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“The Bronx Is Burning” August 21, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Television.
Tags: ,


I’ve enjoyed watching this ESPN miniseries all summer long, with the memories it brings back of my Yankee fandom during the summer of ’77.

This was a far different Yankee team than the Jeter-Rivera-Torre incarnation currently taking the field. The ’77 Yanks were often a dysfunctional yet compelling soap opera, which makes for an enjoyable miniseries, boosted by strong lead performances and some excellent casting in smaller, often key, roles. Therman Munson, played by Erik Jensen, comes off as a prince in this story, and Kevin Conway manages to convey a zen-like state of exhaustion as General Manager Gabe Paul when dealing with the multiple burdens of working for George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt, one note but a good note to keep playing since Steinbrenner is well, one note himself), trying to handle Billy Martin (John Turturro, with a set of fake ears that, in the words of Johnny Carson, make him “look like a Pinto with its doors open”) and the talented but egocentric and hyperemotional slugger Reggie Jackson (Daniel Sunjata, who has an excellent shot at an Emmy nomination from his work here).

The series depicts the goings on of New York City in 1977, such as the blackout and the conclusion of the Son Of Sam case, and does so adequately, as well as provide numerous Ramones songs in the soundtrack to give us a ’70s NYC state of mind. The series also edits archival footage of the games and the broadcasts with the recreations as seamlessly as possible. An added bonus in tonight’s episode: those wonderful retro 1970s ABC World Series titles & bumpers, along with footage of Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell calling the games wearing those vanilla pudding colored polyester sports jackets that must have been sold in bulk by one of Roone Arledge’s relatives. Yes, there was once a time in World Series coverage where there WASN’T a promo for 24 every thirty seconds!

But the series real strength lies in its depiction of the players and how they deal with the game itself. Much like other “in the clubhouse” sports movies, like North Dallas Forty or Bull Durham, The Bronx Is Burning’s best moments come from showing us the things behind the game that drive the game forward – the players discussing how they’ve been pitched to in the past by the teams they are about to face, Munson stepping up to the plate manned by his arch-rival Carlton Fisk and letting go with “Hey Fisk, how’s the wife? How are my kids doing?” or Gabe Paul, worn out and fed up by the endless bickering between Jackson & Martin turning up in the press, confronting them about his 40 years in baseball without a World Series ring versus Martin’s five and Jackson’s three, only to have Martin reply “Gabe, you really need to get laid.”

Play ball!

The series concludes next Tuesday August 28 on ESPN, with its version of Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, a happy memory for me since I got to watch it from the safety of my Rhode Island den as opposed to dodging smoke and cherry bombs in right field. The 3 DVD set with extra interview footage of the real people depicted is available at the website for The Bronx Is Burning



1. tsos20 - August 29, 2007

Maybe it was the 70’s. Maybe it was Reggie Jackson. I don’t know; but before the Yankees were a dysfunctional yet compelling soap opera, The Oakland A’s won 3 rings the same way.
The Sultan on Sports


I remember Charley Finley’s unorthodoxies, the orange baseballs, the 1970s-hair-and-wacky-Harry Reems-mustache mystique of that incredible A’s team very well, but I might have been too young at the time to keep up with any high drama, or it just wasn’t making the Providence Journal where I was. That particular A’s incarnation, which really lasted from @1969 to 1975, was up there with the best teams of all time.

2. Jim Berkin - September 25, 2007

Isabella Kuhlen wrote:

ok, Professor Wagstaff, I’m giving you a shot because I’m at the end of my rope. I was googling for the soundtrack to “The Bronx is burning”, possibly one of the best mini-series I’ve seen in a long time. Being from NY the 70’s were my time. However, my music knowledge is sadly, lacking. I’ve been wracking my brain and cannot, for the life of me, come up with the Ramones song that is playing over the end credits of the final episode of the mini-series. Would you please help me and tell me what it is. I’m sorry if this is an inappropriate question for your site, but I liked your review and you seem to know a lot of answers. Thank you.
Answer from Wagstaff:

What a fun challenge this was just now, considering how nearly every Ramones song sounds exactly the same! I remember jokingly referring to their albums as bubblegum punk symphonies of sorts, not so much one song after another, but “movements” from grinding fast numbers to a slow one, and then fast again.
But to answer your question – the song playing over the end credits in that AWESOME final episode of “The Bronx is Burning” is “Swallow My Pride” which is on the “Leave Home” album from (appropriately) 1977.
I saw the Ramones live more than any other band, by the way.

