The Obit For Crash Davis

Crash Davis immortalized in 'Bull Durham'

Associated Press, Sunday, September 2, 2001

DURHAM, N.C. -- Lawrence "Crash" Davis, the minor-league baseball player made famous by the movie "Bull Durham," died Friday after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 82.

Davis was a baseball star and successful coach long before the 1988 movie about a longtime minor-league catcher thrust his name back into the limelight.

Born in Canon, Ga., in 1919, Davis played shortstop on the Gastonia Post 23 American Legion team that won the national championship in 1935. World War II interrupted his career, but he returned to professional baseball in 1946 and played in the minor leagues until 1951.

He played for Raleigh, Durham and Reidsville in the Carolina League.
In 1948, he had one of his best seasons, hitting .315 with a league-record 50 doubles for Durham.

The nickname "Crash" was given to him as a child, he once said, after crashing into another player while chasing down a flyball.

Years after Davis retired from baseball, filmmaker Ron Shelton saw his record listed in a Carolina League guide and had an epiphany: The name "Crash Davis" would be perfect for a character in his movie.

"Back in my heyday, I got a lot of recognition," Davis said in a 1988 interview with The Associated Press. "But never, never in my wildest dreams.... "

When Davis met the production company at a Durham motel, he was startled by the degree of his renewed celebrity.

"All these people jumped up when I said my name was Crash Davis," he said. "You would have thought I'd been resurrected."

The popular film, starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, brought instant fame to the Durham Bulls baseball team and a renewed interest in minor-league baseball. The movie's producer, Thom Mount, is a Durham native.

When Davis retired, he went back to Gastonia and coached high school baseball. He coached Bethesda High to state championships in 1953 and 1954.

Davis also coached the 1954 Gastonia American Legion team to a runner-up finish in the national tournament.

Davis was inducted into the North Carolina American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.