Veteran comedic actor and Forest Hills native Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons,” “The Birdcage”) grew up a big Mets fan in the early 1970s. One of the team’s broadcasters during his youth was the legendary Lindsey Nelson who was known for his trademark loud sports jackets and folksy Tennessee drawl.
Fast forward some 40 years and Azaria passes a thrift shop in Los Angeles and sees a garish plaid sports jacket in the window. Harking back to pleasant childhood memories, Azaria tries on the jacket and it fits him perfectly. If nothing else, he now had a conversation piece in his wardrobe.
Being the creative type that he is, as he has played and voiced hundreds of characters, Hank had an epiphany. “What if he were to create a Lindsey Nelson-type broadcaster who has a dark side and can’t filter his thoughts when he is even the slightest bit inebriated?” Thus the character of Jim Brockmire was created for the comedy Internet site, Funny Or Die.
Last spring cable network IFC, known for its offbeat comedy fare as “Portlandia,” and “Onion News Network,” commissioned Hank to create a ten-episode series based on his character. He gave a backstory in which his character, Jim Brockmire, a beloved Kansas City Royals play-by-play man has an on-air meltdown the day after he discovers his wife is hosting a swingers party in their home. He does however become an early YouTube sensation.
Brockmire is immediately fired by the Royals and finds himself blackballed from any sportscasting jobs in the country. Ten years later he is offered a broadcasting gig in a very low-level minor league team in western Pennsylvania. He eagerly takes the gig but he still used booze as a broadcast booth partner as a way to cope with his mighty fall from grace.
The ratings were fro the first season of “Brockmire” were so good that IFC renewed it for three more years. The show also got a lot of buzz in the baseball world. Joe Buck, Fox Sports’ lead announcer, made a couple of appearances in it playing an exaggerated version of himself. Buck’s real-life former booth partner, Tim McCarver, told me that he never misses an episode. NBC Sports longtime signature voice, Astoria native Bob Costas, hosted the IFC second season premiere of “Brockmire” at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater last Wednesday. He complained to Azaria that the show always films when he is on assignment. Hank promised Costas that he would accommodate his schedule for season three so that he could make an appearance.
Perhaps the greatest indication of how “Brockmire” has quickly become accepted into the baseball community, in spite of the show’s frequent salty dialog and plotlines is that the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has one of Jim Brockmire’s sports jackets on display.
“Brockmire” airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on IFC.
It is to be seen how Matt Harvey’s move to the bullpen will work out. One thing is certain is that new Mets manager Mickey Callaway could be more dispassionate about yanking Harvey from the starting rotation than say his predecessor, Terry Collins. My guess is that Terry, who benefitted from Harvey’s Dark Knight peak 2013 and 2015,peak seasons, would have given him far more opportunities as a starting pitcher.
Given their bullpen’s propensity to implode as we saw happen twice last week, it’s very conceivable that Harvey can really help out the Mets coming in relief.
Yankees management must have had a premonition that this April was going to be colder than normal because they scheduled all of their April “school night” games to begin at 6:35 PM. Even if late arriving fans missed the first inning they could still catch most of the game and be able to still get home at a reasonable hour. Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius told me that he is a big fan of the early start. “Hey, I like getting home a little earlier too. Of course baseball doesn’t work on a clock so that’s not a guarantee,” he said with a chuckle. The Yankees should consider expanding the 6:35 starts next year into May and bringing them back in September.
The Mets probably won’t experiment with a 6:35 start because Citi Field is farther from Manhattan than Yankee Stadium, Mets management would get complaints from fans who would find themselves missing more than the first inning.
Former Mets second baseman and now Yankees infielder Neil Walker was one of the many free agents who was not signed by a Major League Baseball team until very late in spring training. “It was frustrating but I always felt that I would be with a team before the season got underway,” he told me Friday at Yankee Stadium prior to the Yanks’ game with the Toronto Blue Jays.
One major reason why Walker and many notable free agents had trouble attracting buyers for their talents was a stipulation in the current collective bargaining agreement where a team that signed a free agent would have to give up a pick in the next amateur draft to the club that lost the player. It is understandable that baseball teams would be reticent to shell out on lucrative long-term contracts and in the process lose the right to draft high-caliber new talent that wouldn’t be as costly. Expect this to be a major sticking point between the Major League Baseball Players Association and team owners when the next collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.
