Filmsite Movie Review
Bull Durham (1988)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Durham Bulls vs. The Salem Bucks:

On the mound, Nuke readjusted the garter belt he was wearing under his uniform: "This underwear feels kind of sexy. That don't make me queer, right? Right...I ain't queer. No, I ain't." He started to believe that Annie's recommendations were beginning to work. Millie measured the speed of his pitches at 96 mph, but wondered why he was looking so awkward and all twisted up. Annie explained: "He's using his parietal eye, just like Fernando."

In the dugout, Larry told Skip the reason for his hot streak: "He's wearing garters and he's breathing out of his eyelids like a lava lizard. It's an old Mayan deal...Aztec deal." But Crash wasn't about to let Nuke enjoy his "moment":

"Your fastball was up. Your curveball's hanging. In the Show, they would have ripped you."

At his next at bat, Crash hit a home-run deep into left field that he had forecast beforehand. In an area of the stands marked "PLAYER'S WIVES," the females applauded. The Bulls were leading 2-0 in the second inning: "First time the Bulls have been ahead in weeks."

When Nuke was back on the mound, Crash instructed his pitcher to throw his next pitch at the mascot to disorient and throw off the opposing team. It was an incongruous request, since the announcer had just claimed that LaLoosh had "pinpoint control" - he had thrown five outs on nine pitches, all of them strikes. Following orders, LaLoosh's next throw was aimed at the costumed Bulls mascot behind the plate and it hit him in the head. To scare the batter, Crash affirmed that the pitcher was crazy and wild: "I wouldn't dig in there if I was you. Next one might be at your head. I don't know where it's gonna go."

By the 9th inning with two outs, the Bulls were on their way to victory - and a two-hit shutout for Nuke. However, LaLoosh shook off Crash's signal for a fastball, preferring instead to throw a deuce (a curveball, signed by two downward pointing fingers). Crash stood up behind the plate and expressed his frustration to Charlie the batter by informing him that the next pitch would be a deuce: "He's shaking me off. You believe that s--t? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well." Knowing what the pitch would be, the batter hit a soaring and powerful home-run - ending the two-hit shutout for Nuke.

The Bulls Become a Winning Team - Due to Nuke's Rechanneling of Sexual Energy:

The next sequence of ball-play - strike-out after strike-out - was accompanied by John Fogerty's "Centerfield" - and Annie's voice-over. During a long celebratory montage, Annie had become dismayed that Crash's advice was finally beginning to pay off: Lesson Number Six - the pitcher's celibacy (rechanneling sexual energy) resulted in a winning streak for the team and for Nuke - while Annie was being deprived of sex:

(voice-over) "When Nuke started listening to Crash, everything fell into place. He started throwing strikes, and we started to win. But Nuke was still confused. He was so encouraged by his victory that he vowed not to have sex until he lost. Unfortunately, however, he kept on winnin' and for one extraordinary June and July, the Durham Bulls began playing baseball with joy and verve and poetry. The two sides of my own brain were all jumbled up and cross-wired. While one side was being neglected the other was in paradise watchin' our Bulls play like big-leaguers. We swept a four-game series at Kinston, two games at Winston-Salem and kicked the holy s--t out of Greensboro in a three-game set. And Crash, who kept hitting dingers, was approachin' the minor-league record, though I told nobody. After sweepin' the July 4 doubleheader, the Durham Bulls were tied for first. Beautiful as the winnin' streak was, I was gettin' damn lonely. Somethin' had to be done. I needed a man."

After another road trip, as the team bus returned to Durham, Nuke joyously told Crash: "I love winning, man. I f--king love winning. You hear what I'm saying? It's like better than losin'. Teach me something new. I need to learn. Teach me something." Crash provided Lesson Number Seven - how to properly do media interviews by using clichés - and by studying and memorizing them:

"You have to learn your cliches. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down.

- We gotta play 'em one day at a time....
- I'm just happy to be here.
- Hope I can help the ball club....
- I just wanna give it my best shot. And the good Lord willing, things will work out."

Nuke admitted that Annie was "steamed" because he had rechanneled his sexual energy, but was considering sleeping with her to "calm her down." Crash discouraged Nuke about giving in, reiterating Lesson Number Six: "If you give in now, you might start losing. Never f--k with a winning streak."

