WATCH: Jay Buhner and Ken Phelps reminisce about trade and 'Seinfeld'
Yankees fans to this day still wonder why they traded Jay Buhner to the Mariners for Ken Phelps in 1988.
Ken Phelps is a good sport about the Jay Buhner trade, which has been mocked in real life and pop culture ever since it was made in 1988.
"It's nice to be remembered for something," Phelps says in the video above where he reunites with Buhner at Mariners camp. Phelps today does some work for Fox Sports in Arizona, where the Mariners train, and he stopped by camp to reminisce. Of course, the trade was a topic of discussion.
The TV show "Seinfeld" was supposed to be about "nothing." Really, it was a way for the show's creators to say things to others they otherwise never would get a chance to say — or dare say — in real life. And creator Larry David must have had the Buhner-Phelps trade stuck in his craw.
Case in point: Season 7, Episode 12; "The Caddy," when the Yankees think George Costanza has died and his boss, George Steinbrenner (played by David), goes to George's parents' house in order to tell them personally. After being informed erroneously of George's death, George's dad (played by Jerry Stiller) takes the opportunity to complain about a real trade the Yankees made with the Mariners some eight years previously:
Frank: "What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!? He had 30 home runs, and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin’!"
Steinbrenner: "Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying “Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.”
Buhner was traded just before his 24th birthday, and went on to hit 307 home runs for the Mariners, becoming one of the team's more popular players as a cohort of Ken Griffey Jr. Phelps is about 10 years older than Buhner, and while he was a highly productive left-handed power hitter for the Mariners, his prime was ending and the Yankees were headed into their worst years under Steinbrenner. It was a bad time for a bad trade. Phelps was moved to the Oakland Athletics about a year after coming to the Yankees. He won a World Series ring with them in '89, so it all worked out.
Well, it worked out for everyone but the Yankees — and fans like Frank Costanza.
Note: As Seattle ROOT Sports notes, Phelps and Buhner talked more at the Mariners broadcast Wednesday:
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