Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

The Spirit of Joe Hardy?

October 19, 2019 --

The musical "Damn Yankees" is based on Douglass Wallop's novel, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant." The story tells how the Devil ("Mr. Applegate") turned Joe Boyd, a married middle-aged businessman, into Joe Hardy, a baseball superstar for the struggling Washington Senators, helping them beat the Yankees for the American League pennant -- before realizing that he wanted to stay Joe Boyd, and succeeded in canceling his contract with Applegate before it took final effect.

(The novel was written in 1954, one of the two years in the 1950s -- the other was 1959 -- when the Yankees lost the American League pennant -- to the Cleveland Indians who lost in the World Series to the New York Giants, now the San Francisco Giants.)

Washington is now in the National League, not the American League (it succeeded the old Montreal Expos in 2005), and the team is now called the Nationals, not the Senators, but it took a 10th-inning grand slam home run by 36-year old Howie Kendricks for the Nationals to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-3 in the fifth and final game of the 2019 National League Division Series -- and that home run seems to LPR to be a "Damn Yankees" kind of moment. After all, the Nationals were down 3-0 in the game, then made it 3-1, and tied the game with two home runs in the top of the eighth inning. Then, In the top of the tenth, a walk, a ground-rule double and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Kendrick's Joe Hardy-type moment. (Kendricks' former teams included

The parallel to the struggling Senators of "Damn Yankees" is suggested by the Nationals' record on May 23: 19-31, twelve games below .500. They got into the "wild card" game by winning 79 of 112 games the rest of the season, finishing the regular season with a 93-69 record, second to the Atlanta Braves (97-65), who lost to the St. Louis Cardinals (91-71), in the other National League playoff. The Dodgers, with a regular season record of 106-56, had the best record in the National League and led the West division by 21 games over the second place Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers also had the most wins in team history. Wouldn't you know? -- the two teams with the best records lost in the National League division playoffs.

This is the fifth season that the Nationals made the playoffs, but the first time they made it to the league championship. On October 15, the Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-4, to sweep the National League Championship Series, and become the first baseball team in Washington to play in the World Series since 1924 when the Washington Senators were the American League champion, and became world champion by defeating the New York Giants in seven games. (The Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961 and the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.) LPR would not be surprised if the Nationals go on to defeat the American League champ, either the New York Yankees or the Houston Astros, as of October 16. That would provide an exclamation point to the Douglass Wallop novel, made into the "Damn Yankees" musical by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.