Annie's Failed Seduction of Nuke - and of Crash:

When the bus pulled in to the parking lot in Durham, Millie agreed to listen to Jimmy's religious testimony in exchange for giving him a ride to her place. And in her kitchen, Annie purposely tried to seduce Nuke by circling around him, wearing a backless blouse, and by leaning in with her breasts up against his face. She then offered a back rub, but he discouraged her: "Annie, you can't seduce me." She propped one long leg across the table in front of him and suggested another lesson on hand-eye coordination. She revealed her under-skirt garter snaps attached to her stocking, but Nuke (now educated and possessing self-discipline) was wary and didn't want to fall into her feminine sexual trap:

Annie: "I thought maybe we could work on some fundamentals since we're not gonna make love, and kinda improve your hand-eye coordination.... Unsnap my stocking."
Nuke: "The other day, Crash called a woman's - pussy - uh, well you know how the hair is kind of in a V-shape?...Well, he called it the Bermuda Triangle. He said that a man could get lost in there and never be heard from again....He didn't mean it nasty. He-he said that getting lost and disappearing from the face of the earth was sometimes a good thing to do, especially like that. But he also said that there were times for discipline and self-control. And I think this is one of those times."

She proceeded to show him how to unsnap her garter buckle with just one hand, but he awkwardly struggled with it and then reacted by pushing away: "You're playing with my mind." She admitted her sexual ploy: "I'm trying to play with your body....Of course I'm tryin' to seduce you, for God's sake. I'm doin' a damn poor job of it. Aren't I pretty?" When he called her "cute," she refused his compliment:

"Cute? Baby ducks are cute. I hate cute! I wanna be exotic and mysterious."

She stood up and pleaded: "Nuke, you got it all wrong. There's no relationship between sex and baseball," but Nuke wouldn't listen to her and persisted in following Crash's advice: "He said, if I give into you, I'll start losing again...I'll be back when we lose."

Annie drove over to the Galaxy Apartments where Crash was lodging during the season, and found him ironing in his shorts - a gender-role reversal. She at first tried to overwhelm him with words, and complained that he had rechanneled Nuke's sexual energy into his pitching and away from her:

Annie: "How dare you tell Nuke to stay out of my bed. You are messin' with my private life!...You're confusin' him. You're bendin' his mind all outtta shape."
Crash: "I'm confusing him? You got him breathing out of the wrong god-damn eyelid. You got him parading around the locker room like a fruit."

After he criticized her 'excessive' manner of dress, she was reminded of a quote by William Blake: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. William Blake." He repeatedly deflected her belief in Blake, and asked insultingly: "Who are you? I mean, do you, do you have a job?" After she told him about her part-time teaching position, he told her that her conversations were beginning to confuse him: "Having a conversation with you is -is - is like a Martian talking to a fungo." They mutually charged each other with "being full of s--t."

Their main bone of contention was regarding Nuke's chastity - Crash accused Annie of initiating the idea first:

Crash: "Nuke's chastity was your idea."
Annie: "I know! I'm telling you. Keep your hands out of this."
Crash: "I never told him to stay out of your bed."
Annie: "You most certainly did...Yes you did!"
Crash: "I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak."
Annie: "Oh fine."
Crash: "You know why? 'Cause they don't, they don't happen very often."
Annie: "Right."

He called her out by restating Lesson Number Six: "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you are, and you should know that! (She stood speechless) Come on, Annie. Think of something clever to say. Something full of magic, religion, bulls--t. Come on. Dazzle me."

She simply offered herself to him: "I want you," but when he declined, she accused him of being intimidated by her: "You're scared." He admitted: "Maybe I am" - and invited her to leave. As she departed, she flatly stated:

"This is the damnedest season I've ever seen. I mean, the Durham Bulls can't lose, and I can't get laid."

At a Night Game: A Discussion on the Pitcher's Mound and Crash's Argument With the Home Plate Umpire:

Nuke struggled with his pitching in the Bulls' next game - and Larry repeated what Nuke was blaming his slump on:

"He says his chakras are jammed. He's having trouble breathing out of his, uh, left eyelid...right eyelid."

A time out was called, and during an infield meeting on the mound, Nuke told Crash he was extra-nervous because his father (George Buck) was in the stands behind home plate - operating a home video-camera pointed at him. Deke joined the conversation to talk about the engagement of the amoral groupie Millie and Jimmy. Jose also walked up and warned everyone about another superstition: "Don't throw me anything. My girlfriend put a curse on my glove" - he claimed that the only way to end the curse was to cut off the head of a live rooster.

Larry went to the mound to check on the ceremonial "convention" or pow-wow that had brought the game to a complete halt. Crash told him about the many issues they were dealing with: "...we're dealing with a lotta s--t." Larry was told that the most pressing issue being discussed among the players was the choice of a wedding gift for the upcoming marriage of Jimmy to Millie, so he volunteered his suggestion:

"Well, uh, candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she's registered. Maybe a place-setting or a silverware pattern's good."

