The greatest decline-and-fall stories involve the mightiest empires. Ancient Greece. Rome. The borscht belt.
In the mid-1960s, it was the Yankees’ turn to collapse while the rest of baseball delighted in their misfortune. The Yankees not only lost the pennant, to echo the Douglass Wallop novel that was adapted into “Damn Yankees,” they fell down and died.
They had just played in five consecutive World Series and won two of them, in 1961 and 1962. But in 1965, they suddenly finished sixth, with just 77 victories. The next season, when few thought it could get worse, it did, with the Yankees tumbling into last place beneath teams like the Kansas City Athletics, whom the Yankees often strip-mined for talent as if they owned them….
If this is the year the Yankees really, truly stumble for the first time in a very long time, the YES Network, where a sub-.500 Yankees campaign has never been televised, let alone imagined, might lose its moorings. On radio, John Sterling might have to tone down his contrived home run calls….
As the newly hired Russian doorman at a Park Avenue apartment building said in 1920, “I never thought it could happen to me.”