In October 1977, Howard Cosell leaned into his announcer's microphone and intoned to the worldwide audience watching the World Series, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning." He was reporting yet another burning building marring the NYC skyline from his vantage point at Yankee Stadium. His line would eventually become the partial title of a superb book written by Jonathan Mahler: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City.
ESPN has adapted the book into an 8-week miniseries that will premiere July 9th. The show will chronicle the 1976-77 seasons of the New York Yankees, a period shortly after President Ford told New York to drop dead, Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch duked it out for the city's mayoralty, a blackout plunged large swaths of the city into darkness and riotous anarchy, the .44 Caliber Killer stalked New York's streets, and George Steinbrenner signed a high-paid prima donna free agent named Reggie Jackson to the Billy Martin-managed Yankees. Jackson's on-field performance and the state of the city itself could safely have been regarded as a disastrous disappointment, until Mr. October forged a nickname for himself in the course of three at bats during Game 6 of the Series, and New York City partially redeemed itself in the eyes of the nation by winning its first World Series in eight years.
Oliver Platt is cast as George Steinbrenner; John Turturro will play the manic and drunken Billy Martin; and Rescue Me's Daniel Sunjata plays slugger Reggie Jackson. The New York Times examined the production recently; Phil Pepe, who covered the Yankees for the Daily News, said about Turturro, "As I approached, he had his back to me, in his Yankee uniform. He was so Billy Martin. I got chills. His shoulders were slumped. His hands were in his back pockets. Just like Billy. He had the same way of speaking.”