As Annie listened to the home game on the radio at home, she was helping to adjust Millie's white wedding dress. She learned that the engaged couple had been together only five hours before he proposed. Annie answered affirmatively to Millie's question: "Annie, do you think I deserve to wear white?"

Meanwhile in the game, an opposing player slid into home plate and the Umpire (Stephen Ware) called the player safe - although it appeared that Crash had tagged him out. Crash spewed obscenities as he stood nose-to-nose with the official: ("It's a cocksucking call!...You can't throw me for that. You can't run me for that! You just spit on me!...You're in the wrong business! You're Sears & Roebuck material!"). Crash goaded him and topped off their argument by calling the Umpire a 'cocksucker' (considered the ultimate no-no word), knowing he would be thrown out of the game.

Nuke's Call to "The Show" - and Annie's Changed Allegiance to Crash:

Annie provided another voice-over, regretting that the player who would now predictably seek sex with her (after the team's loss) would be Nuke - although she had recently switched her romantic allegiance to Crash. She had begun to realize that the more life-experienced and wiser Crash might be a better-suited, more equal match for her sexual come-ons:

(voice-over) "When Crash got thrown out, the game got outta hand. Jose made three errors with his cursed mitt. Nuke never quite got in the groove, though he didn't pitch bad, and the winning streak came to an end with a 3-2 loss. The good news was that a man was about to come calling. Bad news was, it was the wrong guy."

Annie was listening to a recording of Édith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," when a knock on her door prefaced the arrival of Nuke with his father. The horny player pulled her aside and hinted at the reason for his visit, but she held him off:

"We got a lot of catching up to do....Crash tells me I gotta quit worrying about him so I think it's a good opportunity to go for a quickie."

A phone call from Skip to Nuke brought the news that he had been waiting for. He excitedly exclaimed to Annie and his dad: "I'm goin' to the Show....Dad! They're sending me up to the majors. I leave first thing in the morning. Can you believe it?" As Nuke was leaving, Annie wanted to make sure that he would understand that their 'Goodbye' was final: "When somebody leaves Durham, they don't come back." He returned her black garter belt and she gave him one last thought: "Don't think too much." He also set her straight about her coaching: "You can't breathe through your eyelids," and she chuckled back: "Whoever told you such a ridiculous thing?" They parted with one simple and soft kiss. When he left through her front door, she gave a sigh of relief to be freed from him: "Oh, my!"

Crash's Final Two Lessons For Nuke:

Nuke located Crash playing pool in a black section of town with Sandy Grimes (Henry G. Sanders), a retired African-American ball-player in a local bar-hall. He came up and announced his promotion to the big leagues, but Crash reacted very little to the news: "Congratulations. Hope you end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated or maybe a cereal box." He introduced Nuke to Sandy - who during his ball career had batted .376 in Louisville in 1967. Crash attempted to educate Nuke about how difficult it was to bat in the 300s - and he impressed upon him how a very small difference in the number of hits in a total season could lead to either success or failure (a future of playing in the beer leagues or the major leagues).

"You know what the difference between hittin' .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at-bats is 50 points. Okay? There's six months in a season. That's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week. Just one. A gork. You get a ground ball. You get a ground ball with eyes. You get a dying quail. Just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium. You still don't know what I'm talkin' about, do ya? Get the hell outta here."

After dismissing Nuke, Crash tossed a pool ball at him as he was leaving (and broke a mirror), called him a 'f--k,' and taunted him to fight. Crash explained the reason for calling him a f--k":

Crash: "Because you got talent. I got brains, but you got talent. (He gestured toward Nuke's right arm) See this right arm? Worth a million bucks a year. All my limbs put together aren't worth seven cents a pound."
Nuke: "What are you talking about? You're a great catcher."
Crash: "I'm a great catcher?...Hey, Meat!"

Nuke suddenly threw a punch with his southpaw arm and struck Crash in the right eye. Holding his bruised eye, Crash asked: "Did you hit me with your right hand, did you hit me with your left?" When Nuke answered it was his non-pitching left hand, it was another opportunity for a free lesson - Lesson Number Eight:

"When you get in a fight with a drunk, you don't hit him with your pitchin' hand."

The next morning, Nuke was cleaning out his locker while a young boy loaded his luggage into his red Porsche. Crash entered the locker room and apologized for his behavior the previous night: "I have been known on occasion to howl at the moon." He offered some final words for Nuke, providing the film's final lesson - Lesson Number Nine:

"Look, Nuke, these big-league hitters are gonna light you up like a pinball machine for a while, all right? Don't worry about it. You be cocky and arrogant, even when you're gettin' beat. That's the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance....Fear and arrogance, you hayseed, not ignorance."

