Damn Yankees

Yankees haters are just as numerous today as they were in 1958, when this picture was released, following the successful run of the Broadway musical. Just about everything else has changed, though.

A rookie baseball star turning his back on fame to go home to his wife? A big home-run hitter not suspected of being on steroids? Pay phones— with dials, no less! — that require a pocketful of change. Who even carries change these days?

"Damn Yankees" takes us back to a simpler time in baseball history. Ballplayers were wholesome guys.  Fans might have gotten excited up there in the stands, but they limited themselves to a few gripes and the occasional raspberry. Fights? You've gotta be kidding! Prejudice? Not a whiff of it here, fellas.

The only character who doesn't play by the rules is the devil. Ray Walston honed his skills playing Satan (a.k.a. Mr. Applegate) before he got stuck being a Martian. I will admit that I kept expecting to see his antennae pop up every time he appeared. He’s suave, sly, and delivers his lines with superb restraint.

“Hey, how’d you pull that off?” asks innocent Joe Boyd, watching the devil light his cigarette without a match.

“I’m handy with fire,” deadpans Walston.

They don’t make temptresses like Lola anymore. And nobody has carried off a number like “Who’s Got the Pain” since Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse choreographed it together — that’s him dancing with her in the film, by the way.

On top of this, you get Tab Hunter, a sterling actor. And such fine harmonizing by the team and their manager in “You Gotta Have Heart!”

Sorry, couldn’t resist. The devil made me do it.

Lisa Lieberman watched her first baseball game in Connie Mack Stadium when she was eight years old and has been a die-hard Phillies fan ever since.