The Bronx Is Burning is a television drama that debuted on ESPN on July 9, 2007 following the 2007 MLB Home Run Derby. It is an eight-episode mini-series adapted from Jonathan Mahler's best-selling book, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning. The book focuses on baseball's triumph over the turmoil and hysteria of 1977 New York City, and how the New York Yankees came to embody all of the hopes and fears of an unforgettable summer with Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson's warfare under George Steinbrenner's leadership.
The show stars John Turturro, Oliver Platt, and Daniel Sunjata, while executive producers Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Joe Davola, writer/executive producer James Solomon, and director Jeremiah Chechik work on the show. The series is produced by ESPN Original Entertainment in conjunction with Tollin/Robbins Productions. Filming began on September 18, 2006 in Connecticut and New York.
The 2007 debut of the series marks the 30th anniversary of the 1977 World Series win for the Yankees, the first under Steinbrenner.
After airing on ESPN, episodes could be viewed on ABC on Demand.
Tagline: A city in fear. A team in Turmoil. Win or lose 1977 was one year New York City would never forget. Another tagline was: Everybody has something to prove.
The central theme of the adaptation is the 1977 New York Yankees against the backdrop of New York City. Yankee superstar Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata) and manager Billy Martin (John Turturro) are locked in a perpetual state of warfare. Jackson was a perfect foil for the scrappy Martin, the hero of New York's fed-up working-class and a powerful reminder of the team's—and the city's—less complicated past. While owner George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) was providing General Patton-style leadership, he was intent on keeping his promise to the people of New York of delivering a World Series title. The show also features subplots concerning the NYPD's pursuit of the Son of Sam serial killer that summer and the devastating blackout and resultant widespread looting in July, all while the city suffered through financial bankruptcy and massive municipal layoffs.
The title refers to an off-the-cuff comment by broadcaster Howard Cosell during the ABC telecast of Game Two of the 1977 World Series:
|“||As night descended, ABC, broadcasting the game, cut to a helicopter camera for an overhead view of Yankee Stadium and the surrounding neighborhood, where, bizarrely, a large fire raged out of control. Howard Cosell intoned, 'There it is, ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning.'||”|
According to the source book's author, Mahler, at the time property taxes were so high landlords would burn down their buildings for the insurance money, and some tenants would set a fire in a decrepit, privately-owned building in order to get priority for the newer public housing. 
Episodes were filmed in New London, Waterford and Norwich in Connecticut as well as in New York City.
- Debuted July 9, 2007.
The episode begins on June 18, 1977, during a New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston. During the game, Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice hits a bloop into right field for a hit. Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata), doesn't hustle to get to the ball, so Rice gets a double. Yankees manager Billy Martin (John Turturro) pulls Jackson out of the game for not hustling. Both Jackson and Martin argue in the dugout, and both have to be restrained by other teammates. The argument in the dugout is shown on national television. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) calls to fire Martin after watching the fight on television.
After the credits, the show then flashes back to New York City in July 1975. Newscast shows the rising layoffs and walkouts of police officers, firefighters and Con Edison workers in the city. George Steinbrenner decides to hire Billy Martin to become manager of the Yankees. However, Yankees president Gabe Paul criticizes the move and says that Martin is trouble. After negotiating on the phone, Martin agrees to manage the Yankees. With Martin as manager, the Yankees surge in the 1976 season and get to the 1976 World Series. However, the Yankees are swept and disgraced by the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. After the loss, an angry Steinbrenner tells a sobbing Martin that things will be run differently next year.
On October 23, 1976, the Son of Sam makes his first major strike with the shooting of two teenagers sitting in a parked car in Queens, New York, though, both teens survive the shooting. Steinbrenner, Martin and Paul meet at Yankee Stadium to decide who to get for 1977. Both Steinbrenner and Martin disagree on who they want. Martin then goes to his home in Arlington, Texas, where his wife tells him that she won't move to New York for next season. After the Yankees fail to sign free agent Bobby Grich, Steinbrenner demands to see Reggie Jackson. Steinbrenner pampers Jackson and tries to make him sign with the Yankees.
On November 27, 1976, the Son of Sam shoots two teenage girls in Queens, New York. Both girls survive, but are wounded. Two days later, Jackson signs a $3 million contract with the Yankees. As spring training begins in 1977, it marks the arrival of Jackson, where he immediately causes friction with team captain Thurman Munson when Jackson opts to take batting practice instead of loosening up in the outfield with the rest of the players. SPORT Magazine reporter Robert Ward offers Jackson an interview, but at first Jackson declines. On March 8, 1977, the Son of Sam murders a 19-year old college student named Virginia Voskerichian in Forest Hills, Queens. NYPD detectives find out that the bullets from the March 8th murder and the October 23rd murder match. Days after the murder, New York City mayor Abraham Beame announces that there is a serial killer on the loose.
