The 1977 Yankees have been written about to death, but there is a new book which incorporates the Bronx Zoo antics of George, Billy, Reggie, Thurman and company, into the social dynamics of New York city during the Summer of Sam. “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Buring: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City,” by Jonathan Mahler received a mostly favorable review in the Times yesterday from William Grimes:
The city needed a win in the worst way. If the Bronx was burning, so were large swaths of Brooklyn, notably Bushwick, which had imploded in a frenzy of looting and arson when an electrical failure plunged the city into total darkness on July 13. All summer, a crazed killer dubbed Son of Sam had preyed on young couples in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. There were not enough firefighters or police officers to deal with either problem, because the city, virtually bankrupt, had laid off thousands of workers. There was an edge of desperation when New York fans chanted “Reg-gie, Reg-gie.”
Grimes is impressed with Mahler’s writing skill but doesn’t believe that the author’s themactic ambitions work in the end:
…In a last-ditch effort to tie up loose ends, Mr. Mahler anoints Mr. Koch, Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Jackson emblematic figures of the new New York. The idea is not nearly as compelling as the stories in which they have played pivotal roles, and which Mr. Mahler tells with such skill. In the end, the Yankees, however heroic, cannot carry the conceptual weight assigned to them. It’s probably better not to think too deeply about Mr. Jackson’s three home runs in Game 6. Just savor the moment.
In a very crazy year, oh, what a moment it was. I’m putting this one on my wish list for summer reading. Looks highly entertaining at the very least.