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Why Bull Durham is not my No. 1 baseball movie …

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

We’ve been busy prepping the Sports Movies Issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly, which means I’ve taken some time to re-watch a few memorable DVDs to soak up some of the nuances one last time before we put it all down on paper.

And there was one film — one that’s quite highly regarded — that I struggle with at times.

It’s Bull Durham.

You see, while the intermingling tale of Crash Davis, Nuke LaLoosh and Annie Savoy definitely is a classic, some of us look at sports films in different ways. As a memorabilia and card collector, I sometimes watch films to soak up details beyond story, greatness of performances and profanity-laced perfection found in many a memorable quote.

Instead, I watch them for accuracy — and to see what kinds of uniforms and equipment are used. (Yeah, I know, it’s weird … but you’ll see in the magazine one instance where it’s pretty cool. I hope … )

And there’s one scene in Bull Durham that sticks out to me among many because of inaccuracies and impossibilities — things that just wouldn’t happen in real life, despite their reel-life portrayal. It’s a “winning streak” action montage of plays that shows the then-Class-A Bulls on the road against the Rookie League Billings Mustangs based in Billings, Mont. (Screen-shot proof is above.)

If you’re geographically challenged, that’s a 2,073.4-mile cross-country bus ride that’d take roughly 31 hours and 39 minutes — not including pee breaks — according to Mapquest.

Why does this stick out so badly to me? I grew up a couple hours away from the Mustangs, with that team being my first taste of pro sports and the closest baseball franchise — the first autographs I ever got at a card show included the likes of Larry Luebbers, Kevin Tatar and Eric Burroughs. Only one of them, Luebbers, got time in The Show — does that make him the Crash Davis of that team? To me he was … and it was a world away from Durham, N.C.

If you watch Bull Durham, I have one bit of advice. Don’t look at the uniforms of the opposing teams too closely if you’re listening to the radio announcer. That’s the cardinal sin of the film, particularly if you know the eight teams that were in the Carolina League in 1988.

Instead, I’d highly recommend watching Bull Durham for Max Patkin (a real-life baseball sideshow act who died in 1999), The Church of Baseball, Meat, Millie, The Rose, The Bull, the lollygaggers and so, so much more.

And, remember, just don’t look at the uniforms.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

What’s your favorite baseball movie? Tell us in a comment below …

12 Comments

I have a few personal favorites I love to throw on the tv while I sort cards.

Major League 1 – Has to be my all time favorite.
Major League 2
Major League 3 – Back to the Minors – say what you want about the sequels, I enjoyed them.

Summer Catch – Closest thing we have to a Cape Cod League movie we can get.

The Rookie – Beautifully made movie that I can actually watch when my kids are around.

Speaking of kids, The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, and Little Big League. The latter with cameos from Junior, Randy Johnson, and Lou Pinella.

Another Beautiful baseball movie would be For Love of the Game.

And Definitely NOT for kids, the Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thornton. Funny stuff.

And for the hopeless Romantic, and Red Sox fans, Fever Pitch.

Lets not forget the ones with Psycho Killers, The Fan. I especially like how they use aerial footage from Candlestick during a football game (the bleachers are pulled out).

There are tons more I’m sure, like Field of Dreams, The Natural, Eight Men Out, A League of their Own… Its hard to name them all. But you have inspired me to start a baseball movie marathon of my own!

Posted August 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
Nick Tegeler

Even though I thought a lot of movies were great about baseball. I would have to say mine would be a toss up between “The Natural” or “Field of Dreams.” Most people here in the town I live in would say “A League of Their Own” just because about half the movie or more was filmed here at our baseball stadium.

Posted August 20, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
Adam Shoemaker

As much as it shocks me to say this, I will still say it. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen Bull Durham! I have known of it for 2/3rds of my life, but I just don’t recall watching it. I’ve seen soooo many other baseball movies: Field of Dreams, Mr. Baseball, A League of their Own, Angels in the Outfield, The Rookie, Mr. 3000, etc. The SAD thing is that I grew up (and still live) less than 2 hrs. from the Durham Bulls Stadium. I will definitely have to check it out now. I feel bad saying that I’ve never seen it! :)

Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
Tommy

I grew up in Durham, and was finishing up high school when they shot the movie. the baseball scenes were shot in the dead of winter. If you watch for it you can see the players’ breath on what was supposed to be summer nights. A few of my friends were extras in the stands freezing to death in summer clothes. The worst sin of them all was repainting that lovely old blue ballpark green for the film.

Ps my kid loves your videos!

Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
Brian

Here goes my list:

1. Eight Men Out
2. Major League
3. The Natural
4. 61
5. The Pride of the Yankees

I wanted to include Field of Dreams but my biggest issue as a huge Shoeless Joe Jackson fan is that they have Ray Liotta batting right handed when Shoeless Joe was a lefty.

Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink
Kevin

I have to go Sandlot. On the most base level it gets baseball right.

Posted August 21, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink
Devan James

I would vote Field of Dreams all day long, but The Simpson’s Homer at the Bat is the best baseball homage ever done on the big or little screen.

Posted August 21, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink
Tom Waldron

I have to say Bull Durhan isn’t my favorie either a good movie nonetheless.
Field of Dreams is a top A list Natural and one that not many have mentioned Bang the drum slowly with Robert Dinero deserves a nod. On the lighter side how about Bench Warmers is great. Sandlot Rookie of year bad news bears original please.A funny take on baseblal Damn Yankees from way back.How about Hard ball another good movie. and the beat goes on …..
jus saying

Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink
Brian

My top five would have to be

1. Field Of Dreams (even with the mistakes)
2. The Sandlot
3. Major League
4. The Rookie
5. League of their Own
6. For the Love of the Game
7. Fever Pitch
8. Rookie of the Year
9. The Scout
10. every other baseball movie

Posted August 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
Randall Roberson

The first baseball movie I saw in the theater was ” The Bad News Bears go to Japan”, I think it was horrible! I will still watch the original “Bad News Bears” if I come across it on the tube. The movie came out when I was first playing pick-up games and for some weird reason is nostalgic for me, even though it does not resemble my childhood at all. Sandlot is another favorite. I also like any of the Baseball movies from the B&W era. Inaccuracies galore but safe for the kids to watch with me.

Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink
steve miller

1. For Love of the Game
2. Field of Dreams
3. Bull Durham
4. Major League I
5. Hardball (tear jerker)

Posted August 22, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

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