Durham native Thom Mount was the boy wonder of Universal Pictures, becoming its president in 1976 at the preposterous age of 26. He survived in the job for seven years and has survived as an independent producer since. His producing career has been erratic, to say the least, but Bull Durham, his biggest success, was very big indeed. He joined forces with writer/ director Ron Shelton, who based the script on his own experiences in minor league baseball. When Mount secured a $9 million budget from now-defunct Orion Pictures and brought the production to Durham, the project ended up being a valentine to his hometown.
And what a valentine it turned out to be. In 2003, Sports Illustrated named Bull Durham the best sports film of all time—high praise when one considers that the No. 2, 3 and 4 slots were given to Rocky, Raging Bull and Hoop Dreams.
Today's Durham is considerably different from the sleepy Southern city glimpsed in the movie released two decades ago—not least the team itself, which now performs at the AAA level, with many major league-quality players, in the much fancier Durham Bulls Athletic Park, to which the team relocated in 1995. The old Durham Athletic Park still stands, and our writer Adam Sobsey remembers the rough and tumble atmosphere of those days ("The bad boys of summer"). Grayson Currin talks to one of the greatest players to wear a Bulls uniform ("My life as a Bull"), while Jessica Fuller tracks down people who were involved in the film's shoot, which took place in the late fall of 1987 ("Deleted scenes and extras"). And finally, G.D. Gearino, a longtime Raleigh resident, takes a dimmer view of the film's importance ("Bullshitty").
This Friday, July 4, the city of Durham and the Durham Bulls franchise celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film's release. Kevin Costner, who played the veteran minor league catcher "Crash" Davis in the film, will perform with his band Modern West. According to its MySpace page, the band's influences range from U2 to Modest Mouse to Carole King. The concert begins at 7:05 p.m., and ticket prices range from $8 to $50. Visit www.dbulls.com for more info. —David Fellerath