The Bad News Bears fulfills my Sports portion of the draft.
A small personal story to show how true this movie was of the time and why I can relate to it so much.
Our coach would be hitting grounders to each of the fielders from home plate and I was the catcher that day. The infielders would throw to first and then throw back to home…normal right? Not so fast… Our coach would have a beer in one hand and would hand it to me when hitting the ball. I would hand it back while the first baseman was throwing it back to me. This would happen in each practice on the city field. We didn’t think anything about it. The catcher was also the official beer passer and holder…none of us blinked an eye.
This movie was a surprise hit in 1976. It’s about an inept baseball team that is coached by an alcoholic named Morris Buttermaker. He is recruited by an attorney who filed a lawsuit against a competitive Southern California Little League, which excluded the least athletically skilled children (including his son) from playing. To settle the lawsuit, the league agrees to add an additional team…the Bears which is composed of the worst players.
The kids are foul-mouthed and the coach could care less… for a while anyway. When I watch this movie I’m in little league again. There was a remake in 2005 but I’ve always stuck to this one.
The script is smartly written and the comedy is good. Sometimes this movie gets overlooked but it is a great baseball movie. The cast includes Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow, Jackie Earle Haley, and a cast of unknown kids.
Walter Matthau plays the drunk Morris Buttermaker, perfectly… he does the minimum for a while. He has the kids cleaning pools in one scene while drinking beer and driving them down the road in the next. While hunting around for a business to sponsor uniforms. Other teams have Pizza Hut and Dennys but Buttermaker gets a …”Chico Bail Bonds” and that is fitting for this team.
The first game the Bears were beat 26-0 and Buttermaker recruited 12 year old girl name Amanda (Tatum O’Neal) who was the daughter of one of his old girlfriends. Amanda could pitch and pitch well. He taught her at a younger age. He talks her into pitching for the team.
The team starts coming together. Now comes the rebel. Jackie Earle Haley plays Kelly the cool neighborhood punk who rides his motorcycle at the ballpark interrupting games. He is the best athlete around but he refuses to play. He starts liking Amanda and after a bet begins playing with the team.
With the Kelly and Amanda, the team starts winning. They are moving up in the rankings and play for the championship. The last game is when the tone of the movie changes dramatically. Winning comes before everything and Buttermaker becomes serious… and the kids help produce a showdown.
What makes the movie special is despite the huge ensemble you get to know these kids and the quirks they all show. It also sums up little league quite well.
One thing I remember when this movie was released was the absolute shock of parents everywhere because of these kids swearing. What the parents in 1976 didn’t understand was this is how many kids talked when adults weren’t around…mostly picked it up from their parents.
The movie is so 1970s and it pulls the veil back on youth sports then and now. They really nail down what the adults are like in little league… I coached little league a few years ago and I had a parent actually call me about his son at 10pm because he thought he should be hitting 3rd instead of 5th…this was a team of 4 and 5 year olds. I have seen a coach and parent have a fist fight in the back of the stands…
If you have never seen this film you are missing a baseball classic. But since we do live in 2021…if bad language stresses you out…don’t watch it.
There are two sequels. Bad News Bears Breaking Training and The Bad News Bears Go To Japan. Breaking Training is ok…Avoid the Japan movie at all costs.
Walter Matthau – Coach Morris Buttermaker
Tatum O’Neal – Amanda Whurlitzer
Vic Morrow – Roy Turner
Joyce Van Patten – Cleveland
Ben Piazza – Bob Whitewood
Jackie Earle Haley – Kelly Leak
Alfred Lutter III – Ogilvie (as Alfred W. Lutter)
Chris Barnes – Tanner Boyle
Erin Blunt – Ahmad Abdul Rahim
Gary Lee Cavagnaro – Engelberg
Jaime Escobedo – Jose Agilar
Scott Firestone – Regi Tower
George Gonzales – Miguel Agilar
Brett Marx – Jimmy Feldman
David Pollock – Rudi Stein
Quinn Smith – Timmy Lupus
David Stambaugh – Toby Whitewood
Brandon Cruz – Joey Turner
Timothy Blake – Mrs. Lupus
Bill Sorrells – Mr. Tower
Shari Summers – Mrs. Turner
Joe Brooks – Umpire
George Wyner – White Sox Manager
David Lazarus – Yankee
Charles Matthau – Athletic
Maurice Marks – Announcer