Ron Shelton cast Tim Robbins over the strong objections of the studio, who wanted Anthony Michael Hall instead. Shelton had to threaten to quit before they backed off.
Ron Shelton was a former minor league baseball player and used his experience as the basis for the story.
In the meeting at the pitcher's mound, Robert Wuhl ad-libbed his line about getting candlesticks as a wedding present. He said it was based on a real conversation he had with his wife.
As the credits are rolling at the end of the film, there is a picture (which is made to be a shrine) of Yankee great Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash.
Kurt Russell helped Ron Shelton develop the script and was originally penciled in to play Crash, the part that went to Kevin Costner. After the film was made, Russell was so impressed, he actually wrote fan letters to Costner and Shelton.
The bar scene takes place in Mitch's Tavern on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, North Carolina, across the street from NC State University. Today, in Mitch's there are a few mementos from the movie: framed film still of Crash Davis and Annie Savoy (autographed by Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner) and the glass door which Nuke Laloosh breaks is framed. The furniture, fixtures, and layout of the tavern largely remain the same as they were in 1988.
Although Kevin Costner plays the 'older', more experienced ball player, in real life he's only three years older than Tim Robbins (33 and 30, respectively during filming), and Susan Sarandon was actually 42.
Grady Little, who was credited as "baseball trainer" in the film credits was actually the manager of the real Durham Bulls of the Carolina League at the time.
The "rainout" scene was based on actual event. In the late 1960s, Ron Shelton played minor-league ball in the Texas League. Shelton's team was in Amarillo, Texas for a season-ending series. The night before the final game, Shelton, some teammates and some Amarillo players were out partying and decided to go to the stadium and turn on the sprinkler system, thereby flooding the field and ensuring a "rainout". However, the Amarillo team owner rented a helicopter, dried the field, and the game was played.
Real-life couple Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have stated that of all the films they have made during their respective careers, this remains their personal favorite.
In their confrontation outside the bar, Crash tells Nuke, "I hear you couldn't hit water if you fell out of a fucking boat." Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said this in 1984, in reference to weak-hitting San Diego Padres infielder Kurt Bevacqua.
Kurt Russell, who helped Ron Shelton develop the script, also played minor league baseball in the early-1970s
The bull billboard offering a "free steak" if it gets tagged by a home run was created for the film. The real-life team kept it, even after moving to a newer, bigger stadium, Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Even today, if a player hits the bull on the fly with a home run, he wins a free steak from a local restaurant, and if the player hits the grass that the bull stands on, he wins a free salad.
In 2003, a 15th anniversary celebration of the film at the National Baseball Hall of Fame was cancelled by Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey. Petroskey, who was on the White House staff during the Reagan administration, told Tim Robbins that the actor's public opposition to the US-led war in Iraq helped to "undermine the U.S. position, which could put our troops in even more danger." Kevin Costner, a self-described libertarian, defended Robbins and Susan Sarandon, saying, "I think Tim and Susan's courage is the type of courage that makes our democracy work. Pulling back this invite is against the whole principle about what we fight for and profess to be about."
The movie was filmed on location in North Carolina in October and November, 1987, which is why the grass had to be touched up with green paint. It is also why the breath of the actors can be seen in many of the night scenes.
The costume designer did a little research and learned that the last baseball jersey number director Ron Shelton ever wore as a minor league player was number 8. So she gave Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) that number.
Ron Shelton cast Kevin Costner because of the actor's natural athleticism. He was a former high school baseball player and was able to hit two home runs while the cameras were rolling and, according to Shelton, insisted "on throwing runners out even when they (the cameras) weren't rolling".
When Ron Shelton pitched the film, he had a hard time convincing a studio to give him the opportunity to direct. Baseball movies were not considered a viable commercial prospect at the time and every studio passed except for Orion Pictures who gave him a $9 million budget (with many cast members accepting lower than usual salaries because of the material), an eight-week shooting schedule and creative freedom. The film's success helped spark a boom of baseball movies in the years afterward, which included Major League, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, and A League of Their Own.
Kevin Costner (Crash Davis) is a switch hitter; he is shown hitting both left and right-handed at different points in the film.
Producer Thom Mount (who is part owner of the real Durham Bulls) hired Pete Bock, a former semi-pro baseball player, as a consultant on the film. Bock recruited more than a dozen minor-league players, ran a tryout camp to recruit an additional 40 to 50 players from lesser ranks, hired several minor-league umpires and conducted two-a-day workouts and practice games with Tim Robbins pitching and Kevin Costner catching. Bock made sure the actors looked and acted like ballplayers and that the real players acted convincingly in front of the cameras. He said, "the director would say, 'This is the shot we want. What we need is the left fielder throwing a one-hopper to the plate. Then we need a good collision at the plate.' I would select the players I know could do the job, and then we would go out and get it done".
According to director Ron Shelton in the DVD commentary, he came up with the name Ebbie Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) after being served in a restaurant by a waiter named Ebbie Calvin "Nook" LaRoosh. Shelton thought it was a stand-out name and changed the spelling of the nickname and last name.
