Taglines: It’s all about sex and sport. What else is there?
“Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner), a veteran of 12 years in minor league baseball, is sent down to the single-A Durham Bulls for a specific purpose: to educate hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Robbins, playing a character loosely based on Steve Dalkowski) about becoming a major-league talent, and to control Ebby’s haphazard pitching. Crash immediately begins calling Ebby by the degrading nickname of “Meat”, and they get off to a rocky start.
Thrown into the mix is Annie (Susan Sarandon), a “baseball groupie” and lifelong spiritual seeker who has latched onto the “Church of Baseball” and has, every year, chosen one player on the Bulls to be her lover and student. Annie flirts with both Crash and Ebby and invites them to her house, but Crash walks out, saying he’s too much a veteran to “try out” for anything. Before he leaves, Crash further sparks Annie’s interest with a memorable speech listing the things he “believes in”, ending with “I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days… Good night”.
Despite some animosity between them, Annie and Crash work, in their own ways, to shape Ebby into a big-league pitcher. Annie plays mild bondage games, reads poetry to him, and gets him to think in different ways (and gives him the nickname “Nuke”). Crash forces Nuke to learn “not to think” by letting the catcher make the pitching calls (memorably at two points telling the batters what pitch is coming after Nuke rejects his calls), and lectures him about the pressure of facing major league hitters who can hit his “heat” (fastballs). Crash also talks about the pleasure of life in “The Show” (Major League Baseball), which he briefly lived for “the 21 greatest days of my life” and to which he has tried for years to return.
Meanwhile, as Nuke matures, the relationship between Annie and Crash grows, until it becomes obvious that the two of them are a more appropriate match, except for the fact that Annie and Nuke are currently a couple. After a rough start, Nuke becomes a dominant pitcher by mid-season. By the end of the movie, Nuke is called up to the majors. This incites jealous anger in Crash, who is frustrated by Nuke’s failure to recognize all the talent he was blessed with.
Nuke leaves for the big leagues, Annie ends their relationship, and Crash overcomes his jealousy to leave Nuke with some final words of advice. The Bulls, now having no use for his mentor, release Crash. Crash then presents himself at Annie’s house and the two consummate their attraction with a weekend-long lovemaking session. Crash then leaves Annie’s house to seek a further minor-league position.
Bull Durham is a 1988 American romantic comedy sports film. It is partly based upon the minor-league baseball experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton and depicts the players and fans of the Durham Bulls, a minor-league baseball team in Durham, North Carolina.
The film stars Kevin Costner as “Crash” Davis, a veteran catcher brought in to teach rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) about the game in preparation for reaching the major leagues. Baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) romances Nuke but finds herself increasingly attracted to Crash. Also featured are Robert Wuhl and Trey Wilson, as well as popular baseball “clown” Max Patkin.
Baseball movies were not considered a viable commercial prospect at the time and every studio passed except for Orion Pictures, which gave Shelton a USD $9 million budget, an eight-week shooting schedule, and creative freedom. Even so, many cast members accepted salaries lower than their usual requirements due to their enthusiasm for the material. Costner was cast because of his natural athletic ability. During filming, Costner was able to hit two home runs while the cameras were rolling.
Bull Durham was a commercial success, grossing over $50 million in North America, well above its estimated budget, and was a critical success as well. Sports Illustrated ranked it the #1 Greatest Sports Movie of all time. The Moving Arts Film Journal ranked it #3 on its list of the 25 Greatest Sports Movies of All-Time. In addition, the film is ranked #55 on Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies.” It is also ranked #97 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Laughs” list, and #1 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 53 best-reviewed sports movies of all time.
Bull Durham (1988)
Directed by: Ron Shelton
Starring: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl, William O’Leary, David Neidorf, Jenny Robertson, Gregory Avellone
Screenplay by: Ron Shelton
Production Design by: Armin Ganz
Cinematography by: Bobby Byrne
Film Editing by: Robert Leighton, Adam Weiss
Costume Design by: Louise Frogley
Set Decoration by: Kris Boxell
Art Direction by: David Lubin
Music by: Michael Convertino
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: June 15, 1988