Three weeks after Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey cancelled the long-planned 15th anniversary celebration of the seminal baseball film “Bull Durham,” due to his beliefs anti-war statements made by stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins put our overseas troops in jeopardy, a hastily rescheduled screening in Brooklyn went off last night without a hitch. While it was great to see the film on the silver screen for the first time since it was released, I’m wondering why– given all the attention the controversy received– I felt the evening was somewhat anti-climactic.
As expected, the screening quickly sold out when tickets went on sale last Thursday, and the theatre was filled to capacity a good half-hour before the festivities were scheduled to begin. The film’s writer/director, Ron Shelton, entered the theatre promptly at 8:00 p.m., accompanied by Robbins, Sarandon and Robert Wuhl. There was a reading of the famed poem “Casey At The Bat” by a representative of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (whose final line was changed to “Cooperstown’s lost is Brooklyn’s gain”), followed by a few words from Shelton, who regaled the crowd with some amusing anecdotes from shooting the film. Shelton turned the microphone over to Robbins, who as promised, made no mention of the war. Concerning the cancellation at the Hall, Robbins pointed to famed sportswriter Roger Kahn, in attendance this evening, whose was scheduled to attend another Cooperstown celebration later in the year before canceling due to the brouhaha, and thanked him for his support and kindness. Neither the luminous Sarandon, dressed in a Durham Bulls jacket and simple dress, nor Wuhl gave their own recollections of the film. Then, just as quickly as they arrived, the filmmaking team was gone, and the movie began.
While a fifteen year old baseball movie might not be the most important thing going on in the world right now, the proceeds from the evening’s ticket sales were donated to the Cooperstown Food Bank, who also received a generous donation from Shelton and Robbins. I think we can all agree, regardless of where we might personally stand concerning the controversy of the screening, that helping those less fortunate is a pretty good thing.