New Mets General Manager Billy Eppler knew he would have hands full building a below-average roster — especially a paper-thin pitching staff — something he acknowledged at his introductory press conference.

Eppler generated goodwill from Mets fans over Thanksgiving weekend by signing top-tier free agent centerfielder Starling Marte, his former A’s outfield teammate Mark Canha and power-hitting infielder Eduardo Escobar. The big deal, of course, came on Cyber Monday, when word came the Mets had reached an agreement with one of the best pitchers in the game, Max Scherzer, on a three-year, $130 million contract.

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A little bit of Forest Hills history that was thought to be lost has been found, and the West Side Tennis Club, with an impressive history of its own, is working to preserve it.

Area historian Michael Perlman noted the old Forest Hills Inn on Continental Avenue would put up luminaries from show business and sports, particularly tennis.

Most observers were surprised when pitcher Noah Syndergaard spurned the Mets’ qualifying offer of $18.4 million and signed a $21 million, one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. As the 2021 season was nearing its end, Syndergaard was professing his love for the Mets and practically begging them to offer him a deal.

It should be noted he has only pitched two innings over the last two years because of arm injuries. There has been speculation he may have incurred those injuries due to his off-season workout regimen, which consisted of strenuous weightlifting. He was trying to live up to the “Thor” nickname fans bestowed upon him.

Ronnie Williams, who grew up in Long Island City’s Queensbridge Houses and achieved basketball stardom with the University of Florida in the early 1980s, died last Sunday after a two-year struggle with brain cancer, according to Gatorsports, a news website dedicated to UF sports.

He was 59, and according to the website worked for more than 20 years at a juvenile detention center in Brooklyn. Williams’ death also was noted on the Facebook page of the group Queensbridge Reunion.

New York radio became a poorer place when Steve Somers finished his last air shift on WFAN last Friday night. Somers had been part of “the FAN” since the station debuted on July 1, 1987, and he quickly became one of its most popular air personalities even though he held down the overnight shift much of his tenure.

Somers good-naturedly called himself “Captain Midnight.” He made his listeners, which included insomniacs, feel like extended family. Since he was broadcasting in the wee hours of the morning, when commercials were infrequent, he could engage in humorous conversations with his callers which he referred to by the Yiddish term “schmoozing.” He made it clear you can love sports and be able to laugh about them too. It was that attitude which made Queens College alum Jerry Seinfeld a longtime listener and occasional caller.

Although there was no official press release from the Mets, word filtered out last week the team’s acting general manager, Zack Scott, had been terminated.

Scott had been on administrative leave since Sept. 1 after he was arrested in White Plains on a DWI charge. He was found sleeping in his car by police and subsequently failed a Breathalyzer test. He had attended a soiree the night before at the home of Mets owner Steve Cohen. Whether Cohen was aware of Scott’s impaired state may come out at Scott’s trial next month.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians, USA, a community group in South Ozone Park, recently honored Judge Karen Gopee and world-class cricket player David Williams in a ceremony celebrating the achivements of the compatriots.

“These two gestures to two Trinbagonian and Caribbean nationals are indeed fitting tributes and arguably long overdue recognitions,” wrote Ashford Maharaj, a member of Community Board 10, in a statement.

For the sixth consecutive season, Queensborough Community College (16-2) won the City University of New York Athletic Conference Community College Women’s Volleyball crown, sweeping Hostos Community College 25-4, 25-18, 25-18 on Monday night at the Bayside school’s Robert F. Kennedy Gymnasium.

QCC President Christine Mangino, top row second from right, even celebrated with the squad.

The Brooklyn Nets finally acted decisively with their star guard Kyrie Irving when they told him if he does not get vaccinated against Covid-19 he is not going to be on the team.

Earlier, Nets head coach Steve Nash had foolishly indicated Irving would play in arenas where unvaccinated players were allowed to play. Right now, New York and San Francisco are the only cities that do not allow unvaccinated athletes to compete in indoor facilities, but Toronto is on the verge of joining them.

The Holy Trinity Youth Group of Whitestone and the Shield Institute teamed up for a sports day last weekend.

The Oct. 9 event marked a return to normal for many of the Shield Institute individuals, all of whom are adults with special needs and have spent the last 17 months in isolation from Covid-19.

