Wednesday, May 28, 2008

:Crash" Davis back at Durham ballpark

For my money the 1988 B-movie classic "Bull Durham" is one of the best baseball movies of the live-ball era. It had a great cast -- need I say more than Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy? -- and a great park to play in, the old Durham Athletic Park, whose grounds once graced Sports Illustrated in a lovely pictorial tribute to the quintessential minor league baseball diamond.
In the movie, Kevin Costner played "Crash" Davis, a one-time big-league catcher sent down to the minors to help develop the hard-throwing, wild-as-a-spaniel-on-speed pitcher named Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, play by Tim Robbins.
When the movie was being developed, the Costner character didn't yet have a name. Director-writer Ron Shelton came across the name "Crash" Davis in a Carolina League record book and eventually found its real owner: Lawrence Davis of Gastonia, who played ball at every level he could, including American Legion ball and later at Duke University and then the Philadelphia Athletics before World War II. Former UNC President Bill Friday, himself a catcher and a resident of Dallas in Gaston County, played against Davis at least once.
But Davis wasn't a catcher, at least in schoolboy days. He was a shortstop nicknamed Squeaky Davis who once crashed into a leftfielder on a pop fly -- giving him his nickname, according to Blair Lovern's fascinating story on Baseball America Online.
Lawrence "Crash" Davis died in 2001, but Keven Costner is coming back to Durham July 4 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the movie. Costner's rock and roots music band "Modern West" will perform at the DAP that day, preceding the city's annual fireworks show, reports today's Durham Herald.

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