Those Grand Yankees

Those Grand Yankees

The other night I took a friend—a die-hard Yankee fan—to see Bronx Bombers, the new Broadway play about baseball’s most famous franchise. Despite the fact that I am a Mets fan, I had heard tales of the historic Yankee greats throughout my life, as most New Yorkers have (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio); later in the 1970s, I read about the team fights, the multiple firings of eccentric Billy Martin, the enormous ego of Reggie Jackson. Needless to say I was curious how Broadway was going to handle a play about sports, a topic that rarely, (if ever?) gets explored on the Great White Way.

 The first act takes place in a hotel room, where Yogi Berra (Peter Scolari) is valiantly trying to mediate the conflicts between manager Billy Martin and outfielder Reggie Jackson, with team captain Thurman Munson interjecting his own opinions at key moments.  The conflict focuses on a June 1977 game when Martin pulled Jackson out of the game for not being aggressive enough; tensions are high, and playwright Eric Simonson does a great job of italicizing the disharmony the team was suffering during the decade that also included Son of Sam terrorizing, high crime rates, and a much more chaotic New York than the one we live in now.

 

The second act gets much more ethereal, and deeply sentimental, when Yogi Berra fantasizes a “dream dinner” when all past and present Yankee greats get together at one table to exchange words of wisdom. A fragile Lou Gehrig, beginning to get seriously sick, stumbles across the floor; a cocky Mickey Mantle encourages everyone to drink and party the night away; a flamboyant Babe Ruth struts in, clothed in a massive fur coat.  You have to be somewhat of a baseball fan to follow the ins and outs of the relationships, as well as the particular game references, and yet even if you are not, the play does an admirable job of sketching the team that, despite a checkered and complicated history, still retains its star power.

» Bronx Bombers, Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 W. 50th St., 212.239.6200