3. Isabella Kuhlen - October 5, 2007

Professor Wagstaff, you are my hero. Thank you for the info on The Ramones song I was looking for. You are “da man!”

4. Jim Berkin - October 5, 2007

Who da man?
I’m da man!
Too bad the Yankees have been da losers lately…. bah!
You’re welcome, Isabella! Crank up the Ramones, it’ll soothe the pain of these playoffs so far….

5. Craig Mahoney - October 18, 2007

In the episode ‘Mr. October’, there was a song playing during the postgame party where Billy Martin and his wife are dancing. (Hasbrooke Heights, NJ). I would love to know the name of the artist and the song. Thanks in advance.

6. Jim Berkin - October 18, 2007

Funny, I just caught a lot of that episode again tonight on ESPN Classic while flipping away from the Red Sox/Indians game. I didn’t recognize the song offhand, so if I can figure out what it is & post it here, it might take a while, if I can do it at all.

The series is out on DVD now, and would probably have complete music credits listed on it somewhere, if that’s any help in the meantime.

7. Daniel - October 25, 2007

What is the name of the theme song 2 the opening credits of the BIB

8. Jim Berkin - October 25, 2007

I have no idea, I assumed it was original music done for the series.

9. Craig Mahoney - November 14, 2007

Any updates on the postgame party song where Billy Martin and his wife are dancing. (Hasbrooke Heights, NJ)? I haven’t bought the CD.

10. Jim Berkin - November 14, 2007

No Craig, sorry. I was hoping ESPN Classic would rerun it so I could hear the song again and try to research it, but they haven’t run it. There’s an expanded DVD version of it due out next month, so they might run it again as a promo. I’ll keep my eyes open.

11. rich rubin - December 16, 2007

i can’t believe it! i came here with the same burning wish as Craig…
the name of that song when Billy and wife are dancing in Mr. October
episode… the refrain seems to be.. “if i could only (make it right)”
from i tunes to lyrics 365 to soundtracks i come up empty.Jim, does that
help?….you’re my only hope, obywon

12. Jim Berkin - December 16, 2007

The only thing I found in a quick search is a Simply Red song, which is from the wrong time period, but look at the lyrics and see if they match:


I was waiting for them to rerun the series so I could get another listen to the song, since getting all the lyrics sung would make the search easier. And it looks like ESPN2 will be rerunning the series this week, with the Mr. October episode airing at 1am Friday night out where I am, so I’ll record it and see if I can figure out what that song is, at long last, and post it here.

UPDATE: It ain’t the Simply Red song.

13. Gordon Greisman - March 4, 2008

Tree Adams, the mini-series composer wrote the song over Billy and his wife dancing. And he composed it at my request in 24 hours. Tree is a hugely talented guy

14. Jim Berkin - March 5, 2008

Thanks, Gordon! I assumed Tree Adams had done it, along with the jazzy opening theme – I tried emailing him from his website, but didn’t hear back. Ah well.

Nice to see one of the writers of that great miniseries reading my little blog! Bravo & Welcome!

15. Emilio - March 13, 2008

I’m also trying to find the song playing on the last episode of the Bronx Is Burning when Billy Martin is dancing with his wife at the after series party. I don’t know the name of it but “If I could make it right again”, is definately the refrain i hear. Is this song published? I can’t find it anywhere… I tried Tree Adams website with no luck. If this song is not out anywhere,IT SHOULD BE!!! Any info would be apprreciated……

16. Jim Berkin - March 13, 2008

Read the comment exchange above, between me & Gordon Greisman.

17. Craig Mahoney - March 15, 2008

Jim or Gordon,
Is there a place I could buy the song on line? I really love the song. Thanks in advance.


18. Jim Berkin - March 15, 2008

I did a quick check of both Treeadams.com and Tree Adams’ MySpace music page, and while he has a bunch of his other stuff up there for sale and for sampling, this elusive song is not one of them. Craig, I’d try contacting him via either or both of those sites and seeing if you can get him to put the song up there for a 99 cent download, perhaps.

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