Millie's and Jimmy's On-Field Marriage:

Two very different world views were symbolically united and brought together at the ballpark through marriage. The bride and groom: the physically-amoral Millie (in her white dress) and the religiously-spiritual Jimmy (in his baseball uniform) were wed in a formal ceremony (on the pitcher's mound) held with fans watching from the stands while the stadium organist played: "The Wedding March." Annie served as the bridesmaid and Skip was the best man. After the kissing of the bride, the couple walked through a gauntlet of players 'down the aisle' to home plate as the player-attendees tossed popcorn at them. After the game, the locker room was decorated with streamers and colored balloons, and the players celebrated with champagne. An X-rated wedding cake was presented to Jimmy from the team - two small decorative plastic Ken and Barbie dolls were making love atop the layer cake.

Crash's Release From the Bulls:

Summoned from the showers during the celebration with only a towel around his waist, Crash entered Skip's office - where he was coldly released (with the same boilerplate speech given earlier to Bobby) from the team, to be replaced by a younger rookie catcher, although there might be an opportunity for him to be a minor league manager in Visalia in the future. He stoically accepted the news and sought to retire with dignity:

Skip: "This is the toughest job a manager has. But, the organization wants to make a change. Now that Nuke's gone, they wanna bring up some young catcher."
Larry: "Some kid hitting .300 in Bluefield. He's probably a bust."
Skip: "I put in a word for you with the organization. Told them I thought you might make a fine minor-league manager someday. There might be an opening at Visalia next year. You had a hell of a year, Crash. But... you know how it is."

Later, Crash sat in the pool hall-bar drinking a beer before he walked alone back to his apartment, as soulful jazz music played. On his way, he knocked on Annie's door. When she answered, she already knew that he had been released. She brought him a drink - and then kissed his bruised right eye. As they became passionate with each other, he used one hand to pull up her skirt and skillfully (and effortlessly) unsnap her black stocking garter (this was the same snap that "Nuke" had earlier struggled to uncatch). His move caused her to exclaim: "Oh, my!" His first advance was followed by the unbuttoning of the back of her dress. She unbuckled his trouser's belt and undid his pants, and then kissed his slightly-hairy bare chest and sucked on his nipple. They made love in her bed - and rolled over, tumbling to the floor, but still kissing and locked together, as she grabbed for traction from a nearby dresser table leg - moaning and shaking. Makeup bottles and other objects rattled and fell to the floor.

Their love-making was followed in the kitchen by snacking on bowls of Wheaties ("Breakfast of Champions"). She was wearing his oversized sports jacket perched on the sink (while he wore one of her satin kimono robes at the table), as they spoke about reincarnation:

Annie: "I think probably with my love for four-legged creatures and hooves and everything, that in another lifetime I was probably Catherine the Great or Francis of Assisi. I'm not sure which one. What do you think, honey?"
Crash: "How come in former lifetimes everybody is somebody famous? I mean, how come nobody ever says they were 'Joe Schmoe'?"
Annie (laughing): "Because it doesn't work that way, you fool." (He fed her a spoonful of his Wheaties)

She glowed at him: "God, you are gorgeous," and then asked: "You wanna dance?" He tossed his cereal bowl into the sink where it smashed into pieces, and then pulled her onto the kitchen table (overturning a half-gallon plastic bottle of milk), where they resumed making love after he answered: "Yes." Annie responded: "I guess you do." After a dissolve, the two were next seen dancing in her living room to the tune of the Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man."

In the next scene, there was a major role-reversal. Annie's arms were tied to the bedpost (she had tied Nuke earlier with the same straps), as she succumbed and surrendered to having her toenails painted red by underwear-wearing "Crash" during an impromptu pedicure. And then they were cavorting in the bathtub together - he was kissing her bare chest and embracing her while the two were surrounded by candles. Their wild sloshing and splashing doused the flames on the candles next to the tub. After their very sensual bout of love-making, they slept until early the next morning when Crash left her bed and wrote a goodbye note before driving off.

Annie awoke and found his note left behind. Now a free agent, he was off to see if he could play for another team, the Asheville Tourists. In voice-over, she pondered about the new development in their lives, with a montage of images. Crash drove away to Asheville and was soon playing for the new team. She also told about how she had heard that he had broken the minor-league record for career home runs - he was seen slamming a home run at home plate - and she was inspired to quote Thomas Gray:

(voice-over) "Crash took off at dawn. Said he heard there might be an openin' for a catcher in Asheville in the South Atlantic League. A woman should be so strong and powerful that she's not affected by such things. I mean it wasn't the first time I went to bed with a guy and woke up with a note. At least the son of a bitch left me breakfast. You have to respect a ballplayer who's just tryin' to finish the season. At least, that's what I told myself. Baseball may be a religion full of magic cosmic truth in the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it's also a job...

