You've probably seen the 1988 mega-hit movie "Bull Durham." Even if you haven't, you've surely heard or read the name Crash Davis. The veteran Minor League catcher who's sent down to Class A to guide young hot-shot pitcher Nuke LaLoosh about life both on and off the baseball field.
Davis, the movie character, was fictional -- although there have been real-life Minor Leaguers who've been compared to him from time to time. But the name "Crash Davis" came from a real ballplayer and today he would've celebrated his 98th birthday.
Lawrence "Crash" Davis, who got his nickname after crashing into another fielder at the age of 14, played infield for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1940-42. He hit .230 with two homers in just 148 games before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. After serving, he came back to pro baseball and played in the Minors from 1946-52 -- having his best season with, you guessed it, the Durham Bulls in '48. That year, he hit .317 with 10 homers and led the Carolina League with 50 doubles. Davis quit baseball in '52 and became a successful high school and American Legion coach.
Nearly 40 years later, Bull Durham director Ron Shelton came across the name "Crash Davis" in an old Carolina League record book and wanted to use it as the name of Kevin Costner's character. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Shelton reached out to Davis to get permission:
Just like that, the name "Crash Davis" became a household name and Minor League Baseball was changed forever. Davis, for the most part very different from the character Costner played, began touring the country and speaking about his life and career after the film's release. He even had a small role in Shelton's "Cobb," before passing away from cancer at the age of 82.