Former Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson signed with the Toronto Blue Jays during the off-season. I asked Curtis if he has gotten used to having Canadian currency in his wallet. “I actually use my credit cards in Canada and the exchange rate has been favorable,” he told me. He also added that he is looking forward to returning to Citi Field when the Blue Jays take on the Mets on May 15 and 16.
Curtis Granderson isn’t the only ex-Met who is looking to return to Queens in mid-May. Jason Phillips, who was a backup catcher to Mike Piazza from late 2001 through 2004, is currently a coach with the Blue Jays. “Believe it or not, Citi Field is the only Major League Baseball stadium which I haven’t seen in person.”
Sports has its usual place at the Tribeca Film Festival which concludes on Saturday. Among the offerings were “Unstoppable,” which examined the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton who has never ceased hitting the waves even after a shark attack in which she lost an arm; and “Phenoms,” a documentary from Fox Sports about up and coming soccer players from around the world.
This Friday evening at Borough of Manhattan Community College New York Post lead sports columnist Mike Vaccaro hosts a Q&A with his old Chaminade High School classmate Ed Burns who is debuting his latest film, “Summertime,” a film about Far Rockaway in the early 1980s as part of the Tribeca Talks series.
I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that Bruno Sammartino was to professional wrestling what Muhammad Ali was to boxing in the 1960s. The outpouring of tributes just after his death was reported two weeks ago would certainly indicate that.
Sammartino was a star when wrestling script lines were simpler as grapplers were either “baby face” good guys or villainous “heels.” He grew disenchanted with WWE (then Titan Sports) CEO Vince McMahon when he decided to take his promotion national and make it appealing to the burgeoning cable television market in the early 1980s. Bruno did not care for the comedy and other entertainment values that Vince was infusing into wrestling. The two men did reconcile however in recent years.
Congratulations to WCBS/WLNY and WPIX sports anchors Steve Overmyer and Scot Stanford for picking up statues at the New York Emmy Awards that were held two weeks ago. Interestingly both gentlemen have covered news as well as sports for their stations. Overmyer has proven to be a master storyteller on a segment called New York Snapshots that airs each Wednesday on the Channel 2 News between and 5 and 6 PM.
If you are a local baseball fan and like spur-of-the moment adventures, head to San Diego this weekend. The Mets will be playing the Padres while the Yankees are just up the road in Anaheim taking on the Angels.
One of my favorite hotels in the United States is the Hyatt Regency La Jolla because of its elegance, Olympic-sized swimming pool, reasonable rates, and location. San Diego’s Petco Park is a 20-minute ride south on Interstate 5 while Angels Stadium is a one-hour drive north on I-5 from it.
JetBlue has two flight a day leaving from JFK to San Diego’s Charles Lindbergh Airport.
If you need a little more time for planning and/or you want a trip that is closer to Queens, think about our nation’s capital. The Yankees will meet the Nationals in DC on May 15-and 16 while the Mets’ next visit to Nationals Park will be for games on July 31 and August 1.
The Washington Marriott Metro Center is right on top of a key DC subway stop where all of the lines converge. It’s also walking distance to the National Portrait Gallery which recently unveiled paintings of both Barack and Michelle Obama as well to the Capital One Center where the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals play.
Whenever school budgets get slashed (and expect more of that with the new tax laws that limit the deductibility of real estate taxes that fund public schools) the arts are always the first to feel the ax. In 1991 actress Rosie Perez and others formed a non-profit, the Urban Arts Partnership, whose mission was to help fund and supplement arts education in New York City schools.
Last Wednesday the Urban Arts Partnership held a fund-raiser at the Ziegfield Ballroom (the site of the legendary Ziegfield Theater). Among the entertainers was Hollis’s own Darryl McDaniels who was a founding member of the one of the most successful recording groups in history, RUN-D.M.C.
Darryl is also a member of UAP’s board of directors. “I truly believe in their mission. I was not a traditional learner. I loved reading comic books and listening to music. I was fortunate that I had some teachers who knew how to reach me through what I liked and that made it easier to appreciate classic literature and history,” he told me.