Baseball: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

By Edward J. Rielly | Go to book overview


DAMN YANKEES

The New York Yankees are the greatest dynasty in the history of baseball, an opinion seconded in a Sports Illustrated special publication entitled Greatest Teams: The Most Dominant Powerhouses in Sports, where author Tim Crothers ranks the Yankees first among all professional sports dynasties.

Technically, the Yankee dynasty endured from 1925 to 1964, with two World Series championships in the 1970s keeping alive memories of the glory years and three more titles in the 1990s suggesting a dynastic sequel. With the advent of free agency, however, the dynasty may be a thing of the past, with teams unable to retain stars who tend to follow the money to the highest bidder. But during the golden years of Yankee dominance, the Bronx Bombers rode such greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle to three World Series triumphs in the 1920s, five in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, six in the 1950s, and two in the 1960s. The dominance led to calls of “Break up the Yankees!” and even a musical, Damn Yankees, which premiered in the Forty-Sixth Street Theater in New York on May 5, 1955.

Damn Yankees was written by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Based on the 1954 Wallop novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, the musical has endured despite the fluctuating fortunes of the Yankees in subsequent decades. Its initial run of 1,019 performances starred Stephen Douglass as Joe Hardy, the aging fan who sells his soul to the devil to become a star with the lowly Washington Senators; Gwen Verdon as the sexy Lola, the temptress utilized by the devil to prevent Joe from returning to his wife prior to the deadline for turning over his soul; and Ray Walston as Applegate—the devil himself. Hardy’s superhuman feats lead the Senators to a remarkable run to overcome the hated Yankees, but he ultimately thwarts Applegate, resists Lola, and returns to his wife and his previous existence—an aging but wiser and more contented man.

The continuing success of the musical is testimony to its rousing (and sometimes touching) songs, among them “Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” and “A Man Doesn’t Know”; its combination of humor, suspense, and pathos; and its transformation of a pennant race into a

-73-

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Baseball: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Baseball - An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xv
  • A 1
  • B 21
  • C 43
  • D 73
  • E 87
  • F 93
  • G 109
  • H 127
  • I 139
  • J 143
  • K 155
  • L 161
  • M 185
  • N 215
  • O 227
  • P 229
  • Q 239
  • R 241
  • S 271
  • T 293
  • U 303
  • V 309
  • W 311
  • Y 331
  • Bibliography 333
  • Index 355
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