The "big club" is referenced several times during the movie, though it is never made completely clear what major league team the Bulls are affiliated with. At the time of the filming, the Durham Bulls were a Carolina League Single A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. As of 2013, the Durham Bulls are the Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Trey Wilson, who played Durham manager Joe Riggins, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 40, seven months after this film's release.
In the scene where the Bulls have returned from the long road trip, Annie is seen at the game wearing a black veil and appearing as if she had just come from a funeral. This is because the previous scene, where Annie attends Max Patkin's funeral, was deleted in post-production. Ron Shelton had written a scene where Max was killed in a car crash during the season.
The note that Crash writes to Annie actually reads "Let's fuck sometime" not "I want to make love to you". It can be seen over Crash's right shoulder when he writes the note in the dugout.
When Nuke says, "Annie, I know you're in there, I can hear that crazy Mexican music," the song on the phonograph is 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien'. It is a famous recording by 'Edith Piaf', who is singing in French.
Originally, after Annie and Crash have their argument in Crash's apartment, there was a scene in which Annie and Crash go to a bar and have a heart-to-heart talk. In the talk, Crash asks Annie why she loves baseball so much. She explains that several years before, her estranged father passed away and that the funeral took place in Florida. She was so distraught after the funeral that she wandered off and ended up at the New York Yankees spring training facility where she met legendary Yankees catcher, Thurman Munson (thus explaining her shrine to Munson seen in the film). From then on, she developed a deep-rooted love of the game. According to Ron Shelton in the DVD commentary, he cut that scene out when it was received poorly during a test screening. After the scene was removed, a second test screening was done and the movie received a high score.
Near the end of the movie, Annie quotes some poetry in a voiceover and then says "That was Thomas Gray... or William Cullen Bryant, I forget which." It was indeed Thomas Gray, and it was taken from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard".
Film crews went to Chapel Hill and recruited Pink Floyd concert goers; many extras wore Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts, as they came straight from the concert.
During a conversation between Crash and Nuke on the team bus, a newspaper's sports page is shown briefly with a headline reading "Hard-hittin' Whiten". At the time the movie was filmed in 1987, Mark Whiten was a top prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays in the South Atlantic League and made that league's All-Star Game. Whiten said he missed his brief moment of fame when he first saw the movie in the theatre, but caught it when he rented it later. Whiten went on to have a fairly ordinary 11-year career in the majors highlighted by one 1993 game in which he tied two major league records with four homers and 12 RBI.
Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Sports" in June 2008.
The line "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" is from William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell".
For years, Ron Shelton has contemplated making a sequel and remarked, "I couldn't figure out in the few years right after it came out, what do you do? Nuke's in the big leagues, Crash is managing in Visalia. Is Annie going to go to Visalia? I've been to Visalia. That will test a relationship ... It was not a simple fable to continue with - not that we don't talk about continuing it, now that everyone's in their 60s".
When Nuke is giving his interview at the big league stadium after being called up to the majors, he's wearing a t-shirt for the ska-punk band Fishbone. Tim Robbins in real life is a huge fan of the band. Fishbone would also feature in the movie Tapeheads (1988), released later that same year, starring Robbins and John Cusack, who is also a big fan of Fishbone.
According to Ron Shelton, "I wrote a very early script about minor league baseball; the only thing it had in common with Bull Durham was that it was about a pitcher and a catcher." That script was titled, The Player To Be Named Later; a single anecdote from that script made it into Bull Durham. For this film, Shelton "decided to see if a woman could tell the story" and "dictated that opening monologue on a little micro-recorder while I was driving around North Carolina." After Shelton returned to Los Angeles from his road trip, he wrote the script in "about twelve weeks."
The field where the Durham Bulls played in the movie still has the original bull on the outfield fence. But they had to move the bull from right field to left field because they had to redo the right field fencing.
When Nuke is promoted to the majors we see him giving a television interview. This scene was filmed at Arlington Stadium, which was the former home field for the Major League team the Texas Rangers.
Early in the film Kevin Costner's character states that he thinks Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. A few years later he would star in JFK (1991), whose protagonist believes Oswald did not act alone and was possibly a fall guy for the Kennedy assassination.
Crash was modelled on Pike Bishop, William Holden's character in The Wild Bunch (1969): a guy who "loved something more than it loved him."
When Crash Davis first arrives to the Durham Bulls, he mentions Larry Hockett pitching for El Paso when Crash was batting for Shreveport in the Texas League five years prior. In 1983, there were Texas League teams in the mentioned cities, the El Paso Diablos and Shreveport Captains. Both teams still exist in the Texas League under new names. The Diablos became the Springfield Cardinals, and the Captains became the Frisco Roughriders.
The team's manager tells Crash that the team in Visalia is looking for a manager. Kevin Costner went to school for a year at Mt. Whitney HS in Visalia, California, which had - and still has - a single-A team.
The book Robert Wuhl's character (Larry Hockett) is reading during the rain-out near the end of the film is titled 'Mayan Wisdom Made Easy', which appears to be a fictional title/book.
