When the Charleston RiverDogs hosted Moops Night on Saturday, even the most dedicated "Seinfeld" fans may have thought it a bit of an unusual reference. There have been plenty of promos that pay homage to moments from the hit 1990s sitcom -- featuring Keith Hernandez's Magic Loogie, the Soup Nazi and Festivus, for example -- but perhaps none as unexpected as the nod to the Moops, a joke most would recall fondly but likely not peg as the subject a Minor League theme night.
For the Class A affiliate of the Yankees, that's the whole point.
"We have a history of doing things that are a little weird or a little different," RiverDogs director of promotions Nate Kurant said. "So we try not to do all the same things that other teams do. ... Other teams have done Festivus Night or a Costanza Night, and so going down that 'Seinfeld' road wasn't really something that's ever really been on the radar."
Moops Night, however, was an idea they could work with. In the episode called "The Bubble Boy," George (Jason Alexander) ends up playing a game of Trivial Pursuit against a "bubble boy," Donald (Jon Hayman), whose illness requires him to live in a protective plastic bubble. Rather than a sweet, innocent child, Donald turns out to be a competitor seemingly straight from the jerk store. Tension festers until at game's end, when to win Donald needs only answer the question, "Who invaded Spain in the eighth century?"
"That's a joke," he says. "The Moors."
"Oh no," George fires back. "I'm so sorry, it's 'the Moops.' The correct answer is 'the Moops.'"
As Donald points out, the card is a misprint: the correct answer is the Moors. There are no Moops. But the two argue, and moments later Donald has George by the throat. Even as he struggles to breathe, the self-proclaimed "Lord of the Idiots" repeats "Moops! Moops!" until Donald's bubble suit is punctured in the tussle.
It's certainly a scene to remember, but it doesn't exactly lend many obvious opportunities for in-game entertainment offerings. Again, though -- that's the whole point.
"It really was open to interpretation as to what we did with it," Kurant said. "You know, you do Festivus, you have to have a pole. If you do [another specific reference], there's certain things you have to have, because it is that. The Moops was kind of a blank slate.
The team donned blue uniforms with Trivial Pursuit-esque rainbow trim, and the Os in "Moops" were styled to look like the game's pie-shaped playing pieces. "SportsCenter" hosts Matt Barrie and Elle Duncan sported those jerseys in the show's Minor League Promotion of the Week segment. And after the game, the jerseys worn by the players were auctioned in the stadium and online, with the proceeds going to the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital in Charleston.
The promotion also tied in with 2019 being the 40th anniversary of the release of Trivial Pursuit. Working with their "blank slate," the team gave the first 1,000 fans a replica Trivial Pursuit card that featured trivia about the RiverDogs. The evening also featured a half-inning break dedicated to other famous misspellings, various trivia questions scattered throughout, and a "bubble battle" between two contestants occupying inflatable "bubbles." There was even an "Inning About Nothing."
These were all received with great enthusiasm by RiverDogs fans, something that did not surprise Kurant even though he knew not all in attendance may have been fans of the show.
"When we do kind of funny things, whether you know it coming into the game or not, people tend to really get into it," he said.
No. 15 Yankees prospect Josh Breaux had a hit for the Moops. (Emma Dau Photography)
It wasn't just the fans that were getting into it, either.
"Even some of the players in the dugout were, when we were in extra innings, like, 'Come on! Let's go, Moops! Come on, Moops!'" Kurant said. "Some kids were cheering, 'Let's Go Moops!' instead of 'Dogs. So it was fun. People had some fun with it."
Although Moops Night was unique, that positive reception gives it something in common with just about every other 'Seinfeld'-related promo: success. In the eyes of Kurant, that's because the spirit of the show so closely aligns with the spirit of the Minors.
"What really is attractive is that there's such great source material to really pull from that is kind of that unusual, quirky, unique stuff that is kind of inherent in what Minor League Baseball is," he said.
After Moops Night was a hit, other, equally obscure homages could be in store. The RiverDogs never shy away from odd promotions. Executive adviser to the chairman Mike Veeck is known for his wacky ideas, and the team is co-owned by legendary funnyman Bill Murray, who also serves as its "Director of Fun" (and whose brother Brian Doyle-Murray, coincidentally, played the Bubble Boy's father on "Seinfeld'). From the top down, the team is all about putting on a good time, and in its own distinctive way.
"The spirit of the Charleston RiverDogs is to try things and to be different," Kurant said. "So when everybody's zigging, you want to zag.
"We will mine any sort of pop-culture reference we can. Even ... as niche, as specific as [Moops Night] was, I think we will be looking very thoroughly and very in-depth at a lot of different realms to see what we could come up with for another night kind of like this, that hits a lot of those same notes"