Bull Durham, the breakthrough 1988 film about a minor league baseball team, is widely revered as the best sports movie of all time. But back in 1987, Ron Shelton was a first-time director and no one was willing to finance a movie about baseball—especially a story set in the minors. The jury was still out on Kevin Costner's leading-man potential, while Susan Sarandon was already a has-been. There were doubts. But something miraculous happened, and The Church of Baseball attempts to capture why.
Shelton’s new memoir, The Church of Baseball, does for filmmaking what Bull Durham did for the national pastime: it demystifies the craft, pillories the business, and celebrates the calling with wit and passion ... Shelton’s prose is as natural as his dialogue, and he conjures characters with casual mastery ... In The Church of Baseball, as in Bull Durham, Shelton riffs on life in the American grain, and scales the heights of the homegrown surreal. Like Mark Twain, he reveals an unsentimental education that reads like a robust and impudent yarn.
Eminently readable ... A down-and-dirty account of how the unlikely 1988 classic was conceived, made and sold, soup to nuts, from idealistic plans to corporate reality. Its ground-level tone and attention to detail strip away the romance of moviemaking, with only minimal rancor. In contemporary parlance, Shelton keeps it real.
Breezy ... Unlike most making-of books, many pages are devoted to how Shelton conceived the characters, developed a framework for a movie, sold a studio on it, then wrote and rewrote and rewrote the script. And the creativity continued during the actual filming, the editing, the music, the costumes and all the other stuff that goes into making a movie. Fortunately, creativity can be pretty funny as well as pretty interesting, and The Church of Baseball is consistently both.