Jackson eventually agrees to the interview with Ward. They meet at a bar for the interview, where Martin, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford are drinking nearby. Jackson notes that the Yankees had won the pennant the year before, but lost the World Series to the Reds, and suggested that they needed one more thing to win it all, pointing out the various ingredients in his drink. Ward suggested that Jackson might be "the straw that stirs the drink." But when the story appeared in the May 1977 issue of SPORT, Ward quoted Jackson as saying, "This team, it all flows from me. I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad."
During a road trip in spring training, Steinbrenner demands that Martin be with his players on the bus during trips. Martin says that he will do that, even though the bus leaves as he's talking to Steinbrenner. On March 26, 1977, the Yankees lose badly to the New York Mets in an exhibition game in St. Petersburg, Florida. After Steinbrenner finds out that Martin did not ride the bus, he goes to Yankees clubhouse. Both Steinbrenner and Martin argue in the clubhouse in front of the players. Steinbrenner threatens to fire Martin and hire Yogi Berra to be manager.
Team in Turmoil
- Debuted July 17, 2007
On March 27, 1977, Steinbrenner and Martin reconcile and apologize to each other for the tirade that occurred in the Yankee clubhouse that day before. After the credits, the Yankees get ready to play on Opening Day. Martin gives a speech to the team saying that they will win the World Series this year. The Yankees beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 on Opening Day. However, the Yankees soon struggle and lose with an injured Jackson. After the Yankees lose five straight games, Steinbrenner is upset and demands that Jackson be in the lineup. On April 17, 1977, the Son of Sam kills two more people. The press dubbs the killer as the ".44 caliber killer" as people become scared to walk the streets. The NYPD creates the Omega Task Force to capture the killer. Detective Timothy Dowd (Stephen Lang) is put in charge of the Omega Task Force.
As the Yankees drop to last place of the American League East, Martin decides to let Jackson pick names out of Martin's hat to make the lineup. This superstitious move propels the Yankees to first place in the AL East. With the winning streak, the team chemistry improves. The .44 caliber killer leaves a note to the NYPD at a crime scene. In the note, the killer calls himself the "Son of Sam" and Mr. Monster. The killer taunts the police and tells them that he will kill again. A psychologist advises the police that the killer may be mentally unstable.
Jackson's interview is released in SPORT magazine. When the team reads the interview, they refuse to talk with Jackson. As a result, Jackson becomes a loner. After Jackson hits a home run against the Boston Red Sox, he doesn't shake hands with his teammates. Later, Jackson finds a necktie with the phrase "suck my ass" in his locker. Jackson talks with Martin and Steinbrenner about it. Martin tells Jackson to apologize to each person on the team, individually, which Jackson reluctantly agrees to do.
Meanwhile, the election race for mayor of New York is heating up. Incumbent mayor Abraham Beame is challenged by Representative Ed Koch, New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, and feminist activist Bella Abzug for the Democratic nomination.
During a game, Thurman Munson (Erik Jensen) doesn't shake Jackson's hand after a Chris Chambliss home run. Eventually, Jackson goes to talk with Gabe Paul, demanding a trade, which Paul refuses. Steinbrenner tells Munson to make a statement to the press about the handshaking incident. Meanwhile, the Son of Sam sends a letter to New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin (Michael Rispoli).
Time for a Change?
- Debuted July 24, 2007
The show starts off on May 30, 1977 at Fenway Park. Yankees catchers Thurman Munson (Erik Jensen) and Fran Healy (Loren Dean) are talking to each other during a bullpen session. Healy, who is Jackson's only friend on the team, suggests a sitdown with Jackson to Munson. Back in New York City, New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin (Michael Rispoli) is writing a response to the latest Son of Sam letter. Breslin is also watching ABC's Monday Night Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, which the Yankees win 5-4.
After the game, Jackson, Healy and Munson go to dinner to resolve their problem. Munson tells Jackson that he doesn't like him, but that he will work with him to win. Meanwhile, in the mayoral race, former congresswoman Bella Abzug takes the lead. Less than three weeks later, the Yankees return to Boston for another series with the Red Sox. During a nationally televised game on June 18, Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice hits a bloop into right field for a hit. Jackson doesn't hustle to get to the ball, allowing Rice to go to second base for a double. Billy Martin immediately pulls Jackson out of the game for not hustling. Jackson and Martin argue in the dugout, and both have to be restrained by other teammates. The argument is seen by the fans at Fenway Park, and is shown on national television. While watching the scene on television, Steinbrenner angrily instructs Gabe Paul to fire Martin. Paul counters by telling Steinbrenner that he won't fire Martin and will talk to Martin and Jackson. The Yankees, meanwhile, are embarrassed by the Red Sox during the series, with Boston hitting an American League record 16 home runs in the three-game sweep.
