Thursday, September 1, 2022

A Review of The Church of Baseball


It's no secret that Bull Durham is my favourite movie of all time and I love reading about how movies get made. Of course I jumped all over this book that talks about the making of the film. I ended up disappointed.

The good things: A bunch of chapters are the breaking down of how the script was written. It's rare to see that far into the writers process, so those chapters were gold. Then he goes on to talk about the challenges of getting it filmed. Can you believe the executives didn't want him filming the mound scene? And when he did, they kept advocating for it not to make the final cut?

As a reminder, it's this scene.

The first chapter is his own story about being in the minor leagues, which was in the Vietnam era. You can check out his stats here.

I was really enjoying the book until near the end. Warning, rant incoming.

In chapter 16, Kill Your Darlings, he talks about losing the scene that he felt was the most important in the movie but put the test audiences into snooze. With good reason. In the scene, which comes after the classic line "This is the damndest season I've ever seen. The Bulls can't lose and I can't get laid!"

So get this. Crash takes her out for a drink and asks, "Why baseball?"

WTF? What kind of sexist shit is this? Because a guy never gets asked "why baseball" while women are constantly having to defend their fandom. Fucking hell.

But no, it gets better. Turns out the "why baseball" answer comes around to being abandoned by her mother, being raised in a Baptist church, having daddy issues, running away from home, a few failed marriages, trying every religion in existence, finally reconciling with her dad then coming across the Yankees at Spring Training and falling in love with Thurman Munson fighting with the ump the day after her daddy died and she drove to Florida to bury him. Then falling in love with the predictability of the bases so you always know where home base is. 

Again, WTF??? She couldn't just have seen games with her dad like everyone else? No, baseball has to be some sublimated daddy bullshit. She has to have a complete wreck of a life to truly understand baseball? It takes a woman that we've seen as self-assured and sexually empowered (yeah, I said it - there's a long standing tradition in many societies where the older wise women initiate the men of the tribe into how to satisfy their women) and drags her into the dirt.

And then, she questions whether baseball is enough anymore? I can see that it ties her and Crash into the same place but he never has to say that shit.

I love Annie because she was the first female baseball fan I saw on screen. She knows the ins and outs of the game and everyone respects her because of her baseball knowledge. She loves it, devotes herself to it, and was damn sexy doing it. (I'm not the only one who feels this way about Annie. Check out this Deadspin article.) 

This speech ruins all of that. Shelton said he gave her his backstory, the story of his generation who were feeling disillusioned during that time. Dude, leave your issues out of it. This isn't the story you're telling. You didn't give Crash or Nuke tragic backstories, so why did Annie have one? Fucking sexist shit, that's why. That's why the audiences hated it and that's why it had to be cut, no matter how much Susan Sarandon killed it.

End rant.

The other major problem with the book is that it seems there's no editor. The chapters don't flow into each other. He'll say something in one chapter then say the exact same thing in the next as if you hadn't read it before. It got annoying fast. 

The book ends with all the ideas pitched throughout the years to extend it, from a sequel to a tv show (which ended up sounding a lot like the lamented Pitch) to a musical. It's obvious his heart isn't in any of it and he's just trying to protect his work. He's right. Leave it alone as the masterpiece it is.

It's definitely worth reading, as I'm sure you won't have the reaction to the Annie chapter I did. Let the quotes begin. (Here's a place to start.)