You probably don’t remember Damn Yankees, the 1957 musical by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, based on a novel by Douglas Wallop, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (1954). The Yankees baseball team had enjoyed such a legendary successful series of series that it was easy to believe that they had made a pact with the devil to guarantee their continuing supremacy. (The story was a variation on the Faust tale, of course.)
I thought of it/them this past week when the Yankees took our beloved Blue Jays in a sweep - three days of definitive victories. This, after a dazzling season, so far, for the Jays. The Yankees have been way behind, not likely to place in contention for top of their league, not even for a Wild Card placement - and I don’t know what that means. (Perhaps one of you will tell me.) After the trading and realignment of the teams, I understood that the Yankees had bid for and brought in a number of very young rookies, including pitchers, and they were using them and things started to happen, and that’s when I thought of Damn Yankees as they seem to be coming up. I must say, the thought of a bargain with the Devil intrigues me.
I wrote a comedy years ago about a fat woman who bargains with the Devil to be thin. This was long before the movie Shallow Hal, also about a fat woman, which was not Satanic but simply fantasy. Both plays are about perception, not obesity. A theatre in Iowa liked an earlier work of mine (Mark in 1973), that is, the artistic director liked it, and my fat play, too and produced it (winter, 1975, I think). It was the second biggest hit they had ever enjoyed. That wasn’t hard to understand because everyone I ever met in Iowa was fat. Then I was granted a reading by a Toronto theatre but received no nibbles.. That’s when I discovered that actors can make or break a reading, depending on whether or not they liked you. Next, a producer optioned the play but couldn’t raise enough money to put it on. Somewhere along the way, I rewrote it, and then I wrote it as a movie, and then I sort of left it in a file drawer. The Canadian playwright John Murrell once said, “You don’t finish a play; you abandon it.” Right on.
If I told the stories of all my fish that got away, you would wonder why I am not bitter or hopeless or resigned. Well, I’ve said before that failure goes to my head. It’s like waving a red flag at a bull. I stamp my feet and snort and attack again, and again
And maybe that philosophy will help the Blue Jays, too, because as I write this, they are losing to the Red Sox.
A definitive loss.