Intimately Involved: “Bull Durham”

Former baseball pro Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is hired as a catcher for the minor-league Durham Bulls, but only so he can help to shape player Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) into a more self-controlled pitcher. Perfectly loyal to the oft-defeated Bulls is unmarried Annie (Susan Sarandon) to whom baseball is a religion. In point of fact, she is a spiritual force for the team, though with a spirituality affiliated with sex (as well as poetry). Every year she gets intimately involved with a different Bulls player and, as it happens, Crash is interested. Currently, however, Nuke is enlisted to be her partner.

Thus on the one hand in Ron Shelton‘s Bull Durham (1988) there is baseball, and on the other hand, sex. The only thing they have in common is that they are not religions. But, although baseball in the late ’50s remains pretty much the same, the country itself is slowly changing philosophically and sexually, not without quirkiness.

Durham is intelligent without being profound. Seldom hokey, it is also sensual nearly to the point of vulgarity, and it has an appealing cast. Robbins is memorably convincing as a pitcher based on the real-life Steve Dalkowski, who died recently at 80. Like Nuke, Dalkowski had an often wayward power pitch—one that likely reached speeds of over 105 mph.

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