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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BASIC BIITTNER : A 21st Century revival of a classic

Monday, June 23, 2008

In 1954, a book was published entitled "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant" (a work of fiction, obviously) by Douglas Wallop (Wallop - how's that for the name of an author of a baseball book?). Anyway, the book was adapted into a Broadway musical by Wallop and George Abbott, and that musical, "Damn Yankees," was enough of a hit that it was then made into a movie.

For those who may not know, the storyline of Damn Yankees involves an old fan of the hapless Washington Senators, Joe Boyd, who makes a deal with the devil, called Mr. Applegate in the story. Mr. Applegate turns old Joe Boyd into a strapping young baseball slugger named Joe Hardy, who shows up to play for the Senators, who were once great but hadn't won anything in twenty years - and starts clubbing home runs and leading the team to victories, moving up the standings toward the hated Yankees. I won't give away the ending.

LIke most of the great musicals of the 1950s, "Damn Yankees" had one song from the show which became a popular standard. In the case of "Damn Yankees," it was "You Gotta Have Heart (miles and miles and miles of heart...)," sung in the show, I believe, by the manager and players of the Senators.

For you youngsters out there, the Washington Senators referred to in the book and musical are the team which moved to Minnesota a few years later and became the Minnesota Twins. When that happened, Washington immediately got a new American League franchise, also called the Senators. They, of course, left after a dozen years and became the Texas Rangers. Shortly after the musical appeared, the real-life Senators came up with a young slugger from Idaho named Harmon Killebrew and "the Killer" was called 'Joe Hardy' in more than one story. Of course, by the time the Hall-of-Famer's career blossomed, the Senators were on their way out of town, and which American League team succeeded the 1964 Yankees as the 1965 A.L. champ? You guessed it - the Minnesota Twins, nee Washington Senators.

The point of today's column, though (you knew I'd get to that sooner or later, didn't you?) is to suggest that maybe the time has come to do a revival of "Damn Yankees," what with all the changes that have taken place in Major League Baseball in the 50+ years since it appeared. I just read that "My Fair Lady" is being re-done, so why not?

First of all, of course, the title really needs changing. Being a Yankees fan, I never DID like the original title of course and - let's face it - the Yankees, though still the team that many people love to hate, haven't been the team that other teams fear for several years now. So, the title of my revival will be "Damn Red Sox" (or "Damn Bosox," take your pick).

Mr. Applegate, the devil character, is now a steroid and HGH-dealing devil, and the character he creates with his devilish dealings will be named Rip Hormone, rather than Joe Hardy. Rip plays for the Kansas City Royals, who, like the Senators in the original story, are also a once - great team who haven't won anything for several years.

The music, of course, will have to be updated for the changing times as well. How about this one - "You gotta have 'roids,

Vials and vials and vials of 'roids..."

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner