Don’t get me wrong, I love the film Bull Durham. It is perhaps my favorite baseball movie. But the handling of “bonus baby” pitcher Nuke Laloosh in his first game as a pro was downright abusive, and Manager Joe Riggins should have been handed the axe immediately.
Flamethrower Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh drew a signing bonus big enough that he was able to buy a Porsche with it before receiving his first minor league paycheck. He was a hot prospect and a fast riser and everyone knew it. Heck, the Durham Bulls only signed Crash Davis to show the kid how to be a pro, not because they actually had any intentions of promoting Davis to the majors.
Inexplicably, in Laloosh’s very first game, Manager Riggins committed a complete crime against him. Just listen to this postgame exchange between Riggins and one of the coaches on his staff:
Riggins: “He walked 18.”
Larry: “New league record!”
Skip: “He struck out 18.”
Larry: “Another new league record. In addition, he hit the sportswriters, the public-address announcer, the bull mascot — twice — also new league records. But, Joe. This guy’s got some serious s—.”
Laloosh faced at the very least 36 batters. Since there was no mention of it being a no-hitter, let’s add 4 hits to that total. We’ll call it 40 batters. Of the 36 mentioned, 18 saw at least four pitches, and the other 18 saw at least three. That alone is an astounding 126 pitches. When you figure that maybe half of those saw at least one other pitch, you’re looking at a 144-pitch outing. Now we’ll set an average at-bat for those who received hits at 2 pitches (which is generous). That’s a whopping 152 pitches. Johan Santana’s career infamously went down in flames following his 134-pitch no-hitter, and Santana was neither a flamethrower nor in his very first pro game.
This is indefensible by Manager Joe Riggins. While he did have his moments throughout the season to follow (the lollygagger speech is mint), Riggins should have been immediately ousted for his treatment of this kid fresh off a big bonus and just a baby in pro ball. While Jack Morris may disagree, I cannot imagine a world in which that would fly.
Bonus trivia: Bull Durham director Ron Shelton played in the minor leagues for five years, including a stint in AAA for the Rochester Red Wings.