The pinnacle of the 2023 MLB season is upon us with the Texas Rangers taking on the Arizona Diamondbacks starting this weekend. The Rangers are red hot, having swept the Rays [2nd best record in the AL] and the O’s [best record in the AL] and then taking down the Astros, the defending World Series Champs. On the NL, side, it is somehow the D-backs, and not the two most formidle teams in the majors, the Braves and and Dodgers. Who knew?
This week’s Power Poll celebrates the baseball spirit in the middle of the college football season, with quotes from one of my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham. To appreciate the context of these movie scenes I’ll lay out a brief synopsis of the main characters.
Crash Davis, played by Yellowstone’s Kevin Costner, is a veteran minor league baseball catcher who has been demoted to A-ball for the sole purpose of mentoring Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh [played by Tim Robbins], the team’s big pitching prospect who has a “million dollar arm and a five-cent head.” Annie Savoy, played by Susan Sarandon, is a fantastic and unique character. She is an English teacher at a local community college, a philosopher, a mystic, a lover of the game of baseball, and a mentor herself. Each season, she chooses a player from the Durham Bulls to mentor professionally and sexually. Here are some of her criteria: “I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250, not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle.”
Here is another revealing quote to this enigmatic move character:
Annie: “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring.”
I had no idea there were 108 beads in a catholic rosary and 108 stitches in a baseball. I don’t even know if that’s true. Nevertheless, its’ a fantastic line.
There is an instant attraction between Crash and Annie. However, they are both too stubborn and prideful to admit to their attraction, both wanting to be in control of a relationship and their emotions. The young and dumb Nuke Laloosh, on the other hand, is much more easily controlled and manipulated by Annie, and he becomes her “project” for the season.
I didn’t want to get into a whole copyright mess, so I have not included the movie scenes, just the quotes. Ninety percent of these scenes are readily available on YouTube. These scenes are even better when watched as opposed to read.
And onto the ranking and movie quotes:
High: 1* Low: 3 First Place Votes: 8
In their first game as pitcher and catcher/mentor, Crash is trying to get Nuke to throw whatever Crash tells him to. But Nuke wants to do things his way because he’s the hot prospect and doesn’t have to listen to some career minor league lackey. Crash calls time and walks out to the pitcher’s mound.
Crash: “Hey, why you shaking me off? Huh?”
Nuke: “I want to bring the heater. Announce my presence with authority.”
Nuke: “To announce my presence with authority!”
Exasperated, Crash walks back to the plate and tells the batter that the heater is coming, so the batter knows what pitch is coming. The batter knocks the next pitch out of the park and hits the mechanized bull in center field.
Crash Davis : [Mechanized bull noises in background] Well, he really hit the shit outta that one, didn’t he?
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh : [softly, infuriated] I held it like an egg.
Crash Davis : Yeah, and he scrambled the son of a bitch. Look at that, he hit the fucking bull! Guy gets a free steak!
Crash Davis : You having fun yet?
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh : [sarcastically] Oh, yeah. Havin’ a blast.
Crash Davis : Good.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh : [pause] God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!
Crash Davis : He did know.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh : How?
Crash Davis : I told him.
Hey, lookit here. Michigan can relate. It’s easier to win when you know what the opponent is going to do before they do it. Remember Michigan fans, here at OTE you are guilty until proven innocent. Plus, it’s a damn good scene and I had to fit it in somewhere.
2. Ohio State
H: 1 L: 2 FPV: 4
“Hey. Relax. Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls. It’s more democratic.” – Crash Davis
Okay, Ohio State. You’ve beaten two top-10 teams and you haven’t been accused of cheating lately, You get one of the best quotes of the movie that relates to totalitarian dominance. You are just going to lay waste everyone left on your schedule until the real Big Ten Championship game is played on the last day of the regular season when you battle it out against Michigan.
3. Penn State
H: 2 L: 3
Crash’s mentorship of Nuke extends to how he needs to carry himself on and off the filed, right down to personal hygiene.
Crash, speaking to Nuke:
“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy and you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”
Okay, you Black Shoe Diaries zealots. Don’t blame me. This one comes from one of your own, who actually has a self-deprecating sense of humor. During the preseason discussions over the summer, 06Lion actually used this quote when discussing Penn State’s aspirations of being elite. If Penn State wants to talk about being elite, get to the College Football Playoff by beating Michigan and Ohio State. Beating the crap out of Iowa and Maryland and other respectable but not elite programs doesn’t make you elite.
H: 4 L: 8
“You know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at-bats is 50 points, OK? 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, a ground ball — 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 talking about, do you?” - Crash Davis
Boy, this feels like Maryland. On the verge of a genuine top-25 ranking, bowl eligibility and you just can’t get a win over Illinois at home. I like what Locks is doing at Maryland. But, if the show in this analogy is competing with the Big 3 for a Big Ten Championship, they will be stuck at the Major League team’s Triple-A affiliate. Like Penn State above, who yearn to be elite, but can’t beat Ohio State and Michigan in the same season, Maryland is in a similar situation but, at a lower level. Even with a slew of injuries, Maryland can’t lose to teams like Illinois if it wants to be seen as capable of competing with the Big 3.