The term “sports legend” gets frequently tossed around and many times it is hyperbolic. Longtime Bayside resident Herb Turetzky is unquestionably a sports legend, and he was never a professional athlete.

He has been the official scorer for the Brooklyn Nets from that franchise’s first game in 1967 when they were called the New Jersey Americans of the American Basketball Association.

Borough President Donovan Richards officially declared Oct. 1 Tina Charles and Dalilah Muhammad Day in Queens while on the steps of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens last Friday.

“The Queens of Queens,” as Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) called the World’s Borough natives, who took home Olympic medals from Tokyo this year and were given proclamations from Richards in front of student athletes from their alma maters, Cardozo High School in Bayside and Christ the King High School in Middle Village. The Metro Eagles Track and Field Club members who train at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, the same place that the track star, Muhammad, practiced with the NOVAS Track Club, were also in attendance.

You didn’t have to be the Oracle of Delphi to predict the New York Mets were going to dismiss their manager, Luis Rojas, at the end of the season. Managing teams in big markets with decent-sized payrolls that finish with more losses than wins for two straight seasons will lead to that outcome. Rojas also made several questionable in-game decisions that were dissected on both the Mets’ radio and TV postgame shows.

If that weren’t enough, Mets president Sandy Alderson held a press conference last Wednesday, stating that while he was impressed with Rojas’ affability and his ability to keep players from pointing fingers at each other when the season spiraled out of control in the second half, the results must reflect the process. Unfortunately, they didn’t for Rojas.

Young players and their parents may know Dom Scala for the instructional camps he has hosted for years to help hone skills and minds for baseball. Yankees fans from the 1970s and ’80s may remember his headshot in the team yearbook and the praise heaped on him by broadcaster Phil Rizzuto for his hard work as a bullpen catcher and coach.

“Phil Rizzuto made me famous,” Scala said in a recent interview.

City Councilman and avowed Mets fan Jimmy Van Bramer greeted Joan Ford, widow of Astoria native and New York Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, on Sept. 18 as the city co-named the corner of 43rd Street and 34th Avenue for the legendary lefty hurler.

Ford’s family was in attendance, as were Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and state Sen. Mike Gianaris, above.

Offensive linemen, such as guards, tackles and centers, rarely generate any buzz. Fans rarely clamor for their favorite NFL teams to draft them; callers to sports talk shows rarely mention them; and they are an afterthought at best for those involved with fantasy sports leagues. However, their play determines whether their teams win or lose, as they open holes for running backs to gain yardage. Their top priority, however, is preventing the quarterback from getting sacked.

The New York Jets and Giants have already been hit hard by injuries in this crucial area. Last week, the Jets lost their top 2020 draft choice, left tackle Mekhi Becton, to a knee injury he incurred in the opening game against the Carolina Panthers. He will probably be out of action for two months. Last Thursday night, the Giants lost one of their co-captains when left guard Nick Gates suffered a leg fracture, as Big Blue fell to Washington, 30-29.

The subway series started with a solemn ceremony at Citi Field Saturday, Sept. 11 honoring the lives lost two decades earlier.

Fans arrived to the ceremony toting 9/11 flags, top right and center right, in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 victims who died in the tragedy.

When Major League Baseball released the 2021 schedule, showing the second round of the Subway Series would take place at Citi Field during the weekend of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Mets knew they had to deliver a ceremony that struck the right tone.

While the team has struggled on the field to the consternation of their fans this past season, they came through with flying colors as far as 9/11 was concerned.

Mets fans who have been growing frustrated with the team’s hot and cold performance this season can give themselves a break next week when the documentary “Once Upon a Time in Queens, a four-part presentation that is part of ESPN’s award-winning “30 for 30” series, debuts Sept. 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. ,according to a press release from the network.

It was produced by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, a lifelong Mets fan, and directed by Nick Davis. It chronicles how the team after years of second-division finishes developed home-grown talent like Mookie Wilson, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry; while adding finishing pieces like Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, all leading up to an epic World Series against the Boston Red Sox.

After a year without fans, spectator business has been bustling this year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the US Open.

In the top row, Arina Radu and Aaron Prager of Forest Hills take a break outside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Ming Ling of Flushing and Qing Hu Ren and Michelle Ren, 3, of Elmhurst walk around the grounds. At top right, former Queens resident Evelyn Dominguez brought her father, Freddy, left, and her grandfather, Luis, 90, to their first Open. Freddy Dominguez was a longtime employee at Elmhurst Dairy.

