‘Bull Durham’ event back on

By Joe Kovacs

The 15th anniversary celebration of the baseball flick “Bull Durham” appears to be warming up in the bullpen after all, despite its cancellation by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins in ‘Bull Durham’ (MGM photo)

Sportscaster Bob Costas says officials were wrong to nix the upcoming event in the wake of anti-war statements by Hollywood stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and he’s looking to stage the event on his own cable TV program.

Costas says he’s invited the stars of the film to appear on HBO’s “On The Record” “not to talk about the controversy, but re-create what they would have done up in Cooperstown.”

A national debate erupted last week when Dale Petroskey, president of the Hall of Fame, sent war opponent Robbins a letter canceling the festivities slated for later this month:

The President of the United States, as this nation’s democratically elected leader, is constitutionally bound to make decisions he believes are in the best interests of the American people. After months of careful deliberations, President Bush made the decision that it is in our nation’s best interests to end the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, and to disarm Iraq of deadly weapons, which could be used against its enemies, including the United States.

In order to accomplish this, nearly 300,000 American military personnel are in harm’s way at the moment. From the first day we opened our doors in 1939, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – and many players and executives in Baseball’s family – has honored the United States and those who defend our freedoms.

In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American’s, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard – and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly. We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important – and sensitive – time in our nation’s history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger.

As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict.

As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of “Bull Durham.”

Petroskey further explained his reasoning in a statement posted at the Hall’s website:

“Given the track record of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and the timing – with our troops committed in Iraq – a strong possibility existed that they could have used The Hall of Fame as a backdrop for their views.”

Costas: Baseball wrong to cancel ‘Bull Durham’ event

“[Petroskey] might have been less afraid if it was someone who was politically inclined who was more in agreement with his own views,” Costas said on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night.

“If he was concerned, he could have written to them or called them and said ‘Let’s make sure this is just about baseball and just about “Bull Durham” and let’s not have any controversy,’ and I’m pretty sure they would have respected that, but he took the wrong tack.”

After receiving some 5,000 calls on both sides of the issue, Petroskey says in hindsight, he would have handled the issue differently, likely phoning Robbins to discuss the matter before canceling the celebration.

Meanwhile, sportswriters across America are putting the uproar into extra innings with their color commentary.

“In the end, baseball looks doofish, which is nothing new for baseball,” writes Sports Illustrated columnist John Donovan. “Contraction, labor strife, steroids, quarter-billion dollar contracts, the Yankees, $7 hot dogs, 22 ‘home’ games for the Montreal Expos in Puerto Rico, U.S. Cellular Field, the All-Star Game tie, Barry Bonds’ moodiness …

“The league-pushed concept of competitive imbalance, expansion, relocation, taxpayer-funded stadiums, skinflint owners, possible collusion, the players’ union, cheap home runs, too many strikeouts, the Rangers’ pitching … sometimes, you wonder if the folks in baseball can get anything right. Just one thing. Once.”