Adapted from Douglass Wallop’s novel by George Abbot with songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and directed by Abbot and Stanley Donen, a fan of the Washington Senators sells his soul to the devil to become a great baseball player so that the Senators can win the pennant.
A middle-aged couple Joe Boyd (Robert Shafer) and Mrs. Meg Boyd (Shannon Bolin) at home are rooting for the Washington Senators to defeat the New York Yankees in baseball. They sing “Six Months out of Every Year.” Joe Boyd would sell his soul for a long-ball hitter, and Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston) appears and agrees with him. He offers Joe a proposition—to become the greatest baseball player in history. Boyd says he cannot even touch his toes, and Applegate tells him to try it. Joe touches his toes. Two women come by and find Joe talking to himself. Joe says they could not see Applegate, and Joe realizes he is the devil. Applegate says great men take command and that Joe can lead the Senators to championship. He will call him Joe Hardy, and he will be 20 years old. Joe asks what he has to do, and Applegate tells him to leave it all to him. Joe asks what happens afterward. Applegate laughs and says that is well known. He mentions how some politicians got started. Joe asks for an escape clause and says he has a wife. Applegate objects to the haggling and gives him a chance to get out of it on September 24 at midnight. They agree and shake on the deal. Joe goes inside to leave a note. Applegate says he will get a taxi.
In the bedroom Joe Boyd kisses Meg goodbye and takes his coat. On the stairs he sits down to write a note to her and sings, “Goodbye, Old Girl.” Applegate has got a taxi and transforms Joe Boyd into young Joe Hardy (Tab Hunter) who finishes the song.
At a ballpark locker-room the Washington Senators talk, and Smokey (Nathaniel Frey) asks for help on a cross-word puzzle. Manager Benny Van Buren (Russ Brown) goes over the signs with Rocky (James Komack) who has trouble because the Yankees intimidate him. Benny gives them a pep talk and sings “Heart,” and three players join in.
They go out on the field, and reporter Gloria Thorpe (Rae Allen) asks Benny what is new. Applegate arrives with Joe and tells him to act naturally. Gloria asks Benny about the Yankees. Applegate asks if Benny is the manager. Applegate introduces himself and his protégé Joe Hardy who asks for a chance. Benny calls Smokey and tells him to take him to the batting cage. Benny is not allowed to go with him and sits in the stands with Gloria. Joe needs bigger baseball shoes. On the first pitch he hits it over the fence and slugs several more. Benny tells the pitcher to throw harder. Benny calls over Joe and asks how he can field. Joe says he does not know. Joe asks Applegate who tells him he can do anything. He brags about Joe. Benny says Joe has an arm. Gloria asks Applegate where he came from. Joe tells Benny he played out west in Hannibal, Missouri. Benny says they will give him a contract and send him to a farm club. Joe says no; he doesn’t have time. Applegate says they are not appreciating him. Joe says he loves the Senators, and Benny tells the pitcher to do better. Joe hits a long home run. Benny says he can’t believe it and tells Joe to get a uniform.
In the game Gloria tells other writers about the kid she wrote the story about. Joe hits a home run.
Benny tells Mr. Welch that Joe hit two homers. Benny advises against publicity because Joe does not like it.
Gloria asks the players if Joe is avoiding her. She asks them what he is like. She calls him “Shoeless Joe Hardy” and sings “Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, Mo” with the players who dance.
In a game shortstop Joe makes a great catch and hits another home run.
At her home Meg is working in the kitchen and talks with two lady friends. One suggests that Joe is not coming back, but she does not believe that.
In the locker-room the players have changed clothes. Smokey asks Joe if he is married, and Joe says he is. Joe decides to go see his wife.
Meg’s friends leave, and while dusting a chair she sings, “There's Something About An Empty Chair.” Joe is wearing sunglasses and sees her through the screen door. He knocks, and she tells him to come in. He asks if she has a room to rent. She says she never thought of it. He says he won’t be any trouble. She says her husband’s name is Joe too, but he is away. She tells him to make himself at home while she talks to her two friends. Joe looks around and sits in the chair. Meg comes back and says her friends think it is a good idea. She says he can use her husband’s den. He says he will be out of town much of the time. She introduces her two friends, and one realizes he is Joe Hardy. He admits he is. She asks for his autograph. Applegate knocks on the door and says he is from city hall and that no one is allowed to take roomers. Joe goes outside to talk with him. Joe says he wants to come home, and he does not own him yet. Applegate says he can find him a sexy woman. Joe says he does not want one. Joe goes back in and says the man went away.
Applegate uses a payphone and tells Lola (Gwen Verdon) he needs her on a new assignment in Washington.
In Welch’s office Gloria and other writers try to interview Joe. Welch asks them to stop riding him. Welch says they can ask him questions. One writer asks if Washington can win the pennant, and they laugh; but Joe says they can do it. Welch says they will sew it up by September 25, the last day of the season, but Joe says they will do it by the 24th.
Lola tells Applegate how she got a man to commit suicide. He says this is a straight seduction case, and he let him have an escape clause. She knows who Joe Hardy is. Applegate says he has people believing the Senators can win the pennant. She says she will give him her treatment and sings, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent.”
During a game Applegate and Lola are in the stands. She says she will put on her working clothes. Joe hits a homerun.
In the locker-room the Senators are happy.
In the stands Gloria asks Applegate if Joe had the same name in Hannibal. She says Joe is batting .524.
