Friday, January 21, 2011

Flick Friday: Bull Durham

Winter can get a bit long around here, and Opening Day seems like a long way off. To help pass the time, I've decided that each Friday night I'm going to watch a baseball movie. I've got 15-20 different baseball movies, so that should get me through the winter.

I'll give you my two cents on the movie, and also try to bring in any Cubs connections; after all, this is Wrigley Wax, not At the Movies.

Up this week is Bull Durham, the Kevin Costner, Susan Sarrandon, minor league baseball classic. Released in 1988, the movie tells the story of minor league lifer Crash Davis, baseball Annie Annie Savoy, and rookie phenom Nuke LaLoosh. The movie has wide appeal because the baseball theme attracts the guy audience and Kevin Costner attracts the gals.

In my mind, this is really a chick flick. It's a relationship story, not a baseball story. Though Costner looks like an athlete, Tim Robbins most definitely is not one. He is totally unbelievable as a hard-throwing rookie phenom. His throwing motion looks awful. In fact, while watching the movie, I noticed several things in the story that are not baseball-accurate. For me, that really hurts the movie. As a baseball fan, I want to see things portrayed correctly and it is a major distraction for me when they are not.

One big problem is that LaLoosh is making his professional debut as a starting pitcher, but minutes before the game, he's in the locker room with Millie. Shouldn't he have been in the bullpen? Also, if this is his debut, he is either 18 and just out of high school, or a former college player. Since later in the movie he was drinking at a bar, he couldn't be 18. The character didn't give the impression that he had brains enough to be in college. So what would the explanation be?

When LaLoosh has his first good game, he's got a shutout going into the ninth inning. Even in the late '80s, wouldn't a team's #1 pitching prospect be on a pitch count? Would he ever have pitched into the ninth? I doubt it.

Nuke gets called up to the Show because, as he explains, the club is expanding the roster. Rosters are expanded after September 1, when the minor league seasons are all finished. Yet in the movie, the Bulls keep playing and after Crash is released, he hooks up with another team. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way!

As a baseball fan, it drives me nuts when screenwriters play loose with the baseball facts to enhance the story. I want a good story and baseball accuracy!

I found a couple. First, in the second baseball scene in the movie the Bulls are playing the Winston Salem Spirits, a Cubs farm team, as you can see by the Cubbie Bear patch on the catcher's sleeve.

What's even more interesting is that the movie takes place during the 1987 season and the starting catcher for the 1987 Winston Salem Spirits was....

....Joe Girardi. In fact he had a very good season that year. He was a mid-season and post-season Carolina League All Star, he finished second in the league in triples with 8 (yes, a catcher with 8 triples!) and he threw out 53 of 121 runners attempting to steal, 43.8%. But no, that isn't Girardi in the movie.

The second connection:

Leon "Bull" Durham, the guy with the same name as the movie! The Bull came to the Cubs from the Cardinals in the Bruce Sutter trade. He never quite lived up to all the hype, but was a decent enough. His most famous (actually, infamous) Cubs event is when he let a ground ball go through is legs in game 5 of the 1984 NLCS.

It foreshadowed an event that happened two years later in the World Series when the player Durham replaced as the Cubs first baseman, Bill Buckner, did the same thing.

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