Paula Abdul incorrectly believed that in exchange for choreographing Tim Robbins' bar dance moves, she would get a line or two in the movie. When told that no such deal was agreed upon, Abdul "marched off screaming," according to Ron Shelton.
In one scene, 'Nuke' LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) gives up a home run that strikes the bull, supposedly rewarding the opposing hitter with a free steak. In reality, at the old Durham Athletic Park, the bull was in foul territory.
The studio thought that Susan Sarandon was too old and not funny enough to play Annie. So producer Thom Mount had Sarandon (who was 41 during production) go to Orion Pictures co-founder Mike Medavoy's office in a tight dress and lean over his desk for half an hour. "As a rule, most studio executives' strong suit isn't imagination," Sarandon recalled to Sports Illustrated in 2012. "So when you're trying to get a part, it helps for them to be able to envision you in the part. I definitely didn't go in there in a T-shirt and jeans. I remember I had on an off-the-shoulder red-and-white-striped dress. It was very form-fitting. It was understood what I had to do."
Melanie Griffith was considered for the role of Annie Savoy, but she was busy with Working Girl (1988).
As is the case with many baseball films, the actors are using bats that are the models used by actual major leaguers. The character Bobby uses a George Brett model and Jose uses a Chet Lemon model.
Both Carrie Fisher and Debra Winger auditioned for the role of Annie but backed out.
Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis were considered to play the parts of Annie and Crash but declined due to their commitment to the TV series Moonlighting (1985).
Charlie Sheen was considered for the role of Nuke LaLoosh, but he was already committed to another baseball movie, Eight Men Out (1988).
Nick Nolte, one of the biggest male stars at the time, turned down the lead because he had just finished several movies back-to-back, and, most importantly, because he isn't a fan of baseball. Nolte famously played a footballer in North Dallas Forty (1979), a movie he co-wrote.
Michelle Pfeiffer auditioned for the role of Annie Savoy but wasn't cast due to being perceived as too young.
Kelly McGillis was interested to play the role of Annie but turned it down. Instead, McGillis starred in The Accused (1988).
Although the film was set during a long hot summer, it was actually shot in late fall/early winter. In several scenes, you can see the breath coming from the actors' mouths.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
Glenn Close auditioned for the role of Annie but was forced to turn the role down due to her commitment to the film Dangerous Liaisons (1988).
In one memorable scene, the Tim Robbins character sings a song incorrectly, using the word "wooly". Four years after the movie's release, the Durham Bulls named a new mascot. Since the Depression, the mascot had been a bull, but in 1992, they created the character "Wool E. Bull", which sounds like "wooly" but has "E" for "education".
June 15, 2018 celebrated 30 years from the movie's release date. At the DBAP (Durham Bulls Athletic Park). Ron Shelton threw out the first pitch.
Kay Lenz was one of director Ron Shelton's top choices for Annie, but the studio didn't feel she was bankable enough.
According to the audio commentary for Ant-Man (2015), the director, Peyton Reed, drove a van as a production assistant for the production of Bull Durham (1988). He says he has a picture of Susan Sarandon autographing his forehead.
The front of the Wheaties box from which Crash eats depicts Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.
In the first few years after the film's release, Ron Shelton considered where the characters would be, specifically whether Annie would follow Crash to his managing job in Visalia. But now that the actors are over 25 years older, it's apparently no longer under consideration.
Kevin Costner's casting over Kurt Russell as Crash Davis led to several intersections and coincidences between the actors over the next two decades. Both starred as Wyatt Earp in competing projects, Russell in Tombstone (1993) and Costner in Wyatt Earp (1994). They co-starred in 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001). Russell replaced Costner as Ace Woody in Django Unchained (2012), but Russell left the project and the character was excised from the film. Finally, both actors played the father of a comic book character: Costner as Jonathan Kent, adopted father of Clark Kent/Superman in Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Russell as Ego, father of Peter Quill/Star-Lord, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
Isabella Rossellini was offered the role of Annie Savoy, but turned it down in a fear of being typecast as a "femme fatale".
"Bull Durham" is the name of a minor character in the young adult novel "Summer of the Swans," by author Betsy Byars, published in 1970.
Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christopher Lambert, Stephen Lang, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were considered to play Crash Davis.
When Millie introduces herself to Bobby (David Neidorf) and he shakes her hand, you can see that his bat is a George Brett model.
Trey Wilson, as Manager Jim Riggins, wears an under-jersey sporting the "Wilson" Sporting Goods logo.
Annie tells Crash that, for work, she teaches part-time at "Alamance Junior College". There is an Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina, about 30 miles from Durham, which may be what Annie is referring to.
The soundtrack song, "When a Woman Loves a Man", is regularly confused with the Percy Sledge song, "When A Man Loves A Woman", written by Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman. The correct attribution (Bernie Hanighen, Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer) is given in the film credits, but in online sources and on soundtrack and other CDs, the songwriters are incorrectly identified as Midnight and Hartman.