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Keith Hernandez Says Jason Alexander Was "Standoffish" During "Seinfeld" Guest Spot

The former Mets first baseman played himself in a classic episode of the sitcom.

Seinfeld became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, running nine seasons and winning several Emmys. But it took a few seasons for the show to build its devoted fanbase, and one of the earliest episodes to be considered a classic  aired in Season 3. The two-part episode "The Boyfriend" features guest star, former Major League Baseball star Keith Hernandez, who plays a version of himself, dating Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and befriending Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld).

In a new interview with Vulture, Hernandez looked back on his surprising Seinfeld role and how it changed his life. He also revealed what it was like to work on the sitcom, including how the show's stars were to work with. While Hernandez said that the rest of the cast was immediately welcoming, he claimed that Jason Alexander, who played George, was "standoffish" towards him—at least, at first. Read on to find out more, including why the baseball player believes that Alexander's attitude towards him changed throughout filming.

RELATED: Jason Alexander Said Seinfeld Guest Star Was "Impossible" to Work With.

Hernandez's episode includes some iconic moments.

"The Boyfriend" aired in February 1992 and is an hour-long episode consisting of two parts. In the episode, Jerry meets Hernandez in a locker room, and they become friends. But, soon, the MLB star begins dating Elaine, which makes Jerry jealous. At one point, Hernandez asks Jerry to help him move, which leads Jerry to say, "That's a big step in a male relationship. It's like going all the way."

But perhaps the most memorable part of the episode is the storyline in which Newman (Wayne Knight) and Kramer (Michael Richards) try to explain that Hernandez spit on them when they attended a New York Mets game. When the characters recount the story to Jerry, it's shown in flashback in the style of the Zapruder film, which documents the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the end, it is revealed that Hernandez didn't spit on them, but another former Mets player, Roger McDowell.

Alexander wasn't as friendly as the other actors, Hernandez said.

Vulture asked Hernandez what it was like meeting the Seinfeld cast, with the interviewer noting that Seinfeld has admitted that Hernandez was the only guest star he was nervous to meet.

"[Series co-creator] Larry [David] was very friendly and welcoming," Hernandez said. "Jerry was a little sheepish but welcoming. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was about three months pregnant with her first child, I believe. She probably wasn't feeling that great, but she was wonderful to work with. Jason Alexander was a little standoffish most of the week. Michael Richards was very inquisitive about baseball. He knew nothing about it and questioned me throughout the week. He was interested in the lifestyle and what my profession contained. It was wonderful. He was very sweet, a nice man."

Later in the interview, Hernandez added, "Wayne Knight was wonderful. He's a big baseball fan and a terrific guy."

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He thinks he understands why.

Hernandez theorized that Alexander was aloof with him because he isn't an actor.

"He probably had to work his way through bit roles, and here I come as a guest star, and who am I? A retired baseball player? I'm just speculating," the 69-year-old told Vulture. He went on to say that Alexander behaved differently toward him later in the process, however.

"[I]t all changed when we had to do the complete run-through in chronological order in front of the NBC executives on Friday night," Hernandez explained. "I had to pass their litmus test and censors, and I didn't make any mistakes. Jason came up to me with a big smile and shook my hand and said, 'Nice going.' From that point on, he was wonderful. I guess I had to prove myself. I realized I couldn't hold them up and be terrible and not memorize lines. I had a lot of lines. It was a very, very stressful week."

He's clarified that Alexander was "never nasty."

Michael Richards, Wayne Knight, and Keith Hernandez on "Seinfeld"

Hernandez has talked about his experience with Alexander before.

"Jason was a little bit—I almost felt like he said, well, look at this guy. I worked my butt off and went through acting school. And I—it took me a long time to get a break. And look at this guy. He's got a guest star role. That was kind of—that was my perception," Hernandez said on Fresh Air in 2018.

He clarified that the actor "wasn't nasty," but just "a little standoffish." Like in the more recent interview, Hernandez explained that after the run-through, Alexander came around. "[W]hen it was over, he came up to me with a big smile and shook my hand and said, 'Nice going.' And I think I guess I passed the test," he recalled.

RELATED: 6 Classic Sitcom Episodes That Are Wildly Offensive by Today's Standards.

Doing the show changed Hernandez's life.

Keith Hernandez preparing to throw the first pitch at a Mets game in July 2022
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Hernandez told Vulture that unless he is in a baseball-specific situation—today, he's an commentator for Mets games—people want to talk to him about Seinfeld more than the sport he played professionally. "Seinfeld gave me an extra life," he said. "When I retired, I thought I would be forgotten."

Although he said he has only watched his episode a few times, he explained further, "It gave me legs. It kept me out there, and people knew who I was."

He shared that he would frequent the Manhattan restaurant Elaine's following the show, which was a hotspot for celebrities.

"I had such a wonderful experience in my retirement up at Elaine's with various people I was able to rub elbows with. I'm just a little kid from a beach town in Northern California, and here I am, having dinner with Sophia Loren one night, Clint Eastwood across the table, and chatting up Elia Kazan. Like, are you kidding? That show is one of the greatest experiences of my life."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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