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.

The Ozone Howard Stars became Borough Cup champions when they defeated the Van Nest Realtors on Aug. 18 at Maimonides Park, a minor league baseball stadium in Coney Island.

The travel baseball team won the Borough Cup tournament’s 16 and under division. The team kicked off the summer winning another tournament in Chester, NY, and dominating their Long Island league before capturing the much-coveted Borough Cup City Championship.

The death of Rod Gilbert, one of the most popular players in New York Rangers history, at age 80 last week unleashed a torrent of tributes. He played most of the 1960s and ’70s for the Blueshirts, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. That alone, however, doesn’t explain why his passing saddened so many.

Gilbert was as much a part of the late 1960s New York sports fabric as Joe Namath and Tom Seaver. They were celebrities even to those who didn’t follow sports. Perhaps because hockey wasn’t as popular as baseball or football, Gilbert was more approachable to the average person.

Put me in, coach, I’m ready for J&J.

Public school athletes will need a vaccine to play several high-risk school sports, city officials announced last Friday.

All Elite Wrestling, which began operations two years ago, has quickly developed into a very serious challenger to the behemoth of the grappling game, World Wrestling Entertainment. A sign AEW means business is it is holding its first-ever New York City card. The location is Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 22.

AEW, which airs Wednesday nights on cable’s TNT, is getting ratings that rival WWE’s two biggest weekly TV extravaganzas, “Raw” on the USA Network, which airs Mondays, and “Smackdown,” on Friday nights on Fox.

When I was growing up, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was a far bigger deal than it is today. There are myriad of reasons for its decline.

It’s safe to say the ASG was a major beneficiary of baseball’s reserve clause which bound a player to one team until a club either traded or released him. While that deprived players economically, it meant fans saw the same players playing for the same league every year at the midsummer classic.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a hard line with players who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 when he unilaterally declared that if an NFL game is canceled because an unvaccinated player caused a team outbreak, then the team that caused the trouble will forfeit the game. In addition, no player on either team will get paid that week.

The National Football League Players Association will certainly challenge Goodell’s edict. Frankly, the part about the “innocent team” did seem draconian and unfair. On the other hand, Goodell is right in feeling those who have done the right thing by getting jabbed should not be held hostage to the “freedoms” of anti-vaxxers.

At their Friday post-trade deadline press conference, Mets President Sandy Alderson and acting general manager Zack Scott put the best spin they could on the only move they made, trading minor league outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Javier Baez and pitcher Trevor Williams.

Baez is a terrific player who Mets fans know has enjoyed many big games against their team. He can adequately fill in at shortstop while Francisco Lindor recuperates from his oblique injury. Given how many punchless nights the Mets offense has endured this year, you can’t blame Alderson and Scott for making the deal.

The New York Mets are bringing back their classic Banner Day, though field access restrictions related to Covid-19 will make it a monthlong virtual event.

The team began accepting photos and videos of banners on Monday at Mets.com/BannerDay. Submissions must be sent by Aug. 9. The club will announce a winner on Aug. 26.

Former Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays over the winter, returned to Citi Field Friday night to start against his old team. His old buddy, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, rudely greeted him in the first inning by slugging a two-run home run.

Mets fans remember all too well how Matz would get rattled and seem to fall apart at the first sign of adversity. On this night, however, he showed total composure. He settled down and mowed down most batters until the sixth inning when he was pulled by Jays manager Charlie Montoya after yielding a double to Alonso, who would go on to hit another home run to give the Mets a 3-0 win. It was the first big-league win for rookie pitcher Tylor Megill, who deserved to have a couple more but was victimized by the bullpen in previous starts.

The Howard Beach Dads Facebook group will host a family handball tournament from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 25 at Walter Ward Playground,159-15 88 St.

Teams of two can sign up for $40 each. The event, sponsored by Empanada on the Rise, will also include a basketball clinic and a free karate class for kids and arts and crafts.

Until Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who has had a miserable season trying to get his batting average over .200, hit a 9th-inning, two-run homer Sunday to give the Mets the decisive runs in a 7-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, this past weekend in the Steel City was a George Romero-styl…

Registration is open for free summer tennis lessons.

