I don’t recall exactly when The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, published in 1954, came into the Sirota household. Maybe I picked it up at a library sale…a possibility, as back then I haunted the West Farms Branch (in The Bronx) of the New York Public Library. Still, the Yankees were MY team, so why would I want to read a book about them losing?

That said, I’m glad the book is still on one of my shelves. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the fact that the author’s name is Douglass Wallop. As in: “That guy can really wallop the baseball.” Had to be a pseudonym, right? Nope, that was his real name.


The Faustian plot, where a person sells his/her soul to the Devil, involves a middle-aged guy named Joe Boyd. He is a lifelong fan of the inept Washington Senators, and he swears that he would sell his soul to beat those damn Yankees. Enter Mr. Applegate, old Satan himself, with a deal for the long-suffering fan. He’ll turn him into Joe Hardy, the greatest baseball player who ever lived, and he’ll lead the Senators to the promised land.

Douglass Wallop

Yes, of course this sounds familiar. The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant became the source material for the enduring stage musical, Damn Yankees, and the movie of the same name. I have a copy of the film, which I’ve seen countless times, and can sing every one of its wonderful songs (“You Gotta Have Heart,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo”), although my voice would send you screaming into the night.

As for the stage musical, it is still being performed…well, somewhere. I saw it (again) some years ago here in San Diego, with the late, great Jerry Lewis playing the Devil. A memorable performance, as you can imagine.

My copy of The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant sits alongside my oldest book, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I know they’ll both be left in great hands.

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