Monday, July 16, 2007


By Jonathan Mahler

I've been doing a lot of reading this summer, mostly non-fiction, and mostly non-sports. So most of what I've been reading is irrelevant when it comes to the blog. And Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning was not even originally in my stack of summer reading books...but the last time I saw Steve in Queens, he said I should read it, gave it to me off his shelf, and so I read it.

The book's been out for a couple of years - maybe you've already read it. Or maybe you're watching the miniseries on ESPN. I was going to watch the miniseries, but I set the TiVo for 10pm, when it was supposed to air last Monday night. It didn't end up airing until about 5 after 11pm, and I never saw a rerun. The Home Run Derby is ridiculously long. So I'm not going to watch the miniseries, even though that's the reason I tore through the book like I was on a deadline. The benefit - you get a review quicker than you would have.

It's OK. It's a great idea for a book, actually. There was a lot going on in New York in 1977. You can't really beat the Yankees angle - Reggie Jackson's first season in pinstripes, under Billy Martin, who doesn't want him, and then there's George Steinbrenner, who paid an exorbitant amount to get Jackson, and dictates where he should hit and how he should be played. There's the Thurman Munson-Reggie Jackson dynamic. And there's info on a young Willie Randolph, and how he handles the Jackson situation (he allegedly froze out Reggie, like the rest of the team...except for Fran Healy. The same Fran Healy who Mets fans had to suffer through for years announcing Mets games. It's comical where Healy appears in these books about the late '70's Yankees - I need to see if someone did a biography on him - it would be hilarious.).

Then there's the New York aspect...the social scene in the city...the financial problems...a mayoral primary (featuring Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo)...the blackout...and the Son of Sam murders. All of these get equal - if not more - time with the Yankees march to the World Series. And they're all spread out - interspersed with game notes. The difference is the Son of Sam story - it's played out only over 25 pages towards the end of the book - and it's probably the most gripping part of the story.

I actually think this book is better if you're looking for a book about New York City history, with some baseball sprinkled in...rather than a baseball book with some New York City history sprinkled in. It'll be less likely to disappoint that way. Then you can go read some of the books that are actually sources for this book - like the Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, and Billy Martin biographies that the author relied heavily on when writing this book - and you can get your baseball fix that way. (And while you're at it - read The Bronx Zoo - that'll cover the late '70's Yankees better than this one.)

MARLINS REELING: The Marlins suspended pitcher Scott Olsen two games for insubordination. The Marlins won't go into detail, but Olsen reportedly had an altercation with another player - Sergio Mitre. Scott Olsen is a hothead - he's always yelling at someone in the dugout...I think he and Miguel Cabrera got into it during a game against the Mets last year. I like seeing other teams in the division going through some sort of turmoil. Don't worry about Olsen though - his suspension is for Tuesday and Wednesday...he's not scheduled to pitch again until Friday. So he loses two days of pay...but no playing time.

METS ON THE WEST COAST: Jorge Sosa comes off the DL to pitch in San Diego Monday night. To make room for Sosa, Mike Pelfrey, who had been relegated to bullpen work, was sent down. Big stretch for the Mets here.

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