As far as I am concerned, Bull Durham is not only one of the all time great baseball movies, an example of a great romantic comedy, and one of Kevin Costner’s best performances, it’s also one of the greatest films of all time. I started watching the 1988 sports comedy about two players at different stages of their careers and the woman they both love when I was way too young (thanks, edited for TV versions), and have been somewhat obsessed with it ever since.
Whenever the movie is on cable, which isn’t that often these days, or on any given streaming service I’ll give it a watch, and I usually pick up on different elements or at least have thoughts about Ron Shelton’s timeless classic. This happened again not so long ago and I can’t help but share my thoughts…
Annie Savoy’s Walk To The Durham Bulls’ Stadium Perfectly Captures The Beauty Of Baseball At Night
Walking to a well-lit baseball stadium at dusk is something that everyone should get to experience at least once in their lifetime. There’s just something about the way those massive bright lights look against the backdrop of a midsummer sunset, and the opening scene of Bull Durham captures that better than just about any movie before or since.
I mean, the moment where you get your first glimpse of the Durham Bulls’ stadium as Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) walks with other fans to the game is just great. The world around the stadium is dim and ordinary, but the park — well, it’s just magical. And it only gets better as she enters the stadium and makes her way through the concession area and up the ramp to see the vast green field where miracles happen. I think about that moment whenever I go to a game and am overtaken by the sight of a perfectly manicured field glowing in the twilight.
Crash Davis’ ‘I Believe’ Monologue Just Keeps Getting Better With Age
There’s a scene early on in Bull Durham where Annie invites Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins) to her house so she can decide who’ll be her man for the season. While Nuke, the young pitcher with a million-dollar arm but not much sense, is open to the game because he’ll get to sleep with someone, the 12-year veteran Crash doesn’t want anything to do with the show and gets up to leave before saying, “I don’t believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.”
What follows is easily one of the top five moments of Kevin Costner’s career and without a doubt my favorite of the movie. The way Crash jumps from talking about banning astroturf and the designated hitter (don’t tell him about the 2022 rule changes) to opening presents on Christmas Day as opposed to Christmas Eve and then jumping into his thoughts about making love is incredible. I love Costner’s “Clear the mechanism” line from For Love of the Game, but this is the cream of the crop.
The ‘Rain Out’ Scene Is Still Incredible After All These Years
A scene that I always look forward to when watching Bull Durham is the “rain out” sequence where the Bulls, weary from a multi-game losing streak on the road, wish they could have a day off in hopes it would turn the tide. Well, wish and you shall receive as Crash Davis comes up with an ingenious way of getting a rain out: he and several teammates break into a stadium and let the sprinklers run all night.
What I really love about this scene is how the Durham Bulls forget about their problems (also due to the six-packs they just killed) and remember what makes being a baseball player so much fun. They run, slide, and throw each other into the mud and look like more like a team than they did at the game earlier that day.
Crash Davis Getting Cut Is Absolutely Heartbreaking
By the time the 1988 season starts for the Durham Bulls, Crash Davis is a 12-year veteran who spent 21 days in “The Show” (the 21 greatest days of his life), but after getting sent down to A-ball to help prepare a young pitcher for his eventual MLB debut, he knows this is near the end of the road. But even though it’s inevitable and happens to best of them, this doesn’t make the moment in Bull Durham where Crash is given his pink slip any less heartbreaking.
On a recent rewatch I couldn’t help but pay attention to a comment assistant coach Larry Hockett (Robert Wuhl) made after coach Joe “Skip” Riggins (Trey Wilson) told Crash a younger catcher was being brought up to take his spot. It’s short and easy to miss, but Hockett tells Crash the guy will probably be a bust (despite hitting .300) in an attempt to make him feel better.
I Want To Believe Crash And Annie Find Happiness In The End
In the final 15 or so minutes of Bull Durham after Crash is cut from the team, he goes to Annie’s house and the two make love for what seems like days (maybe three days like he talked about earlier in the movie), but only before he leaves to play for the Asheville Tourists so he can get his 247th home run and break the all-time minor league record. After doing so, he retires and returns to Durham to be with Annie, for good this time, and the movie closes with the two dancing in the window.
I want to believe that things will work out for Crash and Annie and that the two powerful figures will put an end to their respective annual traditions and start a new life together. Maybe Crash will become the coach of the Bulls, or perhaps he’ll stay retired and walk with Annie to the games each night. No matter what though, they deserve each other and to be happy.
There Are Few Baseball Movies That Get Me Keyed Up Like Bull Durham
There is just something about Bull Durham and the way it captures the spirit of minor league baseball that gets me all worked up. It takes me back to those hot summer nights at Fairgrounds Field in Shreveport, Louisiana, where my dad would take my brothers and me to watch future major league stars, MLB players on rehab assignments in the minors, and grizzled veteran fighting for their last shot at glory.
The movie manages to find a way to capture both the optimism of a bright future and the reality of years in a team's farm system better than anything that has come before or since. Maybe that’s why Cal Ripken Jr. once called Bull Durham the best baseball movie of all time. Honestly, I’m having a hard time arguing against him.
Other Random Thoughts
There are also a ton of random thoughts about Bull Durham living rent-free in my brain pretty much all the time. Here are just a few:
- Joe "Skip" Riggins is an underrated baseball movie coach.
- Max Patkin’s “Clown Prince of Baseball” takes me back to my childhood.
- Nuke Laloosh’s exaggerated body language is some of Tim Robbins’ best physical acting.
- Crash Davis telling a pitcher to throw him “that weak-ass shit” is one of the best sports lines.
- Ron Shelton should have won an Oscar for his script.
- Wow, Crash Davis played ball for my hometown minor league team (Shreveport Captains of the Texas League)!
Bull Durham is streaming on Showtime and is also available to rent or buy on Amazon.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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