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“The Bronx Is Burning”: Reg-gie, Reg-gie

TV guilty pleasures come in different packages.

As a critic, watching the ESPN original series “The Bronx Is Burning” would’ve made me cringe.

Billy

Seemingly half of the last episode was ABC’s footage of the sixth game of the 1977 World Series between the Yankees, or should I say, my Yankees, and the Dodgers. The dialogue was choppy, the production values less than stellar and don’t even get me started on the prosthetic ears John Turturro was forced to endure in playing Yankees manager Billy Martin.

But as a kid who grew up on Long Island in the 1970s and whose highlight every summer was a trip to Yankee Stadium, I loved it. (Except the game vs. the Red Sox in 1976 when my Dad wanted to beat the traffic and we left before Chris Chambliss hit a game-winning grand slam that we missed. But I don’t hold a grudge. Really.)

I remember everything about those Yankees. The consistency and professionalism of captain Thurman Munson, slick glove of third baseman Graig Nettles, speed of Mickey Rivers and crafty Louisiana Lightning, pitcher Ron Guidry, who compiled a 25-3 record in 1978, while striking out 248.

I thought all the actors did terrific jobs with material that sometimes didn’t do them justice. Turturro captured Martin’s insecurities and demons, Oliver Platt’s bluster as George Steinbrenner seemed authentic (though, since the Boss and I haven’t had many conversations, I can’t be too sure) and special shout outs to Daniel Sunjata (Reggie Jackson) and Erik Jensen (Munson), who felt like reincarnations of their characters.

Having a full-time job and family, of course, makes it more difficult to be as zealous a fan I was back when I was 14 in 1977, but the trip back in time to the South Bronx and Reggie’s three homers vs. the Dodgers makes me want to break out the uniform I have sitting in my closet.

— Stuart Levine

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