Meet the Mets

Baseball: “Inning Eight: A Whole New Ballgame” (PBS; 1994)
The Mets don’t make an appearance in Ken Burns’s epic documentary Baseball until the eighth part, but they storm the scene like only they can, charting a wild ride in the 1960s from the cellar to the penthouse. Burns gives ample time to the ill-fated and slapstick-y Casey Stengel era, but the climax of the story is of course the arrival of ace Tom Seaver and the team’s world-shaking 1969 championship run. 

Doc & Darryl (ESPN; 2016)
For this entry in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio staged a reunion between two of the most complicated stars of the ’86 Mets, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, in a Queens locale almost as historic as Shea Stadium: the diner from Goodfellas. Featuring interviews with Keith Hernandez and Mets fan Jon Stewart, Doc & Darryl is an unflinching but compassionate portrait of two once-promising players whose careers were derailed by drug problems. It’s not always an easy watch, but it’s a necessary story about the downsides of youthful triumph and the cost of addiction.

Fields of Fear (ESPN; 2014)
In 1990, Mets catcher Mackey “The Hacker” Sasser developed one of the strangest and most visible cases of the yips in sports history: before throwing the ball back to the mound after each pitch, he would tap the ball two, three, sometimes four times in his glove, as though it were stuck there—a compulsion that prematurely ended his career. Many years and dozens of attempts to solve the problem later, Sasser consulted two experts on sports performance, who helped him get to the root of the unprocessed trauma that was holding him back. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney documented his recovery in this candid, revelatory short.

The Best Last Best Plane Ride Ever (Victory Journal; 2016)
The filmmaker and artist James Blagden—who also made a 2009 animated short about the time the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD—directed this nine-minute romp about the reason the New York Mets as a franchise are no longer welcome on United Airlines. After clinching the National League Championship in Houston, the 1986 Mets and their wives staged one of the most notoriously debauched parties in baseball history, and at thirty-thousand feet above the ground to boot. Blagden captures the scrappy, chaotic charm of the ’86 team, featuring testimonials from Strawberry, Gooden, and the man responsible for the film’s word-salad title, Lenny Dykstra. 

Once Upon a Time in Queens (ESPN; 2021)
Nick Davis’s four-part documentary tells the complete story of the ’86 Mets, in all their champagne-soaked glory. Davis doesn’t sugarcoat some of the players’ darker moments, like Strawberry’s history of domestic violence or the players’ frequent drunken brawls, but the film also manages to make their championship year feel triumphantly earned. It’s like a well-oiled time machine, allowing those fans who weren’t alive in 1986—the Mets’ most recent championship year—to experience a vicarious thrill. 

Lindsay Zoladz is a writer living in Brooklyn and a frequent contributor to the New York Times