Following in the wake of this summer’s 10-part The Last Dance and two-part Lance, another multi-part 30 for 30 installment is in the works. ESPN Films announced Thursday morning that they’re working on a multi-part series on the 1986 New York Mets (members of that team are seen above during a 2016 pre-game ceremony at Citi Field). The documentary will presumably be released next year, as that’s the 35th anniversary of that team’s World Series title. And there are some interesting names attached, particularly ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and his cousin, “Cousin Sal” Iacono (who, beyond his Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearances, co-hosts gambling show Lock It In on FS1, hosts the Against All Odds podcast on The Ringer, and regularly appears on Bill Simmons’ podcast). Here’s more from ESPN’s release:
ESPN Films today announced the group is in production on an upcoming project centered on the 1986 Mets, one of baseball’s most dominant and iconoclastic teams, whose legendary World Series comeback was merely the climax of an epic tale of ambition and swagger set in a city that was synonymous with excess.
Executive produced by Jimmy Kimmel, Sal “Cousin Sal” Iacono, Kimmelot’s Scott Lonker, ITV’s Jordana Hochman and MLB’s Nick Trotta, and directed by Nick Davis (“Ted Williams: ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived’”), the multi-part documentary will feature hours of never-before-seen footage of the ‘86 Mets team, a team of larger-than-life characters whose exploits on and off the field symbolized a unique moment in time for New York City and baseball history.
That Ted Williams documentary Davis did was for PBS in 2018, so he has some pretty recent sports documentary experience. He also directed 2009’s Blood Sweat and Gears: Racing Clean to the Tour de France, and he’s done a fair amount of work as a producer as well.
The 1986 Mets are certainly an interesting topic for a documentary, as that year marked their second (and most recent) World Series win, and it involved a lot of fascinating personalities. They’ve already been the subject of books like Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won, which carries the remarkable subtitle of “A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform–and Maybe the Best.” And other pieces on them have carried titles like “The Hell-Raising, Cocaine-Snorting ’86 Mets: Craziest Team in Major League Baseball History,” so there’s certainly plenty of documentary fodder there.
However, this one does come with a few questions, especially around who the documentary team will be able to get to participate. A few key figures from the 1986 Mets’ group, including general manager Frank Cashen and catcher Gary Carter, have already passed away. Others, like outfielder Lenny Dykstra, have been pretty controversial in recent years, with Dykstra even suing another ’86 Mets teammate, Ron Darling, for defamation over claims Darling made in his own book. (That lawsuit was eventually tossed last month after a judge ruled that the discussion in the book couldn’t worsen Dykstra’s already-infamous reputation.)
Meanwhile, ESPN already did one 30 for 30 on Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, 2016’s Doc and Darryl (directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio), but those two have a massive rift now. And some of that was evident even in 2016; Bonfiglio and Apatow spoke about the challenges of making that film around its release, with Bonfiglio saying he “probably” wouldn’t even have signed on for the project if he’d known where Gooden was at:
Filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio “probably” wouldn’t have co-directed the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “Doc and Darryl” had he known more about Dwight (Doc) Gooden before committing to the project.
“I want to choose my words carefully,” he said at a screening for the film at Hearst Tower. “My understanding of Doc’s situation evolved from the time the film was conceived and we began filming through to the end.”
He added, “When we started the film, we thought we were making a film about two people who had come out the other side and it would be a redemptive story for both of our subjects,” he said. “I think that he struggles.”
According to Bonfiglio, he was hoping the ESPN documentary, which airs on July 14, would have a happy ending. Now he says that he “probably wouldn’t have started” the project had he known Gooden better.
Bonfiglio’s co-director Judd Apatow was also at a loss to explain Gooden’s lifelong struggles.
“It’s impossible to really know what’s happening there,” he said. “I hope that those guys can stay strong and be sober and have good lives.”
We don’t know what the current situation is with Gooden (he does have some upcoming public appearances scheduled, including throwing out the first pitch at a New Jersey high school baseball tournament), but at the very least, he doesn’t appear to have a good relationship with Strawberry these days. So that could be interesting as well in terms of participation.
Of course, there are plenty of notable figures who could potentially talk in this. Current Mets broadcasters Darling and Keith Hernandez were teammates on that 1986 team, and they’d certainly be good sources. Manager Davey Johnson could figure in this as well, as could other prominent players like Mookie Wilson and Kevin Mitchell. And some other figures from that team went on to prominence elsewhere, including Ray Knight becoming a MLB manager and broadcaster and John Gibbons (who was only somewhat involved in the 1986 team, but was the bullpen catcher that postseason) becoming a MLB manager. And there’s definitely potential for a more comprehensive look at the 1986 Mets, and that team would seem to have enough storylines to justify a multi-part series, as long as the filmmakers are able to get enough interesting interviews. We’ll see how this one turns out.