THE SUPPOSED "BULL" IN "BULL DURHAM" "Appearing on 'Late Night with David Letterman,' [Yankee Hall-of-Famer Mickey Mantle] saw this comedy along more tragic lines, since there were so many deserving Crash Davises who never did make the majors--not even for a cup of coffee.".

Author:Gehring, Wes D.

NO MATTER HOW good the movie, there always is at least one scene that some viewers feel is a little too hard to believe. This is human nature, or call it universal relevance.

However, the popcorn critic always should be wary about the nature of truth. For instance, there is the example of "Bull Durham" (1988)--written and directed by Ron Shelton, the movie sports auteur who also gave us "White Men Can't Jump" (1992) and "Tin Cup" (1996). The film covers the misadventures of a minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls. Sports Illustrated has called this the best baseball picture ever made. The Movies Arts Film Journal ranked it No. 3 among all sports movies.

One certainly has to love the research that went into it, as Shelton played 12 years of minor league ball, topping out at Triple-A. Thus, what could there possibly be not to like? The scene in question involves a mound meeting between Kevin Costner's Crash Davis, a veteran catcher sent down to Single-A ball to nurture Nuke Laloosh--a scatter-armed young pitcher (Tim Robbins) with tons of potential--for a shot at the "Big Show," a trip to the majors.

When a gang of infielders join in, the discussion soon is about everything but baseball. Laloosh is nervous because his dad is in the crowd. Jose (Rick Marzan) is upset because his girlfriend has put a hex on his glove, and to remove this bit of voodoo someone will have to cut the head off a live rooster. (The film, as is baseball, is peppered with examples of superstitious ballplayers.) Another player is bemused that sexy Millie (Jenny Robertson), the mostpromiscuous baseball fan in Durham, is going to marry Jimmy (William O'Leary), the team's virginal religious innocent. Plus, no one knows what to get the couple for their baseball diamond wedding.

So, when the manager (played by Robert Wuhl) finally comes out to check on this impromptu mound gathering, Crash blurts out, as a manner of explanation, "We're dealing with a lot of [crap]!"

The nonchalant topper to this decidedly casual nongame atmosphere is when Wuhl's character does not get upset, as one might expect, but rather replies in kind to his distracted players. For example, with regard to the question of wedding presents, he observes, "Well, candlesticks always make a nice gift, and maybe you could find out where she's registered, maybe a place setting or silverware is good. Okay, let's get two [outs]!"

While the movie was an immediate hit with the press and public, some film...

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