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Peacock’s ‘Bronx Zoo ’90s’ Docuseries Returns to the Dark Days of the New York Yankees – NBC New York
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Peacock’s ‘Bronx Zoo ’90s’ Docuseries Returns to the Dark Days of the New York Yankees – NBC New York

An upcoming documentary will chronicle the New York Yankees of the 1990s.

No, not those Yankees.

It’s not about the well-documented teams from later in the decade that won four World Series titles in five years. It’s about the forgettable team that started the decade by producing the franchise’s worst losing season of the century between 67 and 95.

The 1990 Yankees’ lack of on-field success contributed to their highly unusual off-field drama, creating the chaos described in Peacock’s three-part docuseries “Bronx Zoo ’90: Crime, Chaos and Baseball.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been another team like the 1990 New York Yankees,” director DJ Caruso told NBC Local.

Few teams have had their owner hire a gambler to dig up dirt on their well-compensated star player, as George Steinbrenner did at the height of his feud with Dave Winfield.

Or when a pitcher throws a no-hitter and still loses the game, like Andy Hawkins did.

Or there was an active NFL player who played in the outfield, as then-rookie Deion Sanders did.

Or their biggest offseason acquisition disappeared at the start of spring training, as Pascual Perez did.

Or there were illegal exotic animals roaming the team clubhouse, like Mel Hall’s cougars did.

The fact that he “just brought them into the locker room says everything you need to know about what the 1990 Yankees were about,” Caruso said.

Yankee Stadium was literally and figuratively a zoo at the time.

Bronx Zoo '90: Crime, Chaos and Baseball |  Official trailer |  Peacock Original

The docuseries, which premieres May 16 on Peacock, is based on articles about the 1990 Yankees written by New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman, who at the time was a beat reporter covering the Don Mattingly-led team.

Caruso began reading Sherman’s articles in 2020 when professional sports were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It became for me, thematically, a look under the hood or a look behind the scenes of this dynasty that emerged in the ’90s,” Caruso said. “How could a team that was so bad on and off the field in three years turn it around and become the greatest franchise in the history of all sports?”

The Yankees’ dramatic turnaround from laughing stock to dynasty began around the time Steinbrenner was given a lifetime ban from the team’s day-to-day operations for paying gambler Howard Spira $40,000 for information about Winfield. It continued as the team distanced itself from players like Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who is now head coach at the University of Colorado, and Hall, who was involved in a high-profile romance with 15-year-old Chastity while playing for the Yankees Easterly.

Easterly and Hall, who is serving a 45-year prison sentence for the rape of a 12-year-old girl, were both interviewed for the docuseries.

“It was really an eye-opener for me to go there and interview Mel in prison,” Caruso said. “It wasn’t what I expected. I expected someone to maybe have a little more remorse, but he didn’t really seem to. It was interesting. He still portrayed himself as the victim in his own story.”

The 1990 season included some of the darkest days in Yankee history, but also laid the foundation for the formation of the team core that rebuilt Yankee pride, tradition and success later in the decade.

“Like all good stories, when you go through these periods of darkness, it’s how you come out the other side,” Caruso said. “So you’ll see that this franchise has emerged from this dark period and emerged with a lot of light. But within the darkness there are so many great interpersonal stories. Some are tragic, some are mind-boggling.”