H: 4 L: 7
Rutgers, you get two quotes for becoming bowl eligible in October for the first time since joining the Big Ten.
1) Annie Savoy: “For one extraordinary June and July, the
Durham Bulls Rutger Scarlet Knights began playing baseball football with joy and verve and poetry.”
Rutgers, at 6-1 is now bowl-eligible and it’s not even November. Congratulations.
2) Poor Nuke just refuses to learn. Top of the ninth, with one out away from a two-hit shoutout, Nuke wants to throw the deuce (curve ball) and is, once again, shaking off Crash who is calling for the heater. Crash asks for time, takes off his catcher’s mask and is talking to the batter.
Crash Davis: “This son of a bitch is throwing a two-hit shut-out. He’s shaking me off. Do you believe that shit? Charlie [the batter]? Here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”
Charlie smiles and proceeds to knock the ball out of the park. Crash walks to the mound to talk to Nuke. Nuke is finally learning not to shake off his mentor, and responds accordingly:
Nuke: You told him I was throwing the deuce, right?
Crash: Yep. Man, that ball got outta here in a hurry. Anything traveling that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think?
Apparently, Michigan hired an ex-Marine and current porn star, Connor Stallion, to steal signs during the Rutgers-Michigan game. And so, whereas Michigan was the batters benefitting from advanced knowledge of what was coming, Rutgers is the hapless Nuke Laloosh who is getting teed up because the hitters know what pitch he’s going to throw.
Speaking of guys with great porn star names who aren’t really porn stars, I once worked for a guy name Dick Shakeshaft. Really. I have no idea why he didn’t go with Rich, or Rick, or anything other than Dick.
H: 4 L: 9
Annie: “You hit 220 home runs in the minors. That’s not bad.”
Crash:“Don’t tell anybody,” Crash replies.
Annie: “Why not? If you hit twenty more this year, you’re going to be the all-time minor league champion. The record is 246.”
Crash: “Well, 247 home runs in the minor league would be a kind of dubious honor,”.
Ahh. The Badgers. You will probably win the Big Ten West, only to get pummeled in the Big Ten Championship by whoever wins the Michigan-Ohio State game. Definitely a dubious honor. It’ll have the feel of some dumb palooka taking a dive in the 3rd round of a heavyweight boxing match.
H: 5 L: 8
Millie: “You can’t ban me from the ballpark because my daddy donated the scoreboard.
Skip: “What do we need a scoreboard for? We haven’t scored any runs all season.”
Is there a quote from a movie more suited for a particular team than the quote above? Combining the two most obvious traits of Iowa football, nepotism and shitty offensive production, into one quote. Perfect and quite efficient, unlike Iowa’s offense.
H: 4 L: 9
Nuke LaLoosh has just exhibited his well-documented natural abilities and equally well-documented control issues on the mound, with a line of 18 K’s and 18 BBs. Before Annie has settled on Nuke to “mentor,” she asks Millie, a baseball groupie, who has recently been intimate with Nuke about Nuke’s lovemaking skills.
Annie: “All right, honey. Let’s get down to it. How was Ebby Calvin LaLoosh?”
Millie: “Well, he f—s like he pitches, sort of all over the place.”
Wow. I didn’t see that upset at Iowa coming. Minnesota is symbolic of the entire Big Ten West. Mostly, you’re gonna suck, but you will totally surprise the Big Ten once or twice during the season. You never know what you’re gonna get week to week, sort of all over the place.
H: 7 L: 10
Nuke has been celibate since he went on a winning streak and is afraid that sleeping with Annie might mess with his winning streak.
Crash: “How’s Annie?”
Nuke: “She’s getting pretty steamed, actually, because I’m still re-channeling my sexual energy. I’m figuring I’m just gonna cave in and sleep with her. You know, calm her down.”
Crash: “Are you out of your mind?”
Nuke: “I’m just …”
Crash: “Are you out of your mind?”
Nuke: “I’m just talking about one time.”
Crash: “If you give in now, you might start losing. Huh? Never f— with a winning streak.”
Husker Nation, I am sorry I am obsessing over this. But, I am mesmerized by the differences in fan expectations of Nebraska football versus Maryland football. At Maryland, a 9-3 season is an unequivocal success. At Nebraska that shit has gotten more than one coach fired.
Frank Solich [1998-2003] At Nebraska, Solich went 58-19, averaging 9.8 wins per year. His teams finished ranked 5 out of 6 years, including three top-10 rankings. He coached one season in which the Huskers finished with less than 9 wins, going 7-7 . Nevertheless he was shown the door.