At the meeting, Jackson admits that he will have to tolerate Martin and will play ball under him. However, Martin does not want to admit that Jackson is part of the club. On June 20, Steinbrenner arrives at the Hotel Pontchartrain in Detroit to fire Martin before the Yankees' series with the Detroit Tigers. However, Munson tells Steinbrenner that he and Graig Nettles will quit the team if Martin is fired. Jackson also doesn't want Martin fired because he fears he will be blamed for the dismissal. After Paul threatens to resign as well, Steinbrenner eventually decides not to fire Martin, but demands change and good results. Before the Yankees' game with Detroit, the crowd at Tiger Stadium gives Martin a standing ovation when he goes out to exchange lineup cards.
Meanwhile, NYPD detectives monitor an area near a nightclub in Queens. Nearby, the Son of Sam shoots two teenagers. As the killer walks near the detectives, they become suspicious of him. They prepare to stop him, but are forced to go to the scene of a shooting when a call comes in on the radio. As New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin is dominating the press, the New York Post puts Steve Dunleavy in charge of the Son of Sam story.
The Seven Commandments
- Debuted July 31, 2007
The episode begins with Munson talking to reporter Steve Jacobson (Alan Ruck). Munson tells Jacobson that nobody on the club is happy, and Jacobson quotes Munson as a "prominent Yankee." Steinbrenner is upset by this, but he doesn't know who made the quote, and demands that the person who said it come forward. Munson comes forward and apologizes to Steinbrenner. Meanwhile, columnist Jimmy Breslin guarantees that Son of Sam will murder on July 29, because it is the one-year anniversary of his first murder.
On July 13, while the Yankees are on a road trip in Milwaukee, a blackout strikes New York City. During the night and next morning, hundreds of stores are looted and vandalized, especially those in poorer sections of the city. Meanwhile, Munson and Lou Piniella wake up Steinbrenner to try to convince him to go easy on Martin. Martin overhears the conversation from the hallway while making out with a woman. He demands to know who is in the room with Steinbrenner, and finds the two players hiding in the shower. The three of them convince Martin to bat Jackson fourth in the lineup, and Steinbrenner promises to let Martin finish the season as manager.
As power returns to New York, the Yankees get hammered by the Kansas City Royals, and Martin returns to not batting Jackson fourth. The 1977 All-Star Game takes place at Yankee Stadium, with Martin managing the American League squad. The National League wins the game 7-5. On July 23, Gabe Paul tells third base coach Dick Howser (Max Casella) that he will become manager. As the first anniversary of Son of Sam's first murder looms, the NYPD expand their search. After Howser turns down the manager job, Steinbrenner and Paul continue to stick with Martin. During an interview with the press, Steinbrenner releases a list of seven qualifications for judging a manager.
The anniversary passes without incident, but on July 31, the Son of Sam shoots Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante in the head. Moskowitz dies, but Violante survives. The police are surprised that the murder took place in Brooklyn, instead of Queens, where the previous murders took place.
- Debuted August 7, 2007
The New York Yankees are in a late-season collapse, and George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) is losing his patience with Billy Martin (John Turturro). George wants Martin to bat Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata) in the cleanup spot. Billy is hesitant at first, but does so after George again threatens to fire him. Reggie does not want to at first, but gets used to it. The Yankees suddenly go on a tear since Reggie started to bat where George wanted him to.
Meanwhile, the Son of Sam continues to terrorize the citizens of New York City. The head of the Omega Task Force, Detective Timothy Dowd (Stephen Lang) starts searching for who the Son of Sam is. A key clue is after interviewing a woman, she mentioned about his parking ticket. Dowd and a few cops head to the car and find ammo in the trunk of the car. They find the owner to be David Berkowitz, and arrest him for being the Son of Sam.
The Game's Not as Easy as It Looks, Fellas
- Debuted August 14, 2007
In the beginning of the episode, it is announced that Ed Koch defeated Mario Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City. The Yankees clinch the American League East and Martin (John Turturro) asks Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) for a new contract. Steinbrenner tells Martin that he won't negotiate in the press, and talks of a contract will be sorted out in the offseason. He also ominously mentions to Martin that "nobody is indispensable, not even in success."
