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Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees title card

Year - 1958
Studio - Warner Bros.
Stars - Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston, Russ Brown, Shannon Bolin, Jean Stapleton, Rae Allen
Director - George Abbott and Stanley Donen
Writing Credits - George Abbott (screenplay), George Abbott and Douglass Wallop (play)
Music and Lyrics - Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Choreographer - Bob Fosse

Synopsis

Ray Boyd (Robert Shafer), in his 60s, watches his beloved Washington Senators on TV, is frustrated by their inability to put together a winning team, and hates the "damn Yankees." He vows he'd sell his soul if his team could find a good slugger.

This triggers the appearance of the dapper Devil in bright red socks, Mr. Applegate, (Ray Walston) who offers him the opportunity to become young again and to be that baseball star. Joe is dubious, but agrees after he is able to negotiate an "escape clause." As Joe sings his goodbye to his loving wife Meg ("Goodbye, Old Girl"), he becomes a young version of himself (now played by Tab Hunter) and takes off for the ballpark with Applegate as his "agent."

Senator manager Russ Brown (Benny Van Buren) tries to motivate his players, and they sing the show stopping "You Gotta Have Heart". Joe and his agent arrive and Applegate convinces Russ to give Joe (now "Joe Hardy") a tryout. In the batting cage, Joe smacks every pitch out of the park and the Senators sign him up immediately. A local newspaper sports reporter, Gloria Thorpe (Rae Allen), gives Joe the nickname, "Shoeless Joe" when the baseball spikes that Applegate provided were too small for him.

Damn Yankees poster

Joe is an immediate hero for the Senators, and the team advances towards winning the pennant. Meanwhile, the reporter continues to dig into the background of Shoeless Joe, who claims to have come from Hannibal, Missouri.

In an effort to protect his interests in the deal, Mr. Applegate calls up a luscious vamp, Lola (Gwen Verdon), to seduce Joe and discourage him from wanting to return to his wife. Lola performs the sultry "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" in the locker room for Joe, but he is only embarrassed and even more determined to see his wife. In fact, he returns to his home and rents a room from Meg (who, oddly, doesn't recognize the young version of her husband.)

When Mr. Applegate realizes that Joe is going to use his escape clause, he attempts to sabotage his baseball success by planting a story with the newspaper reporter that Joe is actually a disgraced, bribe-taking former ballplayer. In a subsequent hearing, Joe is exonerated, thanks to some friendly testimony from his landlady/wife and her sisters (Jean Stapleton and Elizabeth Howell.) But in the confusion, time runs out before Joe can exercise his escape clause, and the Satanic Mr. Applegate owns him.

In the final game of the season, with the pennant on the line, the Senators lead the Yankees, 1-0. Applegate arrives at the stadium with Lola and announces to her that, out of spite, he plans to change Joe back to an old man during the game itself. Lola refuses to go the stands with him, so he changes her back to her previous self, "the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island."

There are two outs, and Mickey Mantle is at bat. He hits a long drive to center field where Joe awaits the ball. Applegate transforms him as he backs up for the catch and, stumbling, he is able to catch the ball for the final out. Then he disappears into a centerfield exit.

Joe returns to his home and Meg agrees to never ask him where he has been. Applegate and a forgiven Lola appear, unseen to Meg, and they try to lure Joe back to baseball stardom. But having reneged on his side of the bargain, Applegate is powerless, and Joe and Meg drown out their voices with their own declarations of love.

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