine Benes, portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, did a spot on impersonation of “Big Stein”. Unfortunately, the segments were cut from the show and never aired. Thanks goodness for the internet.

Paul O’Neill and Danny Tartabull also made “Seinfeld” appearances.¬†O’Neill’s guest stint centered on¬†a promise Kramer made to a hospitalized young boy that O’Neill would hit two home runs for him that night. The laughs ensued when O’Neill reacted to Kramer’s plan. “It’s hard enough to hit one…”, O’Neill complained. As Kramer and the kid watched on TV, O’Neill indeed homered and apparently hit an inside-the-park-home run in his last at-bat of the night. But the official scorer ruled it a triple and an error.

In another episode, Tartabull was being driven by Costanza to a charity function, but the duo ran into trouble on the way. It was the same episode as the “Puffy Shirt” and cutting up candy bars with a knife and fork, ¬†(or in Tartabull’s case, a doughnut).

Hall of Fame and near-Hall of Fame Yankees have had their moments, too. 1962’s “That Touch of Mink” was a rom-com that starred Doris Day and Cary Grant. One scene has the duo in the Yankees dugout during a game.¬†The home plate umpire stops over after Day continually berates him about his ball¬†and¬†strike calls. She gets off with a warning, but the umpire proceeds to eject Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Berra.

Though he was no longer a member of the Yankees, Reggie Jackson’s cameo in “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!“, was the icing on the cake¬†of one of the funniest baseball-related scenes in movie history. Star Leslie Nielsen hysterically portrayed fictitious opera singer Enrico Palazzo to perform the National Anthem before a game between the Seattle Mariners and the (then) California Angels, and then sneaked¬†in the stadium as the home plate umpire. Mr. October’s role was to kill Queen Elizabeth II, who was in attendance at the game. ¬†The plot was foiled when a¬†large fan fell out of the upper deck onto the right fielder, ending the threat.

Though it’s an endorsement rather than a television show or movie, David Cone’s appearance for Adidas is one of the funniest 30 seconds you will ever see on TV. Orlando Hernandez and a dance floor full of people are performing the “El Duque”, a dance that mimic’s the pitcher’s wind up. Infielder Luis Sojo asks, “Coney, why don’t choo¬†(sic) have a dance?” ¬†A befuddled Coney is then caught red-handed in the men’s room trying to choreograph a dance.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira showed up briefly on a 2011 episode of “Entourage“, while Mariano Rivera had a cameo in the 2014 “Entourage” movie. The 1994 movie, “The Scout” starred Albert Brooks as a baseball scout who discovers pitcher Steve Nebraska (Brendan Fraser) and gets him signed by the Yankees. Bobby Murcer, Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman all appear.

Finally, sometimes it is better to give up your day job. Scott Patterson was a pitcher in the Atlanta Braves’ (1980-1982) and Yankees’ (1982-1986) organizations. He won more than 10 games, three times, but at age 28 he decided to hang up his cleats. It was just as well; Patterson went on to become a full-time actor and from 2000-2007 starred as Luke Dane on the hit TV series, “The Gilmore Girls“. He’s been involved in a number of series since as a regular or in a guest role.

Hmmm…perhaps one day Didi Gregorius and Starling Castro can do a remake of “Step Brothers“.

Who did it better?