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Could an aim so worthy as denying the Yankees a tenth
consecutive pennant be evil?
This is the question that Joe Boyd must face when Mr. Applegate offers him the chance to help his beloved Washington Senators (of Washington it was often said, first in Peace, first in War, last in the American League) defeat the hated Yankees. It is July 21, 1958 and the middle aged Joe agrees to give Mr. Applegate his soul in exchange for two months of youth and vigor as Joe Hardy. During those two months he hits over .450 with 48 home runs, but he is plagued by guilt over the way the team is winning and over leaving his wife behind. To make matters worse NY Bugle columnist Luster Head sets about trying to expose him as a phony and Applegate places Lola, the most beautiful woman in the world, in Joe's path.
If all of that sounds familiar, you've recognized the plot of Damn Yankees (1958) which was based on this terrific novel. It's hard for us to relate to the numbing experience that fans of opposing teams suffered in the 50's as the Yankees completely dominated the decade. But the emotion of being willing to make a deal with the devil is one that all of us know well--especially Red Sox fans.
Nobody has ever satisfactorily explained why there are dozens of great baseball books and so few good ones about the other sports, but this book is another example of the classic literature spawned by America's pastime.
See also:Sports (Baseball)
-Casey in the Stretch (Gerald Holland, Sports Illustrated)
-ESSAY: The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature (George Plimpton, NY Times Book Review)
-Halcyon Baseball Book Reviews
-ESSAY : The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature (George Plimpton, May 31, 1992, NY Times Book Review)
-ESSAY : The Legacy of BALL FOUR and Other Sporting Tomes (Ron Kaplan , Book Reporter)
-PROFILE : Brilliant Careers : Vin Scully : For 50 years, an Irish redhead from the Bronx has been the gold standard for baseball announcers (Gary Kaufman, Salon)
-BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT : "29,000 people and a million butterflies" : Vin Scully's radio call of the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game against the Chicago Cubs is pure baseball literature (Vin Scully)
-REVIEW : of ME AND DIMAGGIO. A Baseball Fan Goes in Search of His Gods. By Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (Roy Blount, Jr., NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE PHYSICS OF BASEBALL By Robert Kemp Adair (1990) (Sheldon Lee Glashow, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE HOME RUN HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD The Dramatic Story of the 1951 Giants-Dodgers Pennant Race By Ray Robinson (David Lehman, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE PROGRESS OF THE SEASONS Forty Years of Baseball in Our Town. By George V. Higgins and SPRING TRAINING By William Zinsser (Lawrence S. Ritter, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of Baseball Anecdotes By Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
-REVIEW : of HOW LIFE IMITATES THE WORLD SERIES. By Thomas Boswell (1982) (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt , NY Times)
-REVIEW : of The Natural by Bernard Malamud (Harry Sylvester, August 26, 1952, NY Times)
-REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball (Maurice Timothy Reidy, Commonweal)
-REVIEW : of Red Smith on Baseball: The Game's Greatest Writer on the Game's Greatest Years.(Wayne M. Barrett, USA Today)
-REVIEW : of Baseball An Illustrated History By Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
-REVIEW : of BASEBALL An Illustrated History. Narrative by Geoffrey C. Ward (Avery Corman, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE SHORT SEASON The Hard Work and High Times of Baseball in the Spring. By David Falkner (Daniel Okrent, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of THE GIANTS OF THE POLO GROUNDS The Glorious Times of Baseball's New York Giants by Noel Hynd and SAY HEY The Autobiography of Willie Mays. By Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi (Hilma Wolitzer, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of KINER'S KORNER At Bat and on the Air - My 40 Years in Baseball. By Ralph Kiner with Joe Gergen (Joel Oppenheimer, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of Bunts by George Will (Curt Schleier for Fort Worth Star-Telegram )
-REVIEW : of Zim, a Baseball Life by Don Zimmer (Michael Prager, Boston Globe)
-ESSAY : Jim Bouton's madcap tale of his Seattle Pilots' days still hilarious (JOHN MARSHALL, July 6, 2001, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER)
-BOOK LISTS : Inside the Park : An All-Star Lineup of Baseball Books : Selected By Joe Torre, Roger Kahn, Vin Scully, and Roger Angell (NY Times, April 6, 1997)