Order Reprint of this Story June 15, When the Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike prior to the season, the result was the cancellation of spring training. The strike extended 13 days into the regular season, costing the major leagues 86 games. Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce.
If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. Ron Shelton was a mid-level prospect in the Baltimore organization, having advanced to Triple-A Rochester for the season. He batted a respectable. Shelton was realistic about his standing with the Orioles. Davey Johnson was cemented at second base with the big club. Bobby Grich was a budding star in the system, and Bob Bailor was on the way.
If nothing else during his five seasons of professional baseball, Shelton took away a new-found affection for motion pictures.
When you are stationed in such minor-league outposts as Bluefield, West Virginia, and Stockton, California, there often is no better way to wile away time than by attending matinee shows at the local theater. He certainly was not the first to recognize that nearly every sports-themed movie to that point carried a similar story line and rarely, if ever, strayed from the field of play. Essentially, there were no sports movies about the lives surrounding the games, and all seemed to focus on the cheerful endings of a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, clinching touchdown in the final seconds or come-from-behind victory in basketball.
He could write about a world in sports that he knew better than anyone else in the movie business because he had experienced it. A year later, he returned to school to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature.
He dabbled in screenwriting in his off hours. The movie was Lysistrata in the minor leagues. Lysistrata was an ancient Greek play in which the title character convinces the women of her country to withhold sexual favors to their husbands until they negotiate peace to end the Peloponnesian War.
Shelton said his story would be told by a woman who is wooed by both the pitcher and catcher on the team. I thought there was an emotional center in this. It would have resonance to people.
His father later became a successful and prominent attorney in Durham with an unabashed love of minor-league baseball, more specifically the Durham Bulls.
Not only did Mount have fond memories of running free in the old ballpark, but also watching the likes of budding stars such as Dick McAuliffe in , and Gates Brown in , when the Bulls were a Detroit Tigers affiliate, and Rusty Staub in when Durham was a farm club of the Houston Colt.
Mount left Durham at age 16, months before his scheduled graduation from Durham High School. He earned an undergraduate degree from Bard College in upstate New York, then accepted a painting scholarship to attend graduate school at California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles during its first year of operation in While in graduate school, Mount began working in the movie business under the legendary Roger Corman, who was known as the Pope of Pop Cinema because of his work on independent films.
Like anyone attempting to break into Hollywood, Mount had his turn at reading scripts, including some for actress Jane Fonda. In early , he was a reader at Universal Studios and an assistant to one of its mid-range vice presidents, who turned many projects over to Mount. Wasserman saw Mount as a future executive and put the aspiring star in charge of studio relationships with such luminaries as Edith Head, Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Newman.
Mount became known early on as a white man producing black movies. More importantly, he was on the cutting edge of infusing black talent into every aspect—from screen writing to acting to producing—of what previously was a nearly lily-white motion picture business. That the movies were making money as well made Mount somewhat of a young sensation. A couple of years later, Mount fielded a telephone call from an old friend and baseball fanatic, Van Schley. Texas City competed in the Class A Lone Star League, which was composed of six teams independent of major-league affiliations.
The Texas City Stars were not exactly a smashing success in their only year of operation. Al Gallagher, 31 years old and just four years removed from his final days in the major leagues, both played and managed the club to a record and last-place finish in the three-team North Division.
Fewer than fans on average attended the home games. In the end, the entire league folded when the Corpus Christi Seagulls refused to compete in the playoffs for financial reasons. That inauspicious debut into baseball ownership did not deter Mount from future investments in the game with Schley, who later on also roped movie star Bill Murray into part ownership of several teams from Utica, New York, to Amarillo, Texas, to Anderson, South Carolina, to Bellingham, Washington.
In , Mount received another phone call from Schley about investment in a minor-league club. Schley explained that an aspiring writer from North Carolina had recently left the Atlanta Braves and needed investors in the rejuvenation of the Durham Bulls.
Mount could not possibly turn down an opportunity to obtain part-ownership of his hometown club. As a youngster hanging out at Durham Athletic Park, Mount learned an appreciation for the struggles of minor-leaguers attempting to realize their dream of one day playing in the big leagues. His father also taught him the nuances of the game, from situations and strategies to the drama that often builds from the first inning to the last.
Durham native Thom Mount, left, the producer of the hit movie 'Bull Durham', and Ron Shelton, who was a writer and the director of the film, talk about the experience as part of the 20th anniversary celebration in Durham in April It has none of the cut-and-dried brutality of football. It has none of the testosterone nonsense of ice hockey. It has very little of the complex strategy of tennis, for instance. Of all the sports, I think baseball is heart surgery.
I think it touches the heart. First, it was about baseball, which nobody in the motion picture business at the time believed was worth producing. It also was about minor-league baseball, which had even less appeal to Hollywood producers.
Then came selection of actors and a site to begin filming. Shelton had done second-unit directing on occasion, but had never been in charge of a film. No matter, Mount determined that no one could interpolate the script better than the man who wrote it. Shelton would be the director, and Mount sent him on a scouting mission of minor-league cities in the Class A Carolina League and South Atlantic League.
Guys had become very distant, had agents and publicists. Major league baseball players used to be regular guys, and suddenly they had become celebrities and had become off-putting in many cases. They made no money. You could still talk to the girls you were trying to get a date with in the stands. You could send notes. Everybody was real close. You knew people in the town.
The stork kind of hung over everybody, so you could get released at any second. Shelton needed no input. He found everything he wanted in Durham. He liked the idea that Durham was rundown with vacated tobacco warehouses and boarded up downtown storefronts. He found a down-and-out, minor-league town that represented his story well. Shelton also liked that fans could still walk to games from nearby neighborhoods.
Vacant warehouses could be converted to studios, thus eliminating the cost of transporting sets around the city during filming. Durham Athletic Park was perfect, a cozy ballpark with surrounding buildings tight to the outfield fences. It personified a small-town atmosphere. Mount could then work on a name for the movie. He liked an indirect link from the movie to its title.
He had two movies in the can: Harris, and presented her with the script. Harris loved it and turned it over to Costner. When Costner read it, he wanted to show off his athletic skills to Shelton and the two met at a batting cage. Despite stories over the years that several other big-name actors, such as Kurt Russell and Harrison Ford, were approached about the lead role, Shelton said Costner was the only actor who was ever considered. Every studio turned down the movie.
One studio director said he might accept the movie if Mount dumped Costner and put someone else in the lead role. Generally, Mount was told the movie lacked commercial appeal, and it could not attract a foreign audience, which was a prerequisite at the time. The studio did grant Shelton much creative freedom in producing the movie. The movie now had a start date and enough financing to begin making offers and start auditioning.
It has been reported numerous times that several actresses, including Kay Lenz, Ellen Barkin and Kim Bassinger, turned down offers for the lead role.
Several actresses did audition, and Shelton was impressed by their performances. The final casting decision was made by committee, and Sarandon was not on the original list. Finally, the studio added Sarandon, and she agreed to fly from Italy to California with her young daughter to audition.
She won over the audience and, according to Shelton, was the only actress offered the lead role. Next, the movie needed an actor to play the role of a young, budding star on his way to the big leagues.
This proved to be a most difficult task because not just any young actor would do. Shelton wanted someone very different from Costner in every way.
His reasoning was that if the script had two players going after the same girl, he did not want them to be carbon copies of each other. They had to be different physically as well as in style and tone. Robbins was much more out-going than the reserved Costner. Robbins, at least in the movie, comes across as knee-jerk in his reactions on and off the field. Costner, in his role, is the wiser, more cautious decision-maker.
Baseball player Lawrence "Crash" Davis is shown in this Jan.