Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball


By David M. Jordan

Crash Davis

One of the most popular player-members of the As Historical Society, and a very welcome guest whenever he has visited, is Lawrence Crash Davis, the pride of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Crash, as he has been known since a big-time collision under a pop fly when he was 14 years old, played mostly second base (with a few games at short and first) for the Athletics from 1940 to 1942. He later became a kind of legend in the Carolina League for his play with the Durham Bulls, Raleigh Capitols, and Reidsville Luckies from 1948 to 1952.

But Crashs national fame rests on his serving as the model, sort of, for Kevin Costners portrayal of a minor-league lifer (named, not surprisingly, Crash Davis) in the film Bull Durham. Costner played a homer-hitting catcher, while Crash in real life was a light-hitting infielder, but then no one ever accused Hollywood of letting the facts get in the way of a story. Crash served as a consultant for the film, modestly stating that I was the consultant for all those love scenes with Susan Sarandon. He later played a cameo role as Hall of Famer Wahoo Sam Crawford in the movie Cobb.

Born in Canon, Georgia, in 1919, Crash at 15 played shortstop on a national championship American Legion team and the next year led his Gastonia High School nine to the North Carolina state championship. After four outstanding years at Duke University, where he captained the baseball team for Coach Jack Coombs, Crash signed with Philadelphia and soon found himself in Connie Macks lineup. After 23 games as a rookie, Davis appeared in 39 games in 1941 and 86 games in 1942, when he hit the only two home runs of his big league career.

Uncle Sam called at that point, and Crash enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Completing his officers training course, he was commissioned and assigned to Harvard University, where he helped run the Navy ROTC V-12 program and coached the Crimson baseball team, while also keeping the Charles River free of German U-boats.

Following the war, Crash Davis performed for a couple of years in the New England League before returning to his roots in North Carolina. He set Carolina League records for doubles in a season, assists, putouts, and double plays. Crash taught and coached at two North Carolina high schools from 1948 to 1955, winning a couple of state championships in 1953 and 1954 with the same Gastonia High team for which he starred as a student,

From 1956 to his retirement in 1985, Davis worked as a personnel executive for Burlington Industries, a textile manufacturer in Greensboro, but his business activities did not use up all of his abundant energy. In 1990, Crash won a prestigious award from Duke for his many outstanding alumni efforts for the university, and he found time to serve as a deacon of his church and as an executive of the Gastonia Pioneer Girl Scout Council. Crash was inducted in 1978 into the Gastonia County Sports Hall of Fame and the following year into the North Carolina American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame. Just this summer Crash Davis was a founding member of the Minor League Baseball Alumni Association.

Those of us in the Athletics Historical Society, though, know Crash Davis as a major-league level raconteur, a sparkling personality, and a kindly gentleman. Crash will never get a plaque in Cooperstown, but if they ever create a Good Guys Hall of Fame, hell be one of the first nominees.

Check out Marty’s radio interview with Crash Davis – talking about breaking into the big leagues.


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