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Worshipping at the Church of Baseball
July 09, 2012
The cast and crew of Bull Durham try to wrap their minds around how, 24 years ago, a minor league baseball movie became such a major league Hollywood hit
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July 09, 2012

Worshipping At The Church Of Baseball

The cast and crew of Bull Durham try to wrap their minds around how, 24 years ago, a minor league baseball movie became such a major league Hollywood hit

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SHELTON: The sprinkler thing, that really happened to me. In Double A we used to go out and flood the field to get a day off. Two times it worked. The third time they made us play in the mud.

ROBBINS: I remember Paula Abdul came to Durham to help me with this flashy dance I had to do in a bar scene. I didn't know who she was. To me she was just this supersweet dancer.

SHELTON: I'd never heard of her. But she came up to me and asked, "What part do you have for me?" And I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "The producer said that if I did the choreography for Tim you would have a speaking part for me." I said, "I'm sorry," and she marched off screaming.

WUHL: The candlesticks scene on the mound—I came up with that. A week before we started shooting a friend was getting married, and I called my wife and asked, "What do I get him for a present?" And she said, "Candlesticks always make a nice gift; or find out where they're registered and perhaps a nice place setting." Come the day of the shoot, I walk out and there's the whole setup. Costner says, "Nuke's old man is in the stands; so-and-so put a curse on the first baseman's glove; and we don't know what to get Millie and Jimmy for a wedding present—we're dealing with a lot of s--- here." And my line was supposed to be, "O.K., I thought there was a problem." We did it that way a few times. And then Ron said, "O.K., Robert, do one for yourself." And I just echoed what my wife said and then I waddled back to the dugout with my ass sticking out.

V. "You're gonna have to learn your clichés.... Write this down: We gotta play 'em one day at a time...."

SHELTON: The movie opened in June 1988, and it ended up making a little over $50 million—which is like $100 million today. The reviews were unbelievable. All I thought was, This means I get to direct another movie! It's like baseball. In baseball if you hit .300, you get to play for another year. I got nominated for a screenwriting Oscar. I went to the Oscars, and Best Original Screenplay was one of the first awards of the night. I thought we should have won, but Rain Man got it, so I had to sit there for three hours after I lost. A few months earlier I had received the call that Trey Wilson had died. What a tragedy.

WUHL: I couldn't believe it when I heard about Trey. He had a hemorrhage in his brain. We hung out a lot together. I was probably closer to him than anyone else on the movie. What a shame.

SARANDON: People still come up to me to talk about Annie. It was an important film for me. I think the movie holds up so well because it's smart and it has heart. Ron said that every spring when he smells the fresh-cut grass he thinks of going to spring training and he gets a pang. After he left baseball, it was a while before he could really watch the game again.

SHELTON: I've done a few sports movies now, and I think that what makes the good ones work is detail, authenticity and to make it from the player's point of view, not the fan's. The player sees a different game from the fan. If you love sports, most of the good stuff occurs between the plays, not the plays themselves.

COSTNER: Ron totally got that world and understood that Crash's time in the minors wasn't about winning the big game. It was about not making it to the bigs. It was about the willingness to go hit a home run in obscurity. It was about falling in love. It was about not letting go of the game. He did the same thing with Tin Cup [which Costner also starred in]. He gets the poetry of sports.

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