Bo Pelini [2008-2014] Truly a model of consistency, having won 10 games three times in his 7-year stint as HC for Nebraska and won 9 games in the other 4 years. He finished top 25 in 4 out of his seven years. Fired. Not good enough. Not elite.
Mike Riley, Scott Frost, Mickey Joseph, Matt Rhule [2015-present] No top-25 rankings, no 9-win seasons and have collectively played sub-0.500 ball.
H: 9 L: 13
The Durham Bulls have started the season horrbily, like Oakland A’s bad. Crash has told the manager [Skip] to scare them a little to get their attention. While the team is shwering up after a game, Skip barges into the showroom and throws a bunch of bats at them and subsequnetly berates them with this classic speech. Larry, in this scene, is the durtiful assistant coach.
Skip: “You guys, you lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?”
Skip: “Lollygaggers! What’s our record, Larry?”
Larry: “Eight and 16.”
Skip: “Eight and 16. How’d we ever win eight?”
Larry: “It’s a miracle.”
Skip: “It’s a miracle. This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it. Now we have got a 12-day road trip starting tomorrow. Bus leaves six in the morning.”
Yeah, sitting at 1-3 in the Big Ten West and 2-5 overall. Purdue’s record feels a lot like an 8-16 baseball record. The good news? You’re rival is even worse. College football in the state of Indiana is…not good.
H: 10 L: 13
Illinois gets one of my favorite movie quotes. In the movie, she was referring to Nuke Laloosh, but I think it applies fairly accurately to Illinois HC Bert Bielema.
Annie Savoy: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”
I love Bert. He is good for the conference. He seems to be at peace with himself, and to not care too much about image or how others perceive him. He just wants to coach football. God, bless him.
H: 11 L: 14 Last Place Votes: 1
At the start of the movie, Crash has been sent down to the single-A Durham Bulls for the sole purpose of mentoring Nuke Laloosh. He is reporting to the manager’s office.
Larry [Assistant Coach]: “Who’s this? “
Crash: “I’m the player to be named later. And you, Larry Hockett, should recognize me, because five years ago in the Texas League, you were pitching for El Paso, I was hitting cleanup for Shreveport. You hung a curveball on an 0-2 pitch in a 3-2 game in the bottom of the eighth and I tattooed it over the Michelin tire sign and beat you, 4-3.”
Larry: “I remember that. I should have thrown a slider. Damn, Crash. How are ya?”
Crash: “I’m too old for this s—. Why the hell am I back in A ball?”
Skip [Durham Bulls manager]: “Because of Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. Big club’s got 100 grand in him.”
Larry: “He’s got a million-dollar arm but a five-cent head.”
Ahh. Northwestern. You are trotting out enthusiastic Single-A players who are gamely trying to win. But this roster is filled with guys who will never make it to the show. Unlike Ebby Calvin Laloosh, who, like half the players starting for Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, will make it to the show.
13. Michigan State
H: 12 L: 14 LPV: 3
“Bad trades are part of baseball. I mean, who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake.” – Annie Savoy
Frank Robinson played for my beloved O’s. He is the only player to win MVP in the National League [for the Reds, before being traded to the O’s for Milt Pappas] and in 1966 for the O’s after leading the league in HRs, batting average, and RBI. He was a 14-time All-Star who batted .300 nine times, hit 30 dingers 11 times, led the league in slugging four times and in runs scored three times. Who was Milt Pappas? He was actually a very good pitcher for the O’s but was terrible for the Reds, pitching more than a run above his ERA for the Reds compared to his time with the O’s. He was dealt to the Braves three years later.
Michigan State with Mel Tucker’s 10-yr/$95 million contract was already looking like an albatross around the athletic department’s neck. Then he sexually harassed a woman who advocates against sexual harassment and is a rape survivor. Seriously, WTF, Mel!?! For the sake of the conference, I sincerely hope Sparty’s next hire is better.
H: 13 L: 14 LPV: 8
As previously mentioned, despite choosing Nuke to “mentor,” she is not exactly focused on the task at hand. In the throes of passion, Annie calls Nuke by Crash’s name. Oops.
Annie: “Crash, that was fabulous.”
Nuke: “Crash? You mean Nuke. You said Crash.”
Annie: “No, honey, I said Nuke.”
Nuke: “You said Crash.”
Annie: “Oh, no. Listen, sweetheart. You shouldn’t listen to what a woman says when she’s in the throes of passion. They say the darndest things.”
Nuke: “Yeah, you said Crash.”
Annie: “Honey, would you rather I be making love to him using your name or making love to you using his name.”
Nuke: “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
This one is for you, Tom Allen. With all the offensive coordinators you’ve churned through during your stint as HC for Indiana, you probably can’t keep all their names straight.
Indiana and Tom Allen’s numerous offensive coordinators:
2017-2018 – Mike DeBord
2019 – Kalen DeBoer
2020-2021 – Nick Sheridan
2022-2023 – Walt Bell
2023-until Tom Allen gets fired – Rod Carey