This you saw on Seinfeld: Kramer sells a birthday card intended for George Steinbrenner, which is signed by all of the New York Yankees, to a memorabilia collector, thereby infuriating George Costanza, to whom the card has been entrusted. Elaine, who was once ejected from Yankee Stadium after donning a Baltimore Orioles cap, becomes a copywriter for the upscale J. Peterman catalog, whose eccentric founder is given to such ridiculous locutions as, "This dry air is curing me like a Black Forest ham!"
This you did not see on Seinfeld: A salvage man with a cache of artifacts collected during the 1974-75 renovation of Yankee Stadium unloads his treasures to the real-life J. Peterman. The catalog magnate opens a retail store in Grand Central Terminal in the last days of the Bronx Bombers' most storied season.
"Truth and sitcoms often blend," says John Peterman, the inspiration for the TV character played by actor John O'Hurley. "When the Seinfeld J. Peterman was having a nervous breakdown in Burma, I was in China."
Thus a retailer known for offering a Persuasive Pinstripe Jacket now peddles Yankees pinstripe paraphernalia. Displayed along with run-of-the-twill J. Peterman fare such as the Brash Poet Sweater and the East 52nd Street Coat is a truckload of authentic Yankee Stadium furnishings.
"I was having a drink with a sportswriter friend of mine," says Peterman, 57, who grew up a Dodgers fan in Nyack, N.Y., "and he told me about a guy who did demolition during the Yankee Stadium renovation. This guy had a warehouse full of stuff in Long Island. I took a look around and bought all of it."
You could spend years searching and not find gems such as these: the Yankees-logo-etched manager's shower door used by Hall of Famers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel ($5,000); a 10-foot-tall bronze marker that formerly stood at Babe Ruth Plaza, outside the stadium ($25,000); flagpole tops ($1,500); the framed original blueprints for the stadium, which confirm that though Ruth may have built it, the Cleveland-based Osborn Engineering Co. designed it ($2,000).
Had trouble getting seats as the Yanks cruised to the American League pennant, their 24th World Series win and a Ruthian .714 (125-50) winning percentage this season? An original seat can be yours for $2,500. Home plate ("Obviously 'used,' look at the cleat marks," says Peterman) is a steal at $3,000. All of the above are on display, just five stops south of Yankee Stadium on the No. 4 subway line.
Peterman's own Yankees keepsakes are his memories. A minor league second baseman with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Peterman had a one-day tryout with the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium in 1963. "I took batting practice between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris," Peterman recalls. "I executed double plays with Tony Kubek. At the end of the day they asked me what it would take to sign me. I told them I wanted a $20,000 bonus, and they said, 'Sorry, you're not worth that much.' "
The same can be said of the Yankee Stadium hot water heaters ($1,750). "That may be true," says Peterman. "Nobody's bought them yet."