For decades, the American people have been both tantalized and plagued by conjecture, accusations, allegations, and innumerable theories about what has come to be known colloquially as a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. That fateful sunny afternoon has sinisterly toyed with the national consciousness ever since: Did he act alone? Could a massive cover-up involving more than one assailant have been perpetuated? Was the New York Mets’ Keith Hernandez the man who launched the “Magic Loogie”, striking Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) in the head, or was there a second spitter, perhaps behind the bushes on the gravelly road?
The case seemed closed since 12 February 1992, when Jerry Seinfeld of NBC’s
Seinfeld (1989-1998) ostensibly solved the trajectory of the spitwad using ironclad logic and a golf club. And though some thought Jerry a nut, Kramer, Numa—I mean, Newman (Wayne Knight)—and the nation shed their skepticism and eventually accepted his logic when seconded by Hernandez’s testimony—resting easy for the first time since that turbulent spitting episode, “The Boyfriend” aired.
Yet as George Costanza (
Jason Alexander) put it presciently in an unrelated mystery about a damaged briefcase: “This thing is like an onion: the more layers you peel, the more it stinks.” (“The Soul Mate”.)
Stinks, indeed, for the facts presented in “The Boyfriend” case, I mean episode, open an entirely different can of worms—a can that throws the entire issue into nebulous doubt and turns it into a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma vacuum-sealed in a conundrum.
“June 14th, 1987. Mets-Phillies,” Newman angrily recollects.Unfortunately, the immutable laws of physics contradict the whole premise of his account.
Allow me to reconstruct this, if I may, for you, as I’ve researched this story a number of times.
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies did not play each other on 14 June 1987. Kramer and Newman’s beloved Mets were in Pittsburgh that day, battling the last-place Pirates.
Consult any map you wish: Pittsburgh is approximately 325 miles back and to left of Flushing Meadows. Approximately 325 miles back and to the left… Approximately 325 miles back and to the left…
This game was attended by more than 30,000 fans—most of whom would attest to witnessing the Mets in Pittsburgh that day (assuming concession stands stopped selling Iron City after the 7th inning—and assuming their affidavits wouldn’t eventually be destroyed).
It’s even possible that there may have been someone in the stands taking a home movie of the game with, for instance, an 8mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic Model 414PD Director Series camera with a Varamat 9-27mm F1.8 lens.
We’re through the looking glass here, Mets fans…
Meanwhile, the Phillies were concluding a three-game series in Montréal and would depart for Chicago after the game. They, in fact, wouldn’t make their first appearance at Shea Stadium until the 19th of June. In other words, like “X”, the Pentagon’s Chief of Special Ops in November 1963, who was in New Zealand on 22 November while returning from the South Pole, the Phillies were not even in the country when this purported game—and this deeply disturbing spitting—purportedly took place.
As for the Mets—feel free to cue John Williams’ “The Conspirators” from the JFK soundtrack—starting pitcher Brian Fisher was charged at 4:27PM Pittsburgh time with the Pirates’ loss. That’s 4:27 in the afternoon of the same day, Flushing Meadows time.
But already, the Pirates game program had the entire history of this relatively unknown, 25-year-old, right-handed pitcher, Fisher: studio picture, detailed biographical data, career statistics, and were pretty sure of the fact that he gave up a leadoff home run to Keith Hernandez as well as a double, a walk, a single, and a triple in a four-run 4th inning that, alone, beat the Pirates. Although it took them five more innings before they even charged him with that loss in Pittsburgh.
So you see, when Newman claimed that the Mets had lost—and lost not to Pittsburgh but to Philadelphia—it felt to me as if, well, a cover story was being put out, like they would in a black op.
And what of the Mets’ supposed opponent, Philadelphia?
“A crucial Hernandez error opens the door to a five-run Phillies 9th,” Newman bellyaches.
But Hernandez, a Gold Glove winner that season—and certainly no chucker—did not commit an error between 9 June and July 31, a span of 45 games. Clearly, no motive existed that day for Kramer and Newman’s hatred of Keith Hernandez nor Newman’s derisive taunt, “Nice game, pretty boy!”
Or as New Orleans attorney and proto–hipster doofus Dean Andrews (John Candy) put it in Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) “They got the right ta-ta but the wrong ho-ho.”
If Keith Hernandez ever gave Newman and Kramer cause to despise him, the game on 14 June 1987, wasn’t it. It’s doubtful that Hernandez ever did cause them grief that season, because in the nine games that Philadelphia played in Shea Stadium, the Mets won eight of them, and in the lone defeat, Keith went 1-2, with three walks. It seems the entire Phillies team were just the patsies in this spitting.
Moreover, at no time during the 1987 season did the Phillies score five runs in the 9th inning. This is significant because it is standard operating procedure—especially in a known hostile park like Shea Stadium—for fans in the right-field stands to curse at home-team pitchers sitting in the bullpen and pour beer on their heads when the home team blows a lead, as Kramer and Newman admitted to.
But even if Mets officials had not allowed their bullpen to be open to the bleachers above, they would have placed at least one to two security guards or ushers, without question, to eject abusive, beer-pouring fans from the ballpark. You would have felt an army presence—or at least a Salvation Army presence — in the stadium that day.
But none of this happened on the 14th of June 1987—because Roger McDowell, the alleged second spitter, behind the bushes on the gravelly road, wasn’t in that Mets bullpen that day to receive those vulgar epithets and that shower of beer.
But don’t believe me. Don’t trust me. Do your own work, your own thinking. I can only give you background—you’ve got to find the foreground, the little things. Keep digging. Start with Baseball-Reference.com, the preeminent online resource of America’s National Pastime. All those statistics are yours. You pay for them. They’re supported by donations from people who cannot afford to send money but do. You need not travel to Cooperstown, New York, one glorious morning in February 2067 to walk into the National Baseball Hall of Fame archives to find out what Kramer, Newman, and Jerry already knew.
And if Kramer, Newman, and Jerry all knew that there was no Mets-Phillies game on 14 June 1987, then, by definition, there had to be a conspiracy. (Whether the show’s creator Larry David was a part of it is another kettle of fish.)
Jerry concluded his “Magic Loogie” demonstration by lamenting, “The sad thing is we may never know the real truth.”
But two unpredictable things happened that day to render Jerry’s resignation virtually impossible: One, a six-month-old creation called the World Wide Web would one day lead to detailed records of obscure baseball games being made available almost instantaneously at the touch of a finger. Two, an obsessive Seinfeld-baseball-film buff spending the rest of his life in his stinking apartment and poring over the excruciating minutiae of every single daily event in the history of both Seinfeld and baseball would go to his computer…
What’s past is prologue, daddy-o.