Cardboard Cameos: 25 years later, a Mariners scout learns he was in “Bull Durham”

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 By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Imagine spending your career — your life — in baseball but never making The Show as a player. Then imagine making the show but not knowing it until 25 years later.

In the case of Alex Smith, the show is Bull Durham.

As part of our “Cardboard Cameos” story in the upcoming Sports Movies Issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly, we’ve examined several films and spotted real-world baseball cards in some scenes. As it turns out, a real-world baseball card, Smith’s 1987 Durham Bulls ProCards release, got some screen time as a bookmark used by Annie Savoy as she decided to read Walt Whitman poetry to Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh.

And Smith, now the Northeast Scouting Supervisor for the Seattle Mariners, had no idea.

“I received your message, ironically on my birthday,” said Smith, who turned 50 on Monday. “What a unique, interesting gift to find out my baseball card was used in the movie. Never knew that! My initial thoughts? Pretty cool!”

Interestingly, Smith said he had a chance to be in the film that starred Kevin Costner but he had to make a career decision.

“The funny thing about it is that I was asked to participate in the movie,” said Smith, who was a Bull for just one season, batting .323 with 10 home runs. “They reached out, I believe, to most of the players on that 1987 team. At least I was. I was also asked to participate in instructional league that year, so I had a choice to make. I chose instructional league and gave up my opportunity to be in the movie.”

Smith appears on just a handful of baseball cards from his five seasons in the minor leagues, but there is a happy ending for him on cardboard. While he’s now with the Mariners, he made his MLB card debut five years ago on his only certified autograph card. How? As a scout with the Montreal Expos, he appears in the 2008 Bowman Scouts Autographs set. Why? Because he’s the guy who signed Ryan Zimmerman.

Ironically, Durham isn’t the only baseball movie Smith appears in. Turns out, he was a Major Leaguer … a teammate of Jack Parkman.

“Opportunity rang again when Major League II came out and was being filmed in Baltimore, where I live,” Smith said of the 1994 film. “They ended up casting a lot of former player, scouts, managers, etc., from the Baltimore area. I ended up playing Reveto, who was the third baseman for the Chicago White Sox.”

So, does he have any copies of his now-famous Bulls card?

“Absolutely, I have quite a few of them,” he said. “[And] I still have the $5 check that Topps gives you [as a minor-leaguer] for a card contract.”

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


  1. Jason
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I love these little nuggets of info. Please keep them coming.

  2. RJ
    Posted March 20, 2013 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Very cool story idea!

    Posted March 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    THIS IS a great story and is what I really like about your writing. You bring a different view to a lot of subjects. What I really enjoy is your a true collector and your writing reflects that.

    i do not read comic books and have seen very few comic book movies. HOWEVER I love the show comic book men because no matter what you collect all collectors are the same. You cant hide the passion.

    Even though I do not normally collect baseball cards I do collect different things and have the kevin costner baseball cards and an autographed ball.

    I know I am rambling but just like your COMC break the other night seeing and hearing the different reasons you bought some cards was really cool. I like how your doing a top gun set sort of.

    You are highly entertaining and very informative.

  4. Wondo
    Posted March 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Smitty- I smell a hefty contract extension from Mac for all the publicity! Too funny. Great stuff. -wondo

  5. Kip Coons
    Posted October 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    A now-retired sportswriter who covered the Bulls in 1987, I also had a cameo in Bull Durham. I remember Alex Smith quite well. He gave me his bat on the final day of the season when he was battling for the Carolina League batting title. It’s nice to know he’s still in the game. That ’87 Bulls team also featured future Atlanta Braves second baseman Mark Lemke.

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