In the locker-room Applegate tells Joe he played a great game. He says his friend wants to meet Joe, and he calls in Lola. She comes in wearing a sexy black dress and uses a foreign accent. Applegate says she was Miss West Indies, and he goes out for a hot dog. She asks Joe if he likes music and dancing. She stands on a bench and asks him to help her down, embracing him sensually. He says he studied playing the coronet. She says he is wonderful and honest, but he says he is dumb. She asks him to take her some place tonight. He says Benny would not like it because they have to get to bed early. He says he has to move in to a place tonight. She wants him to stay with her and tells him to be a good boy and do what she tells him. She dances and sings, “Whatever Lola Wants,” stripping off her skirt and hat and tossing them to him. She removes her leotards. She lies down on his lap. He says he must keep his promise to come home. He says he is married and walks out. Applegate comes back in and says she is a flop. She says she was wrong; he is different. He tells her to get a new line and makes fun of her song. He says they are going on a western trip; but when he comes back, he will show her how to handle the situation.
In a night game Joe hits a grand-slam home run.
Applegate calls on Lola who is wearing a baseball shirt. He says he can get him away from his wife. He spread a scandal, and his wife will have to throw him out. She admits she joined a Joe Hardy Fan Club. She goes out to rehearse. He paces alone and sings, “Those Were the Good Old Days.”
In her home Meg tells Joe that someone got everyone talking. She hates to ask him to leave, but he says she can count on his coming back. He leaves with his suitcase.
Applegate gets into a theater. Welch tells Benny they will have a good party. He says they only have to win one of three games, but Benny says Joe cracked up today. Joe is rehearsing his speech, and Lola congratulates him as a fan. She says they are putting on a dance for him. He says Applegate wanted them to lose today, and he threw the ball into the stands to try to hit him. Lola says Applegate does not want to lose him. She wants to be Joe’s friend, and he thanks her. She says she is 172 years old, but he makes her feel like a girl. She says he is good and loyal.
Benny tells Gloria it does not matter where Joe lives. He asks Joe why he moved, and Joe says he moved to be near him. Gloria says she went to Hannibal, and there is no Bugle there. She wonders who Joe Hardy is because no one ever heard of him. She asks where he came from, and he tells her not to be so nosy. Children rehearse singing “Heart.” Gloria asks Benny if he ever heard of Shifty McCoy, and he says he read that he threw a game.
On stage Welch says this is Joe’s night from his fan clubs. Gloria on the phone says she wants to know more about Shifty McCoy. Benny introduces the I Love Joe Fan Club. Lola and a man dance and sing, “Who's Got the Pain.” Backstage Applegate warns Lola she is going too far. On stage four boys and a woman sing, “Heart” while people learn about a story that Joe was the crooked Shifty McCoy.
In the locker-room Benny tells his players to win the game.
In an office Gloria tells a man behind a desk that she has witnesses from Hannibal, and Welch tries to defend Joe. Applegate asks for a recess and says he has a witness arriving who knew Shifty McCoy.
Meg tells her friends that Joe is a good man. Meg says they can testify at the hearing too.
Applegate tells Lola that he will burn. Lola says she is sorry for him, and he says she is lax. He makes her repeat, “Never feel sorry for anybody.” He invites Joe to come in. Joe says he will never make the Hall of Fame. He says he wants to exercise his escape clause which is today. He wants to go back. Applegate says he can go back if he says so at 11:55 p.m. Joe says goodbye to Lola and goes out. Applegate scolds Lola and threatens to put her back on her broom. He orders her to think of three dirty tricks.
In a car Meg and her friends talk about testifying.
In the office Applegate makes his case and asks for patience. His witness is coming from the airport. Meg and her friends come in. They are glad to see Mr. Hawkins. Meg says they have remembered Joe and tries to get Hawkins to remember him too. Welch says he knew Joe is not a liar. While Meg is telling what they did, the clock strikes 12.
At night in a park Joe sits on a bench, and Lola says Applegate is asleep. She gave him sleeping pills. Joe tells Lola they are in the same boat now. Joe wants him to see them win the pennant tomorrow. He says Benny is putting him out in centerfield. Joe asks her who she was. She admits she was the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island. He says they are two lost souls, and she says they are together tonight, though they may never be again. She puts her head on his shoulder, and he asks what they can do. He kisses her. They walk off together laughing.
In a nightclub Joe and Lola are celebrating and sing, “Two Lost Souls.” They dance with others.
During the final game of the season Lola is watching it on television as Applegate wakes up. He asks what time it is and says he has to be at the game. She says Washington is leading 1-0 in the last of the 7th inning. He dresses in a flash and takes her to the game.
In a cab Applegate asks Lola why she doped him, and she says she loves Joe. As they arrive at the stadium she says she does not want to see Joe lose and walks away; but he makes her come back and transforms her into an ugly old woman. They go into the stands.
A Yankee gets a hit, and Mickey Mantle is up and hits a long ball. Joe runs back and is transformed into the older Joe Boyd who falls down but gets up, makes the catch, and runs off the field. People go on to the field and celebrate. Joe Boyd runs into the clubhouse and changes quickly.
Joe Boyd hears the radio and returns home. He goes in and tells his wife Meg that he is back. She hugs him and asks where he has been. He tells her never to ask that. He hopes she will have him and puts his head on her lap. Applegate appears and appeals to Joe. Boyd tells his wife to sing to him, and she sings, “There's Something About An Empty Chair.” Applegate says he forgave Lola too, and she appears. Applegate gets angry and says he robbed him.