New York Junior Tennis and Learning is offering free community tennis lessons to kids ages 5 through 18 across Queens:

Like many Italian enclaves around New York City, Howard Beach burst into green, white and red in response to Italy’s win in the European soccer championship last Sunday.

After Italy pulled off the victory through a one-penalty-shot lead, neighborhood residents flocked to Cross Bay Boulevard donning Italian flags and grouping along the sidewalk and in the median of the business corridor to celebrate, top.

In 2020, Major League Baseball initiated a rule that made all doubleheaders seven-inning games. The thinking was it would reduce injury and fatigue for players at a time when hospitals were overrun with Covid-19 patients. Shorter doubleheaders also make it easier for teams to travel if games are on getaway days.

With Covid-19 hopefully on the downturn thanks to vaccinations — although there are still knuckleheads who refuse to get their shots which is allowing this Delta variant to thrive — fans have now returned. MLB, however, has kept the seven-inning rule for twinbills.

In 1928 developer and builder Gerald C. English started to build a 11-room, 3-bath English Tudor house on a 94-by-126-foot lot at 175-12 Murdock Ave. in Addisleigh Park.

It was completed in 1929. Mr. English, of the famous Rodman-English Building Corp., was responsible for building over 1,700 English Tudor homes in Hollis, St. Albans, Rego Park and Auburndale. He lived directly across the street from his masterpiece.

The Mets hobbled into Yankee Stadium having won just six of their last 17 games. Their hitting was anemic and there was an overall malaise about them. Granted, the Yankees have their own issues, but on paper, this was still the same lineup that has been a fixture in the postseason. Consideri…

While it is now commonplace for professional sports organizations to have a night devoted to honoring the LGBTQ community, it is a recent phenomenon. The Chicago Cubs became the first MLB team to salute the community 20 years ago when they held a “Gay Days” weekend at Wrigley Field. To say that was a controversial marketing decision in the conservative, macho sports would be a gross understatement.

The Mets marked their fifth Pride Night this past Friday with a T-shirt giveaway sponsored by Citi. They honored the LGBT Network and Callen-Lorde Health Centers, which provide medical services to the LGBTQ community regardless of ability to pay. They also gave a portion of Friday’s ticket revenue to the LGBT Network.

Queens College ceremoniously broke ground June 16 on its $9.3 million soccer field and track renovation project.

Director of Athletics Robert Twible, left, Student Association President Zaire Couloute, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Queens College President Frank H. Wu, City Councilmember Francisco Moya, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, City Councilmember James Gennaro, Special Counsel for Ratepayer Protection and alumnus Rory Lancman, City University of New York Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodr’guez and Queens College student athlete Shannon Gibbons celebrated the upgrades last Wednesday.

The conventional morning-after wisdom was that the Brooklyn Nets let everyone down in losing their second-round NBA playoff series to the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games, with the decisive Game 7 resulting in an overtime loss. Given the injuries to two of the Nets biggest stars, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, it’s amazing the Bucks didn’t win this series in five games. It was only the heroics of Nets forward Kevin Durant that extended this series as far as it did.

You couldn’t blame the Bucks if they thought of the “respect” joke tagline that iconic comic and Kew Gardens native Rodney Dangerfield always employed. The Bucks’ big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday may not possess the luster of the Nets’ triumvirate but they’re not chopped liver either. Unlike the Nets’ stars, they played as an intact unit throughout the regular season, which paid dividends in this playoff series.

Last Friday night was a reminder of what life was like in prepandemic times as the Mets drew around 26,000 spectators for their largest crowd since September 2019. The pitching matchup was stellar, with two recent Cy Young Award winners: the San Diego Padres’ Blake Snell against the Mets’ Jacob deGrom.

Snell, who no-hit the Mets through six innings in San Diego the week before, was good. DeGrom, however, was his usual untouchable self, as he threw six shutout innings and helped his cause with a base hit to drive in a pair of decisive runs in what would be a Mets 3-2 win.

The Saint Albans/Jamaica Comets Little League will host a game at Roy Wilkins Park on June 19, also known as Juneteenth.