When Crash hit his 247th home run, I knew the moment it happened, but I'm sure nobody else did. And The Sporting News didn't say anythin' about it. 'Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.' Thomas Gray. Or William Cullen Bryant. I don't know, I get 'em mixed up.

[Note: The quote was an excerpt from the 14th Stanza of English poet Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751).]

Anyway, my attempts at housekeepin' were feeble as usual. I sometimes get easily distracted. Funny thing was, I stopped worryin' about Nuke. Somehow I knew nothin' would stop him. The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness. Crash was right. Nuke had a gift."

By the end of the film, "Nuke" had been called up and promoted to the majors. Seen one last time and now wearing a T-shirt for the ska-punk band Fishbone, he was being interviewed by TV reporter Raye Anne in a baseball stadium. He was using the proper cliched words (underlined) that Crash had taught him.

"I'm just happy to be here, and I, uh, hope I can help the ball club. You know, I just wanna give it my best shot, and good Lord willing, things will work out. You know, you got to play 'em one day at a time though. (To the interviewer) Raye Anne, right? That's a beautiful name. Is that Greek? That Raye Anne. I don't know. It's a beautiful name, though. There's a great song by Motley Crue. Do you know it? 'Raye Anne, she's a stay in.' [Note: There was no Motley Crue song as he described.] Anyway, a good friend of mine used to say, 'This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball. You hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.' Think about that for a while."

At the very end of the film, Annie was sitting with a purple umbrella in the RESERVED section of the stands, watching the grounds-crew roll out a protective tarp onto the field at the Durham Bulls' stadium during a heavy rainstorm. In the dugout, Skip and Larry were chewing tobacco and spitting it out, while Larry was reading a book titled "Mayan Wisdom Made Easy." As she walked home through puddles, she spotted Crash sitting on her porch-swing in the front of her house. After his short stint with the Asheville team, he had returned to Durham and Annie on the late-summer rainy day. He told her that after setting the HR record, he had quit: "I quit. Hit my dinger and I hung 'em up." She also told him about her own future goal - to quit her usual pursuits: "I'm quitting too. I mean boys, not baseball." He still had aspirations, however, to become the manager of a minor-league team in Visalia in the spring. With tears in her eyes, she thought he'd make a "great" manager.

When she started another long-winded, philosophical lecture on how his non-linear thinking would be good for the sport, he cut her short. She agreed to set aside her egotistical impulses to always be in control and to philosophize, and instead just let go:

Crash: "I got a lotta time to hear your theories. And I wanna hear every damn one of them, but now I'm tired and I don't wanna think about baseball. And I don't wanna think about Quantum Physics. And I don't wanna think about nothin'. I just wanna be."
Annie: "I can do that, too."

She would have another chance to sample "Crash's" three-day long kisses. By this time, Crash and Annie had concluded that they would retreat from baseball and embrace an intellectually and emotionally mature relationship together. They realized that the male-oriented sport wasn't everything in life - and that just being together was more primary.

She spoke to the audience and again referenced the great American poet Walt Whitman as she did at the beginning of the film, with a paraphrased quote about how baseball had provided blessings to them:

(voice-over) "Walt Whitman once said, 'I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.' You could look it up."

[Note: Many efforts have been made to verify the source of Whitman's quote widely attributed to him by Annie - as above, but none of Whitman's writings contained the exact quote. Therefore, the baseball quote was just an urban legend. However, one of Whitman's devotees, Horace L. Traubel, had conducted and then published numerous conversations he had with the famed poet in the mid-1880s to the early 1890s, one of which in 1888 contained a longer confident statement about the significance of the sport of base-ball. It contained the essence of what Annie's paraphrase had stated:

"I like your interest in sports ball, chiefest of all base-ball particularly: base-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by so doing we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!"

From "With Walt Whitman in Camden, Vol. 2" (quoted from Whitman in September 1888) ]

The film concluded with them dancing in front of Annie's glowing, candle-lit shrine, to the tune of "Love Ain't No Triple Play" (written and performed by Bennie Wallace & Dr. John), as the end credits scrolled. One close-up image of a part of Annie's 'shrine' was a tribute to legendary NY Yankees baseball catcher Thurman Munson who died in a plane crash in 1979 at the age of 32.

Previous Page