Here’s why Seinfeld cut the real George Steinbrenner’s cameo appearance. At the end of Seinfeld season 5, George’s prolonged stint on the unemployment list finally came to an end when the New York Yankees hired him to be assistant to the traveling secretary. This allowed Seinfeld to make then Yankees owner George Steinbrenner a recurring character on the show. An obviously heightened and caricatured version of the real man, Seinfeld’s Steinbrenner was voiced by Larry David. Actors Mitch Mitchell and Lee Bear played Steinbrenner, but their faces were never seen onscreen.
This was a formula that worked very well over the back half of Seinfeld’s nine-season run, but at one point the creative team broke from the mold. For the Seinfeld season 7 finale, “The Invitations,” the real Steinbrenner actually shot a guest role, where he offered to be Elaine’s date at George and Susan’s wedding so she didn’t have to sit at the singles table. The footage can be found online, but it was cut from the final episode. Leaving the real Steinbrenner on the cutting room floor seems incomprehensible, thought there’s a good reason for it.
In the book The Big 50: New York Yankees (via MLB.com), David explained why the real Steinbrenner was removed from “The Invitations.” According to the Seinfeld co-creator, he felt it wasn’t as effective to see the real Steinbrenner when compared to the fictionalized one they had been using. David, a die-hard Yankees fan, was the one who had to break the news to The Boss. YouTube user Brett Cohen uploaded the Steinbrenner footage, which you can watch below:
“It was much funnier just to see him from the back with my voice than to see him act, but I had to be the one to tell him that. He said in that famous voice of his, ‘You can tell me. I can take it like a man.’ So I said, ‘Look, I’m sorry, Mr. Steinbrenner. We have to cut you from the show. I just wanted to let you know.’ He didn’t seem that disappointed about it. It just didn’t work.”
Rather than interacting with Steinbrenner, Elaine’s story in “The Invitations” saw her try to concoct a way for George to get out of his engagement to Susan, suggesting George take up smoking. As fun as it would have been to see the real Steinbrenner on the show, an argument can be made it was for the best. Steinbrenner expressed disappointment with the episode, citing Susan’s death after she licked the toxic envelopes. Some believe Steinbrenner asked to be cut after learning about that plot twist, but all indications are his scenes were removed simply due to time constraints. The Steinbrenner character doesn’t appear in “The Invitations” at all.
It’s understandable why David would find the idea of a Steinbrenner cameo appealing. However, Steinbrenner’s performance is a little jarring when juxtaposed to the usual Seinfeld version. As opposed to the bumbling parody that was frequently a source of comic relief, the real Steinbrenner was his usual hard-edged, assertive self in his scenes – especially the one when he goes on a rant about how “singles tables are for losers.” That Steinbrenner was game for the cameo is admirable, it just wasn’t the right fit for Seinfeld and the world it had previously established.