The Comets will go up against Malverne Little League, a team from Long Island, because the Comets are one of two teams registered in Queens due to the coronavirus pandemic. The other team is Rosedale Little League, according to Bridget Smith, a parent whose sons, Jaden and Justin, were a part of the Comets and had helped at events.

2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka made news last week when she withdrew from the French Open after winning her first-round match. Osaka cited depression as the reason. She said she could have continued in the tournament had there not been a stipulation that all tennis players must hold a press conference following all their matches.

Depression doesn’t discriminate and it affects even the most successful people in their fields. I applaud her for seeking help in battling it. Having said that, however, I wasn’t happy she made the media out to be a cause for her distress. Yes, I am a sports columnist so my reaction is expected, but the truth is every job has aspects we’re not crazy about, but we can’t only do the parts we happen to like.

Mets fans have become all too accustomed to seeing their beloved franchise get decimated by injuries, but 2021 has been a doozy even by pessimistic Flushing standards. Pitchers who undergo surgery especially seem to have trouble returning in a timely manner to Citi Field.

That certainly seems to be the case with Noah Syndergaard, who underwent Tommy John surgery in late March 2020. The conventional wisdom was he would be back in the Mets starting rotation sometime this month, and worst-case scenario, just after the All-Star break.

Todd Miranda, the executive director of the National Small Business Chamber of Commerce and president of the New York Boxing Association, sponsored a Business Appreciation event May 15 at Magna, an Italian restaurant located in Flushing.

The executive director of Magna, Eleonora Greco, supervised the event at 35-25 Farrington St.

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” is a time-honored political adage. Mets infielders Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil would have been better off following that advice last Friday night after they got into an off-field dustup during the seventh inning of what turned out to be an exciting 5-4 comeback win in ten innings over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s not easy for a new infield combination to get acclimated. Shortstop Lindor and second baseman McNeil have had communication issues in the field during the early going of the 2021 season, although in fairness they have turned some nifty double plays.

These are heady times for National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, who spent a chunk of his formative years in Forest Hills and graduated from Russell Sage Junior High School.

It wasn’t long ago that the NHL was not a very desirable commodity for television sports executives and its broadcast rights were priced far below those of Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. NBC has had exclusive rights for NHL telecasts for 15 years, for which it forks over about $200 million annually.

It’s March 9, 1971. A senior at Jamaica High School in Queens, New York, skips school for the first and only time. He’s in Manhattan, waiting outside The New YorkerHotel. Waiting for someone he considers an idol. Someone who took left hook after left hook the night before as 300 million people watched.

That someone is Muhammad Ali. The fighter emerges from the hotel with a swollen face but with his charisma intact. He had just lost the “Fight of the Century” against rival and fellow heavyweight Joe Frazier. The high school kid approaches Ali, greets him, and gets his autograph. The teenager is ecstatic about the autograph and the experience. But he is unaware that he will not only befriend Ali and other famous athletes, but also go on to have what many would deem a dream career and life.

Professional soccer is coming to Queens — and York College in Jamaica — next spring.

City officials on Tuesday joined the owner of Queensboro FC to announce plans to build a 7,500-seat stadium on a plot of land just south of York’s Health and Physical Education building.

Mike Puma has been the Mets beat writer for the New York Post since 2010, and he’s the gold standard for anyone who follows the team. He has just penned a history of the Mets, which encapsulates the last 25 years titled, “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the New York Mets” (Triumph Books).

Puma smartly avoids getting caught in the Bernie Madoff rabbit hole, which destroyed the Mets for a good chunk of the time he was in the Citi Field press box. He instead gives us grueling recollections of David Wright valiantly trying to get back on the field despite painful spinal stenosis, and Johan Santana’s no-hitter at Citi Field on June 1, 2012. Santana’s no-no remains the only one in Mets history, and there is a Twilight Zone aspect to it because his career seemed to rapidly deteriorate after that game.

A ribbon cutting celebrated the reconstruction of the Crocheron Park Little League ball field nearly a year after construction was completed.

City Parks Department District Manager Ralph Vialet, left, Northeast Queens Park Administrator Matthew Symons, Parks Chief of Staff to the Queens Borough Commissioner Joanne Amagrande, City Councilmember Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Bayside Little League President Bob Reid, Borough President Donovan Richards and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver were the few to attend the small ceremony April 16 just in time for the Little League season, which kicked off the following day.