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
Casey Stengel is $5,000.