The Bad News Bears
|The Bad News Bears|
|Directed by||Michael Ritchie|
|Produced by||Stanley R. Jaffe|
|Written by||Bill Lancaster|
Jackie Earle Haley
Joyce Van Patten
|Music by||Jerry Fielding|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Edited by||Richard A. Harris|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|April 7, 1976|
The Bad News Bears is a 1976 comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie. It stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal. The film was followed by two sequels, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training in 1977 and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan in 1978, a short-lived 1979–80 CBS television series, and a 2005 remake.
Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), a former minor-league baseball player and an alcoholic who cleans swimming pools, is hired by a city councilman and 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.
Buttermaker becomes coach of the unlikely team. It includes (among others) a near-sighted pitcher, an overweight catcher, a foul-mouthed shortstop with a Napoleon complex, an outfielder who dreams of emulating his idol Hank Aaron, two non-English-speaking Mexican immigrants, a withdrawn (and bullied) boy named Timmy Lupus, and a motley collection of other "talent". Shunned by the more competitive teams (and competitive parents), the Bears are outsiders, sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds. In their opening game, they do not even record an out, giving up 26 runs before Buttermaker forfeits the game.
Realizing the team is nearly hopeless, he recruits a couple of unlikely prospects: first up is sharp-tongued Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal), a skilled pitcher (trained by Buttermaker when she was younger) who is the 11-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's ex-girlfriends. She now peddles maps to movie-stars' homes. Amanda tries to convince Buttermaker that she has given up baseball, but then she reveals that she had been practicing "on the sly". Amanda makes a number of outlandish demands (such as imported jeans, modeling school, ballet lessons, etc.) as conditions for joining the team. Buttermaker asks, "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?" Amanda responds, "Who's he?"
Rounding out the team, Buttermaker recruits the "best athlete in the area", who also happens to be a cigarette-smoking, loan-sharking, Harley-Davidson-riding troublemaker, Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley). No one else on the team is pleased at first with the new additions, but with Whurlitzer and Leak on board, the Bears gain confidence and begin winning.
They make it to the league's championship game opposite the top-notch Yankees, who are coached by aggressive, competitive Roy Turner (Vic Morrow). As the game progresses, tensions are ratcheted up as Buttermaker and Turner engage in shouting matches, directing their players to become increasingly more ruthless and competitive, going as far as fighting, spiking on a slide, or intentionally hitting a batter with a pitch. Buttermaker forces Amanda to keep pitching, even though her arm hurts.
The turnaround point of the game comes after a heated exchange between Turner's son (and Yankees pitcher) Joey (Brandon Cruz) and the Bears' catcher Engelberg (Gary Lee Cavagnaro), who is at bat. Turner orders his son to walk Engelberg, the only Bears hitter he hasn't been able to overcome. Engelberg gloats, so Joey intentionally throws a beanball, nearly striking Engelberg in the head. A horrified Turner goes to the mound and slaps his son. On the next pitch, Engelberg hits a routine ground ball back to Joey, who exacts revenge against his father by holding the ball until Engelberg circles the bases for an inside-the-park home run. Joey then drops the ball at his father's feet and leaves the game with his mother.
Buttermaker suddenly realizes that he has become as competitive as Turner, a man he can't stand. He relents and lets Amanda come out of the game and puts benchwarmers on the field, thus giving every kid a chance to play. The substitute Bears make errors and the team falls far behind on the scoreboard. In spite of this, the Bears rally in their final inning, loading the bases with smart tactics (two walks and a bunt). It brings Kelly Leak to bat with a chance to be a hero.
Turner decides not to let Kelly hit the ball. He orders another intentional walk, even though it will cost the Yankees a run. Buttermaker mocks the opposing manager, who just smirks. So, against all logic, Buttermaker gives a sign to Kelly to swing away. Kelly lunges at a far-outside pitch and belts the ball to the wall. Three runners score ahead of Kelly, who races toward home plate with the game-tying run, only to be called out by the umpire on a very close play. The game is over.
Having narrowly lost 7 to 6, Buttermaker treats his underage players to free rein of his beer cooler. Although they did not win the championship, they have the satisfaction of having come a long way.
The condescending Yankees congratulate the Bears telling them that although they are still not that good, they have "guts." Tanner, the shortstop, replies by telling the Yankees where they can put their trophy. The Bears cheer and Timmy Lupus overcomes his chronic shyness enough to throw the Bears' second-place trophy at the Yankees and yell "Wait till next year!", after which the Bears spray beers all over each other as if they had won the game.
