10/05/12 10:00 AM ET
For comedian Wuhl, baseball breeds discussion
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Robert Wuhl would be one of the exceptions. Maybe he hasn't been in quite as many baseball-related films as, say, Kevin Costner, but he's had quite a presence in the sports genre over the last couple of decades.
Even if the name doesn't pop out to you immediately, it usually takes just one glimpse of him in the hit movie "Bull Durham" to make the connection.
Ah yes ... that guy.
Wuhl, after all, did play the coach who uttered one of the more iconic lines when he suggested that "candlesticks always make a nice gift..." during a mid-game meeting on the mound.
That particular line, of course, came up in conversation between Wuhl and MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel during their time together in the booth during a recent Giants-Dodgers game. Really, how could you not bring it up?
That's the beauty of "Express Written Consent," the new MLB.com venture in which nontraditional broadcasters are brought into the booth to have a go at the pastime that's evolved alongside the national pastime: calling the game.
Wuhl was one of three celebs to give his accounts and descriptions of a recent Giants-Dodgers nail-biter in Los Angeles. The Giants had already wrapped up the division, but the Dodgers were hanging on to their Wild Card lives at that time. Wuhl was the "closer" that day, calling the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
That gave Wuhl plenty of time to discuss several baseball topics. For those unfamiliar with his baseball background, two things are abundantly clear beyond his experience acting in baseball movies: First, he loves the game, and second, he can argue just about any baseball topic.
He is unafraid to take on so-called baseball traditions. They are not all created equal, and some of them are just plain stupid, contends Wuhl. Like throwing the ball back on the field if the visiting team hits a home run. This, Wuhl argued, "defies logic."
"Baseball is one of the few sports that you get to take home the equipment," he reasoned. "And the same fans would be fighting for that ball if it was foul."
"It's all peer pressure," Wuhl continued. "'Throw it back, throw it back.' It's ridiculous. To give you an idea of how stupid it is, this tradition started with the Chicago Cubs. What else do you need to know?"
While his booth cameo may not endear him to fans on the north side of Chicago, Wuhl's candor provided great radio. He'll probably need another go-round to get to all of the absurdities he'd like to change if he were Commissioner for a day, so here's a brief synopsis:
He doesn't understand why a batter gets an RBI and is not charged with an at-bat if he hits a fly ball and brings a runner home from third, but a batter who hits a ground ball and drives in the run is not only charged with an at-bat, but it counts against him as an 0-fer.
The correct pronunciation when using the plural, abbreviated form of a run batted in is "RBIs." As in, "So-and-so had three hits and two RBIs." Not, "two RBI."
He cannot fathom why teams are permitted to call up as many as 15 players in September. Is that real baseball? Contending teams are going to stick with their 25, for the most part, while non-contenders are free to start playing with matchups in the fourth or fifth innings and interchangeably use 35 players if they choose (and some do). Fair?
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"It's rare when I'm not in an argument about baseball," Wuhl said. (For those scoring at home, he loves the addition of the second Wild Card).
Born in New Jersey, Wuhl attended college at the University of Houston and sold beer at the Astrodome as an after-school job. Professionally, he started out as a standup comedian and eventually transitioned to acting. "Bull Durham" was one of his earlier movies, but he's perhaps best known for his portrayal of a sports agent for high-profile athletes on the HBO series "Arli$$," which ran from 1996-2002.
In addition to dozens of professional athletes with whom Wuhl became acquainted while filming "Arli$$," he also has many connections in the broadcasting industry. He lists Bob Costas, Charley Steiner and Jon Miller as close friends.
Admittedly, he wasn't sure if his call of the Dodgers' walk-off win would pass the smell test with his more established broadcasting pals.
"I didn't know if I did a good job of that," he laughed. "Not my proudest moment. But, I had a blast."