Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE CHURCH OF BASEBALL by Ron Shelton Kirkus Star


The Making of Bull Durham: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit

by Ron Shelton

Pub Date: July 5th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-31977-2
Publisher: Knopf

A filmmaker’s memoir about the making of one of the best sports movies of all time.

Shelton’s book is not simply a jaunty recollection of his directing debut, with all its attendant breakthroughs and headaches. The author, who displays sheer, unadulterated love for his subject, also delivers a savvy, unusually informative tutorial on how to take a motion picture from the concept stage to script development, casting, production, and post-production. Shelton examines all of this in a charismatic style that decodes jargon and engages from first page to last. There’s plenty of gossip (mostly generous), surprising insights, useful screenwriting strategies, and tips for would-be directors on how to combat studio meddling. Even certified film buffs who have read numerous how-to books by those in the industry will find the author’s advice sound and clarity refreshing. “Making a good and successful movie is a minor miracle every time,” he writes in the introduction. He goes on to prove his point several times over, chronicling a montage of maddening impediments, unexpected reversals, scheming, happy accidents, and the unpredictable alchemy that is screen chemistry. The son of a born storyteller and baseball fan, Shelton, who mined his own minor league career to create his signature film, never understood why the literary and sports worlds should be distinct. “Sports is both absurd and ordered, and full of unknown consequences,” he writes. “A game means nothing and it means everything.” Having seen many sports movies growing up, Shelton realized most of them got it wrong, being long on sentimentality and faux inspiration but woefully lacking in complexity. He set about demystifying a game that clings to its mysteries like pine tar to a bat only to rediscover that some of those mysteries are real—and poetic.

Fans of the film will have new reasons to appreciate it—and the team that made it.