There are a lot of things bouncing around in my head to get back to writing, but first and foremost in my mind is Bull Durham. I was pretty well by myself yesterday while Kristine made a quick trip over to Ohio for a baby shower.* Besides catching up on some housework, like mowing the yard and doing dishes, I found some time to rewatch two of my favorite movies of all time. One was, of course, Bull Durham. The other was The Big Lewbowski. I’ll keep my Dude talk for another day, but this seems as good a time as any to talk about the fictional Bulls.
*Which should be another cut in the complaint that Kristine’s bridal shower in Lafayette was too far for a lot of my family. I’m not at all pleased with the Bushue turnout for that one, but there’s nothing to be done about it now.
I usually watch Bull Durham at least once a year, normally around the start of baseball season. It was a little later this year, but I did get it in. As I was watching it this time, I really had to wonder why Crash Davis never really had a big league career. He talks on the bus about being in the show for 21 days once. I would assume that was his longest stretch. Now, granted, all we get to see is bits and pieces of the bulk of one season in A ball. I’m sure Class A pitching looks like a freaking beach ball compared to the AAA pitching Crash had apparently been seeing before he became the player to be named later. But from what we see, Crash is an excellent mentor for a young pitcher with an explosive bat.
I think part of the problem here is we don’t get to see too much of Crash Davis the catcher. I don’t remember a single scene of anybody running on him, so we don’t have a sense of what kind of arm he really has. We also don’t know what kind of a backstop he is. When Nuke misses, there is no catcher anywhere that is blocking that stuff. The one real defensive play we get to see is Crash appearing to tag a runner out at the plate* and not getting the call. This leads to the whole argument and Crash being tossed from the game, which might have been a blessing given how that game was going.**
*And he really does look out. I’ve watched that play a few times, and he sure looks like he gets a solid tag on the guy.
**Also, unless I’m getting the games confused here, the Bulls lose that one 3-2. With the game looking as sloppy as that one, I have a hard time believing the other team could only push across three runs. Not impossible, but improbable.
Still, even if Crash is just a competent catcher, with the power he displays in the movie (and throughout his minor league career, breaking the home run record just after leaving the Bulls) and his knowledge and willingness to mentor, it sure seems he would be valuable to a big league team. The best I can figure is Crash showed a complete inability to hit a breaking ball, which could be demonstrated with his speech about how badly Nuke needs a curveball and about how pitchers throw ungodly breaking stuff in the majors, and maybe an unwillingness to be a mentor until he was told point-blank that his entire reason for being with the team was to develop a pitcher. I don’t really have any evidence for the latter in the movie, though. The only thing I can point to at all is when Crash first gets to Durham and the manager (whose name I don’t believe we ever learn) explains why he’s back in the Carolina League.* I can point to plenty of evidence that would suggest that Crash couldn’t help but share his wisdom with anybody in the vicinity, whether they wanted to hear it or not. You can’t have Annie Savoy earnestly saying “Oh, Crash, you do make speeches” if Crash wasn’t the type to keep volunteering his thoughts and advice.
*For what it’s worth, the Carolina League is still a High A league. A friend of mine, Taylor Dennis, is currently pitching for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in that league, actually. And, something else I just learned, the Pelicans are the team that used to be the Durham Bulls until Durham stepped up to AAA. Crazy, right?
I’m sure there are stories all over the place that are similar to Crash Davis. Players who had the abilities and the mindset, but just never got their break. Never landed with the right team or the right situation. Still, it seems like Crash should have gotten more than just a cup of coffee on the big league level considering what he brings. Hell, with how the Braves* played all through the 80’s, maybe they should have let some other catcher who couldn’t hit develop Nuke along.
*Atlanta was the parent club of the Durham/Myrtle Beach teams until 2010, when they became affiliated with the Rangers.
On the other hand, Nuke Laloosh as a Major League pitcher is pretty laughable. He gets off to a terrible start in the minors, has major control issues, and apparently no breaking ball. His best bet at the next level from what we see in the movie is a flame-throwing closer. Certainly not as a starter, and certainly not as somebody who ought to be making the leap from High A straight to the 40-man roster. I read that Nuke was based on Steve Dalkowski, though, which I suppose eliminates some of the guesswork. And, well, honestly, Nuke fared better than his source. Dalkowski never got above Class B (back when there was such a thing) and apparently is more known for his raging alcoholism than for his thunderbolt of an arm.
Annie Savoy, though? I think we’ve all met her before. She might be the most realistic character in the whole damn movie.