The Yankees advance to the ALCS to face the Kansas City Royals for the right to play in the World Series. The series begins on October 5, with the Royals decisively winning game one at Yankee Stadium.The Yankees are dealt a blow when starting pitcher Don Gullett is unable to play for the remainder of the series. The Royals take an early lead in game two, when a Kansas City player appears to take a late slide into second base on a double play attempt. Martin vociferously argues for an interference call with the second base umpire, while quietly admitting he's trying to light a fire under his players, who don't seem to be in the game mentally. Martin's tirade works and the Yankees tie the series at one game apiece. Jackson (Daniel Sunjata), however, struggles during the first two games, getting only one hit in eight at bats.
The series shifts to Kansas City, and the Royals dominate game three to take a two games to one advantage, meaning the Yankees must win games four and five or risk not returning to the World Series. Munson and Steinbrenner make statements implying that Jackson is the reason behind the Yankees' struggles. Jackson confides to Fran Healy that he feels he will shoulder the blame if the Yankees don't repeat as American League champions. The Yankees take an early 4-0 lead in game four, but the score is narrowed to 5-4 in the fourth inning. Martin decides to go to closer Sparky Lyle, which Steinbrenner, watching the game from the students' lounge at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which he is touring with his daughter, comments as a "bonehead" move. Nevertheless, the move pays off as the Yankees hang on for a 6-4 victory.
In game five, Martin decides he will bench Jackson, since he is 1-for-14 in the series, and has a bad history against Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff. He tells Healy to tell Jackson since he believes Jackson won't listen if he tells him himself. Jackson is not happy with the decision, but reluctantly approves the choice; he shows he cares about his teammates by cheering them on as Martin watches him every time. Late in the game, with the Royals leading 3-1 in the top of the eighth, Martin summons Jackson to pinch-hit, and Reggie drives Willie Randolph in to cut the Royals' lead to 3-2. The Yankees then score three runs in the ninth and win 5-3, winning the AL pennant and advancing to the 1977 World Series.
- Debuted August 21, 2007
The Yankees are slated to face the former Brooklyn rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Joe DiMaggio arrives at the ticket booth to get twenty tickets he was promised since he was throwing out the first pitch. However, the ticketman lost his tickets, and DiMaggio angrily storms off. Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt) is discussing what the gameplan for the World Series with Gabe Paul (Kevin Conway) when he gets a call saying DiMaggio left. He tries getting Governor Hugh Carey to throw the first pitch, but baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejects it. They end up getting Whitey Ford instead.
The Series is narrated by ABC broadcasters Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Tom Seaver. The Dodgers take an early lead in the first inning, but the Yankees get a run back in the bottom of the inning. They tie the game on a solo home run by Willie Randolph in the sixth inning. After taking a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, Martin pulls Jackson in favor of Paul Blair. However, the Dodgers tie the game in the ninth off closer Sparky Lyle, and the game goes to extra innings. When Randolph doubles to lead off the twelfth inning, Blair comes up in Jackson's spot in the lineup, and, after twice failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, singles to left to drive in Randolph and win the game.
The Dodgers come back strong in game two taking a 5-0 lead after three innings. The Yankees score their only run in the fourth when Jackson grounds into a double play. During the game, Jackson and Cosell comment on a huge fire in an abandoned building near the stadium observed by aerial coverage. A smoke bomb thrown onto the field delays the game in the ninth inning, but the Dodgers win 6-1 to tie the series at one game apiece heading to Los Angeles. After the game, Jackson criticizes Martin to a reporter for starting Catfish Hunter after a long layoff.
In Los Angeles, Martin and Jackson continue to argue through the press. They have a sitdown in a hotel room with Gabe Paul. Paul reminds them that he, unlike them, has never won a World Series. Martin assures Paul that Jackson will start game three, and goes on to compliment Jackson on the season he's had. The Yankees get out to an early 3-0 lead, and take game three 5-3 behind a complete game from Mike Torrez. They have similar success in game four, with Lou Piniella robbing Ron Cey of a three-run home run. This time, Ron Guidry throws the complete game in the 4-2 victory, giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead. The Dodgers stave off defeat by crushing the Yankees in game five by a score of 10-4, though Jackson hits his second home run of the series in his final at bat of the game. After the game, Steinbrenner decides to give Martin his contract extension, and arranges for a press conference when they get back to New York.