|Morris Buttermaker||Walter Matthau||Coach of the Bears: A drunken, loud, ex-professional baseball pitcher and part-time pool cleaner, who drives a blue Cadillac convertible|
|Roy Turner||Vic Morrow||Coach of the Yankees|
|Cleveland Ohio||Joyce Van Patten||League manager|
|Bob Whitewood||Ben Piazza||City councilman and lawyer who sued the league to allow the Bears (in particular, his son) to play. He convinces (and pays) Buttermaker to coach the team.|
|Regi Tower||Scott Firestone||Fairly quiet red-headed third baseman whose dad vocally attends practices and games. Also plays first base. Wears number 1.|
|Toby Whitewood||David Stambaugh||An unassuming boy who plays first base. He knows about the other players' personalities and at times speaks for the team. Son of councilman Bob Whitewood, who secretly paid Buttermaker to coach the team. Wears number 2.|
|Kelly Leak||Jackie Earle Haley||Local troublemaker who smokes and rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Also the best athlete in the neighborhood. He alternates between left and center field and has a crush on Amanda. Wears number 3.|
|Timmy Lupus||Quinn Smith||A "booger-eating spaz;" plays right field and is considered to be the worst player on the team, but surprises everyone in the final game by making a key play to keep the Bears in the game. He is the most quiet and shy player, but showed the odd ability to properly prepare a martini for Coach Buttermaker while the team was assisting the coach with pool cleaning. Wears number 4.|
|Mike Engelberg||Gary Lee Cavagnaro||An overweight boy who plays catcher; A great hitter, he frequently teases Tanner about his size, his jabs at Yankee pitcher Joey Turner ignite a rivalry. Wears number 5.|
|Jose Aguilar||Jaime Escobedo||Miguel's older brother who plays second base; doesn't speak English. Wears number 6.|
|Miguel Aguilar||George Gonzales||Jose's younger brother; mostly plays right field. He doesn't speak English either; so short that the strike zone is non-existent. Wears number 7.|
|Jimmy Feldman||Brett Marx||Fairly quiet third baseman with curly blond hair. Wears number 8.|
|Alfred Ogilvie||Alfred W. Lutter||A bookworm who memorizes baseball statistics. He's mostly a benchwarmer who assists the coach with defensive strategy. A backup outfielder/first baseman, but reluctant to play as he feels he's one of the worst players on the team. Wears number 9.|
|Rudi Stein||David Pollock||Nervous relief pitcher with glasses who is a terrible hitter; asked by Coach Buttermaker to purposely get hit by pitches in order to get on base. Also a backup outfielder. Wears number 10.|
|Amanda Whurlizer||Tatum O'Neal||11-year-old pitcher who feels insecure about her tomboy image. She is proven to be a good pitcher. Her mother is Buttermaker's ex-girlfriend. Wears number 11.|
|Tanner Boyle||Chris Barnes||Short-tempered shortstop with a Napoleon complex; after suffering a horrible loss on their first game, he picks a fight with the entire seventh grade from his school (and loses). He tends to curse more than the others, and often insults and bullies Timmy. Wears number 12.|
|Ahmad Abdul-Rahim||Erin Blunt||A Black American Muslim who plays in the outfield and adores Hank Aaron; strips off his uniform in shame after committing errors, but is convinced to return to the team by Buttermaker. Wears number 44 in honor of his hero.|
|Joey Turner||Brandon Cruz||The star pitcher for the Yankees (wears number 2 for that team). Coach Roy Turner's son. He has a rivalry with Engleberg and regularly bullies Tanner and Timmy. Allows Engleberg an inside-the-park home run, then quits the team after Roy slaps him in anger for almost beaning the Bears catcher.|
Discussing her relationship with co-star Walter Matthau on MLB Network’s Costas at the Movies in 2013, Tatum O’Neal described a visit Matthau paid to her in the hospital following a car accident a few years later: “He said, ‘Kid, I just had to come in and see that you were all right.’ I can’t say that was true for every actor I’ve worked with…It was a pretty special moment for me, one that I will never forget.”
The Bad News Bears was filmed in and around Los Angeles, primarily in the San Fernando Valley. The field where they played is in Mason Park on Mason Avenue in Chatsworth. In the film, the Bears were sponsored by an actual company, Chico's Bail Bonds. One scene was filmed in the council chamber at Los Angeles City Hall.
The film was notable in its time for the amount of vulgarity, (including profanity and ethnic slurs) from the mouths of the various child actors who played the principal roles (specifically, Tanner Boyle played by Chris Barnes, quoted as calling his teammates "a bunch of Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eating moron"). Most of the questionable dialogue was used for comic effect. A true product of the mid-1970s, it includes a scene that would most likely no longer be allowed in a PG-rated film today: An inebriated Buttermaker drives the players, who are not wearing seatbelts, in an open-top convertible, with a broken windshield.
The Bad News Bears received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 96%, based on reviews from 26 critics, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Bad News Bears is rude, profane, and cynical, but shot through with honest, unforced humor, and held together by a deft, understated performance from Walter Matthau."
Speaking about the popularity of the movie and her character on MLB Network’s Costas at the Movies in 2013, Tatum O’Neal said, "It’s so funny because I have a group of 48-year-old men, like Vince Vaughn…who have posters of 'Bad News Bears,' Jason Patric, Quentin Tarantino. There’s a group of people, mostly men, who think that character of Amanda Whurlitzer is the most appealing little girl at that age…It must be a toughness with a little femininity."
Walter Matthau was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy. The screenplay by Bill Lancaster, son of actor Burt Lancaster, was winner of a Writers Guild of America award.
Saturday Night Live did a parody of the film with Matthau as the guest host called The Bad News Bees with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and the rest in their recurring bee costumes. This subtly dealt with masturbation which was referred to as "buzzing-off".
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs—nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10—nominated sports film
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers—nominated
- Box Office Information for The Bad News Bears. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- "The Bad News Bears, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
- Review, The Bad News Bears, Chicago Sun-Times, April 13, 1976
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