Damn Yankees

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"What's the use of cryin'?
Why should we curse?
We've gotta get better

'Cause we can't get worse!"
—"Heart"

Damn Yankees is a 1955 musical with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (who also wrote The Pajama Game). It was based on the book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop. The original Broadway production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning seven, including Best Musical, Best Best Choreography (Bob Fosse) and Best Actor in a Musical (Roy Walston as Applegate). The 1958 movie varies slightly from the original plot but kept most of the original cast.

Damn Yankees is a retelling of the classic legend of Faust set in 1950s Washington D.C. Joe Boyd, a real estate agent, is listening to the Washington Senators game outside his house one summer night while his wife Meg complains that he never pays her any attention during the baseball season ("Six Months Out of Every Year"). After the Senators lose and Meg retires, Joe reflects that he would do anything for 'his' team and is suddenly approached by a Mr. Applegate, who offers to make Joe a star baseball player so he can help the Senators win the pennant. Joe agrees and leaves with Applegate ("Goodbye Old Girl").

The Washington Senators mope about their losing streak and listen as their hard-working manager Van Buren tries to lift their spirits ("Heart"). Soon sports reporter Gloria Thorpe shows up to watch the practice, and Joe Boyd, now twenty-two year old 'Joe Hardy' arrives with Applegate to try to get Van Buren to let him on the team. Van Buren is soon convinced, and the team celebrates as Gloria promises to make Joe a celebrity ("Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, MO.").

Meanwhile, Joe is feeling homesick and rents a room at his own house. Meg doesn't recognize him, but takes a liking to 'Joe Hardy' as they talk about her lost husband ("A Man Doesn't Know"). Perturbed by this, Applegate sends for his assistant Lola and assigns her the task of making Joe forget his wife ("A Little Brains, A Little Talent") After Joe leads the Senators to another stunning victory, Lola tries to seduce Joe in the locker room, but his devotion to Meg proves too strong even for her ("Whatever Lola Wants").

Joe isn't as happy as everyone thinks he should be about a parade being held in his honor ("Heart (Reprise)") that even Lola is taking part in ("Who's Got the Pain?").While they are setting up for Joe's big celebration, Gloria grills Applegate for information on Joe. Applegate, needing to start a scandal about Joe, lets slip that Joe might be Shifty McCoy, a man who threw a game to take a bribe in the Mexican League. When she investigates, Gloria cannot find proof 'Joe Hardy' even exists and decides to press charges in court.

Meanwhile, Joe's celebration continues. Suddenly, Mr. Welch interrupts the proceedings. Mr. Welch confronts Joe with the rumor Applegate had planted. If he doesn't dispel these rumors in a court hearing, Joe will not be able to play in the game. Coincidentially, the court date is set the same day as the day Joe's contract runs out. Joe emphatically declares to the crowd that he'd never do such a thing, and that they'll win the pennant.

The next day, the ballplayers are moping in the locker-room, upset at the possible loss of Joe. They eventually resolve to stay positive, keep their minds clear of distractions, and focus on the game ("The Game"). Meanwhile, The young Joe tells Meg, who is by now quite depressed by her husband's disappearance, that Joe is closer than she thinks ("Near To You").

Lola refuses to help Applegate anymore, because she likes Joe. Upset by this failure, he tries to remember the days where doing evil was so easy. ("Those Were the Good Old Days")

Applegate intends to make him choose between clearing his name and returning to his own life, as if he remains young after midnight, he will owe Applegate his soul. Just when it looks like Joe will lose the case, Meg rushes in with her friends, who testify they knew Joe as a boy growing up in Hannibal, clearing his name. However, in the ensuing celebration Joe is trapped in the room and can't tell Applegate he wants out before the deadline.

Joe, being rather depressed about this, goes to Lola for comfort ("Two Lost Souls"). Later, the Senators play in the championship game. Applegate, delayed by Lola, is dismayed to see the Senators are winning and uses his power against the Senators, turning Joe back into his old self as he is trying to catch the ball in the outfield. Miraculously, Joe manages to catch the ball, securing victory for the Senators. And since Applegate released Joe of his own accord, Joe is free to go back to Meg. Applegate tries to entice him into another deal with a promise of World Series victory, but Lola points out his powers are useless against true love. Applegate and Lola descend back into hell and Joe and Meg are reunited ("A Man Doesn't Know (Reprise)").

It's best known songs are "(You've Gotta Have) Heart" and "Whatever Lola Wants".


Tropes used in Damn Yankees include:

Joe: Who are you?
Applegate: I am quite a famous character, Mr. Boyd. I have historical significance, too. In fact, I'm responsible for most of the history you can name.
(Later, a passing stranger asks him, "Are you anybody?" He replies, "Not a soul.")

Meg: When we met in 1938/It was November/When I said that I would be his mate/It was December