- Debuted August 28, 2007
The Yankees prepare for game six of the World Series back in New York. Martin talks to his wife in his apartment before leaving for the game, hoping she and their son will follow him later. Martin his given a two-year contract extension by the Yankees, which is announced by Gabe Paul before the game. Meanwhile, an article in Time Magazine quotes Martin as saying Reggie Jackson won't be on the team next year and calling him "baseball-dumb." Fran Healy reads the article to Jackson while Jackson practices in a batting cage, but he ignores Healy, instead focusing on his hitting. During batting practice, Jackson impresses all observers, including Steinbrenner and Paul, by hitting every pitch he sees over the fence.
The Dodgers score first in game six, getting two runs off Mike Torrez. In Jackson's first at bat, in the bottom of the second, he draws a four-pitch walk off Burt Hooton, while people all around the city of New York watch. Chris Chambliss follows with a two-run home run to tie the game. Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Jackson comes up with Thurman Munson on first. He hits the first pitch he sees off Hooton into the right field seats to put the Yankees up 4-3. Next inning, Jackson once again hits a two-run home run on the first pitch, this time courtesy of Elias Sosa. The homer gives the Yankees a 7-3 lead.
Everyone is amazed at what they see, yet several onlookers around the city believe he can't do it again. In the eighth inning, Reggie comes to bat hearing the chants of "REG-GIE!" from the crowd. The new pitcher, Charlie Hough, throws a pitch and Jackson crushes it into the "black seats" in dead center field. His three home runs joins him with Babe Ruth as the only players to accomplish the feat in a World Series. The Yankee fans, dugout, and even Steinbrenner are amazed at Jackson's feat, and he gives a curtain call to acknowledge their appreciation. Mike Torrez finishes the Dodgers in the ninth, and the fans storm the field in celebration of the Yankees' first title in fifteen seasons.
In the locker room, the Yankees celebrate their world title, and Steinbrenner is given the World Series Trophy by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. At the post-celebration party, Billy talks with his wife about what he is thinking. After the party, he is at a bar when a young woman asks if he is Billy Martin. He answers very lightly and takes a sip of his wine.
At the end, an epilogue briefly details the futures of the following key figures of the miniseries: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Gabe Paul, Son of Sam, Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo
|John Turturro||Yankees manager Billy Martin|
|Daniel Sunjata||Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson|
|Oliver Platt||Yankees owner George Steinbrenner|
|Kevin Conway||Yankees president Gabe Paul|
|Daryl Blonder||Yankees batboy Ray Negron|
|Rob Lavin||Yankees pitcher Ken Holtzman|
|Erik Jensen||Yankees catcher Thurman Munson|
|Loren Dean||Yankees back-up catcher Fran Healy|
|Seth Gilliam||Yankees outfielder Paul Blair|
|Joe Grifasi||Yankees bench coach Yogi Berra|
|Mather Zickel||Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella|
|Alex Cranmer||Yankees third Baseman Graig Nettles|
|Evan Hart||Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent|
|Dock Pollard||Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph|
|Lou Provenzano||Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry|
|Darby Brown||Yankees designated hitter Cliff Johnson|
|Jason Kosow||Yankees pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter|
|Max Casella||Yankees third base coach Dick Howser|
|Leonard Robinson||Yankees outfielder Mickey Rivers|
|Christopher McDonald||Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio|
|Tom Wiggin||Yankees Hall of Famer Whitey Ford|
|Alan Ruck||Reporter Steve Jacobson|
|Josh Pais||Reporter Phil Pepe|
|Dan Lauria||Captain Joseph Borelli|
|Nestor Serrano||Detective Kavanaugh|
|Stephen Lang||Deputy Inspector Timothy Dowd|
|John Mahoney||News Reporter (Background Casting)|
|Casey Siemaszko||Detective Welker|
|Josiah Schlatter||Clubhouse attendant|
|Michael Rispoli||Newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin|
|Russell Woron-Simons||Student watching TV|
|Jason Giambi||Taxi cab driver|
- 1977 New York Yankees season
- 1977 American League Championship Series
- 1977 World Series
- David Berkowitz
- New York City blackout of 1977
- Grimes, William (2005-03-30). A City Gripped by Crisis and Enraptured by the Yankees. New York Times.
- Brown, Tiffany (2008-04-07). 'The Bronx is Burning' Author Visits Lehman.
- Official Website
- Press Release: ESPN Original Entertainment to Develop Limited Series: "The Bronx is Burning"
- Press Release: ESPN Miniseries "The Bronx is Burning" to Begin Shooting for 2007 Premiere
- Press Release: John Turturro, Oliver Platt, and Daniel Sunjata to Star in ESPN's Upcoming Miniseries "The Bronx is Burning"
- Press Release: ESPN Announces Award-Winning Editor and Additional Cast for "The Bronx is Burning"