Jimmy Kimmel, the host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” grew up a Mets fan in Brooklyn, and his family’s move to Las Vegas when he was in elementary school did not alter his fandom. He was 18 when the Mets won the 1986 World Series, and it remains his favorite sports memory, as it is for so many fans of the Amazin’s who were old enough to remember it.
Kimmel has long wanted to branch out in the television industry. Since ESPN and ABC are both part of the Disney empire, he was able to get a green light to produce a four-hour, two-night documentary on the 35th anniversary of that memorable Mets team. “Once Upon a Time in Queens” will air in prime time next Tuesday and Wednesday on ESPN.
Some fans may be fatigued watching yet another rehashing of the championship season. The Mets’ cable home, SNY, has frequently shown 1986 retrospectives, which all featured late Newsday Mets beat writer Marty Noble and comedian Jim Breuer sucking up a lot of airtime.
Kimmel and director Nick Davis wisely gave the players most of the camera time, although he does allow for a couple of celebrity cut-ins. Douglaston’s own John McEnroe is identified merely as “a tennis player from Queens.” That playfulness is evident throughout “Once Upon a Time in Queens.” Former Mets Len Dykstra and Wally Backman constantly offer comic relief. Dykstra incessantly drops f-bombs while chewing tobacco. Backman has fun recalling how the Mets destroyed their chartered plane celebrating their National League Championship series over the Houston Astros. Unamused fusty Mets general manager Frank Cashen presented manager Davey Johnson with a bill for the damages.
On a somber note, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez discuss the myriad problems they had with their dads. Hernandez’s father was hypercritical to the point where he had to stop talking to him. But he does credit his father for encouraging him to sign a long-term deal with the Mets after getting traded against his wishes from the St. Louis Cardinals in June 1983.
The movie praises Cashen for being the architect of the ’86 team but doesn’t shy away from criticizing him for too quickly dismantling it and getting pennies on the dollar when doing so. Cashen foolishly traded rookie sensation Kevin Mitchell in 1987 as he thought he was a bad influence on Gooden and Strawberry. Mitchell was the opposite as he did not smoke, drink or do drugs. His sunny disposition is evident in this documentary. In 1989 Mitchell won the National League MVP Award while the Mets began another long-term descent.
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Another plus about “Once Upon a Time in Queens” is there is a lot of previously unseen footage. I had always heard about Astoria native Bob Costas and his NBC Sports crew standing in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse in the 10th inning of Game 6 awaiting their World Series celebration only to have to scurry when the Mets made their miraculous comeback. For the first time, we get to witness it.
Best wishes to longtime Mets radio voice and Cardozo High School alum Howie Rose, who will miss the rest of the Mets season recovering from surgery for an unspecified medical issue.
Acting Mets general manager Zack Scott deserves a presumption of innocence until proven guilty with respect to his arrest last week on a DUI charge. At least he was found sleeping in his vehicle, as opposed to operating it. Hopefully, this was an isolated incident.
Scott succeeded Jared Porter, who was relieved of his duties in January when sexual harassment charges were brought to light. Unless the Mets miraculously find a way to make the playoffs, it would appear both Scott and manager Luis Rojas will be dismissed as soon as the season ends.
At the annual CBS NFL media day, which for the second time was held on Zoom, CBS Sports CEO Sean McManus admitted he tries to “thread the needle” when it comes to gambling. He said CBS Sports will accept ads from Draft Kings, FanDuel, Points Bet, Caesars and the like, but he doesn’t want his NFL broadcasts to mix in wagering talk because most of the sports-viewing audience are not gamblers.
McManus also announced the popular Tuesday night roundup show, “Inside the NFL,” is moving from Showtime to ViacomCBS’s streaming service, Paramount Plus. Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin and recently retired New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will be joining Phil Simms, James Brown and Brandon Marshall on the panel.
Kudos to new WFAN programming director Spike Eskin for giving young broadcasters a chance to learn their craft by getting airtime during various graveyard shifts. Last Tuesday, former WFUV (Fordham University’s FM station) play-by-play broadcaster Emmanuel Berbari got to host a show from 2 to 6 a.m. I was honored to be interviewed by Emmanuel for his Saturday afternoon WFUV talk show during the fall of 2019.