Yup, it’s baseball! Specifically, my favorite baseball movie of all time, Bull Durham. I won’t wax totally poetic about the movie, having done that before, but…I’ve got baseball on the brain. Why?
Well, I have a friend at work whose favorite hobby is collecting sports autographs. And while he does buy signed items from memorabilia stores and online, he does most of the legwork himself: he goes to the ballpark and the arena and the stadium and various other places and gets stuff signed himself. He’s got a ton of great stories about the hobby and the thrill of the autograph chase, such as a time he and some friends went into a hotel bar, one at a time, to get Jim Plunkett, the onetime Raiders quarterback (and two-time Super Bowl MVP), to sign. The punchline that night was the last guy, who went up to him with a photo of a Raiders quarterback wearing number 16…only to have Plunkett tell him, “That’s not me.” He’d approached Plunkett with a photo of George Blanda.
Anyway, this weekend my friend has a shot at getting the autograph of the oldest active athlete in his collection: baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer. Moyer is 49 years old, and after starting the season with the Rockies and getting cut, signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles this week. They sent him to AAA Norfolk, who play this weekend at Buffalo against our Bisons. Moyer is scheduled to pitch tomorrow.
Moyer was born with JFK was President, less than a year after my parents were married. He made his Major League debut on June 16, 1986, when Ronald Reagan was President. The top movie at the box office the week of Moyer’s debut was Back to School, starring Rodney Dangerfield. And even though Moyer made his MLB debut in 1986, he would not win his first World Series ring until 2008, when he pitched with the Phillies.
What does this have to do with Bull Durham? Well, there’s something Crash Davis-esque in Moyer’s refusal to retire before he’s damned good and ready. As Annie Savoy says in the film after Crash gets cut by the Durham Bulls and travels to the next town down the road to try to catch on with another team in a slightly smaller, slightly crappier ballpark, “You have to respect a ballplayer whose just trying to finish the season.”
Of course, Jamie Moyer is something of the opposite of Crash Davis; if Crash is the guy who keeps playing and playing and playing and yet he can’t quite crack the Majors, Moyer’s the guy who keeps playing and playing and playing and the Majors can’t get rid of him. Moyer’s never been a great pitcher, but he’s been solid enough for long enough, and a baseball rotation isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t have a solid guy going up there every fifth day so the staff ace’s arm doesn’t fall off.
Anyway, here’s a great scene from Bull Durham. Tough to pick one, as the movie has nothing but great scenes.
CRASH COMING OUT OF THE SHOWER -- Toweling off, watching the innocent, vulgar fun. He sits down in front of his locker, drying his hair, when the CLUBHOUSE BOY approaches: CLUBHOUSE BOY Hey, Crash -- Skip wants to see ya. CRASH RISES AND HEADS FOR SKIP'S CUBICLE -- Wearing only a towel and his shower shoes. CUT TO: INSIDE SKIP'S OFFICE -- Skip and Larry sit in postgame routine, checking charts, smoking, half dressed. CRASH ENTERS as he's still drying off. CRASH Yeah, Skip, you wanted to see me? SKIP Crash, shut the door. And it hits him. Crash looks at Skip, who looks down at the floor, unwilling to face Crash who then looks at Larry, who also looks away nervously. CRASH SHUTS THE DOOR -- The party rages beyond. SKIP (heartfelt) This is the toughest job a manager has... CLOSE ON CRASH -- He's been in the game too long to be surprised; nonetheless, he's surprised. And hurt. His stoicism is professional. SKIP The organization wants to make a change... now that Nuke's gone they wanta bring up some young catcher... LARRY Some kid hittin' .300 in Lynchburg... probably a bust. SKIP I put in a word for you with the organization -- told 'em I thought you'd make a fine minor league manager someday... Might be an opening at Salem next year -- EXTREME CLOSE UP ON CRASH -- His eyes are moist. SKIP Helluva year, Crash -- you know how it is. Silence. Crash stands there nearly nude. He just nods slightly. Without rancor or bitterness, he turns and re-enters the raucous locker room.
Sometimes I forget how far beyond the "oh, my" scene this movie goes. Nice choice.
My boys love them some Jamie Moyer, specifically because of his stint with the Phillies.