The Bad News Bears

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The Bad News Bears
Bad news bears 1976 movie poster.jpg
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Produced byStanley R. Jaffe
Written byBill Lancaster
StarringWalter Matthau
Tatum O'Neal
Chris Barnes
Vic Morrow
Jackie Earle Haley
Joyce Van Patten
Quinn Smith
Music byJerry Fielding
CinematographyJohn A. Alonzo
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 7, 1976 (1976-04-07)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million[1]
Box office$42.3 million[2]

The Bad News Bears is a 1976 American sports comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie and written by Bill Lancaster. 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.

Notable was the score by Jerry Fielding, which is an adaptation of the principal themes of Bizet's opera Carmen.


Morris Buttermaker, an alcoholic and former minor-league baseball pitcher, is recruited by Bob Whitewood, a city councilman and attorney who filed a lawsuit against an ultra-competitive Southern California Youth Baseball League which excluded the least skilled athletes (including his son) from playing. In order to settle the lawsuit, the league agrees to add an additional team - the Bears - which is composed of the worst players. Buttermaker becomes the coach of the unlikely team, which includes (among others) a near-sighted pitcher, an overweight catcher, a foulmouthed 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complex, an outfielder who dreams of emulating his idol Hank Aaron, two non-English-speaking Mexican immigrants, a withdrawn and bullied boy named Timmy Lupus, and a motley collection of other "talent".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 the outsiders. They play their opening game, and 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: sharp-tongued Amanda Whurlitzer, a skilled pitcher (trained by Buttermaker when she was younger) who is the 11-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's ex-girlfriends. At first, she tries to convince Buttermaker that she has given up baseball, but then she reveals that she had been practicing "on the sly". Before agreeing to join the team, Amanda makes a number of outlandish demands (such as imported jeans, modeling school, ballet lessons, etc.) as conditions for joining. Upon hearing her demands, Buttermaker asks, "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?" Amanda responds by asking, "Who's he?" Rounding out the team, Buttermaker recruits the "best athlete in the area," who also happens to be the local cigarette-smoking, loan-sharking, Harley-Davidson-riding troublemaker, Kelly Leak. With Amanda and Kelly on board, the team starts gaining more confidence, and the Bears start winning games.

Eventually, the unlikely Bears make it to the championship game opposite the top-notch Yankees, who are coached by aggressive, competitive Roy Turner. As the game progresses, tensions are ratcheted up as Buttermaker and Roy engage in shouting matches, directing their players to become increasingly more ruthless and competitive against each other, going as far as fighting, spiking on slide, or the batter getting hit on purpose.

The turnaround point of the game comes after a heated exchange between Roy's son (and Yankees pitcher) Joey and the Bears at-bat catcher Engelberg. Roy orders his son to walk Engelberg, the only Bears hitter he cannot overcome, despite Joey's wish to give it a try. In response, Joey intentionally throws a wild beanball nearly striking Engelberg in the head. Horrified, Roy 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 has an inside the park home run. Joey then leaves the game, dropping the ball at his father's feet.

Buttermaker, realizing that he has become as competitive as Roy, puts the benchwarmers on the field, thus giving everyone a chance to play. In spite of this, the finish-up brings up the best team-play from the Bears. After loading the bases with smart tactics (two walks and a bunt) they nearly recover a four run difference, with the last runner getting taken out at the last moment.

After having narrowly lost the game 7 to 6, Buttermaker gives the team 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 yell "Wait 'til next year!", then they spray their beers all over each other. The movie ends with a field celebration that makes it look as if they won the game.



  • Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker, coach of the Bears: A drunken, loud, ex-professional baseball pitcher and part-time pool cleaner, who drives a rundown blue Cadillac convertible
  • Vic Morrow as Roy Turner, coach of the Yankees who is competitive and aggressive
  • Joyce Van Patten as Cleveland, league manager who favors Roy and the Yankees
  • Ben Piazza as Bob Whitewood, city councilman and lawyer who sued the league to allow the Bears (in particular, his son) to play and who convinces (and pays) Buttermaker to coach the team


  • Tatum O'Neal as Amanda Whurlitzer, the 11-year-old pitcher who feels insecure about her tomboy image. She is recruited by Buttermaker to help the team start winning. She is no-nonsense and a great pitcher who was taught by Buttermaker when she was young. The boys grow to be very protective of her, picking a fight with their rivals during a game when Amanda is kicked in the chest. Her mother is Buttermaker's ex-girlfriend and she looks to him as a father figure. Amanda and Tanner butt heads a lot, but respect each other. She also has a secret crush on Kelly.
  • Chris Barnes as Tanner Boyle, the 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 initially insults and bullies Timmy before realizing he's treating Timmy no better than the kids from their rival team and becomes protective of him, leading to an unlikely friendship between them. He is also close friends with Ahmad.
  • Jackie Earle Haley as Kelly Leak, the local troublemaker who smokes and rides a mini Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Kelly is also the best athlete in the neighborhood. At first, he doesn't want to join when Amanda attempts to recruit him, but he changes his mind when Coach Turner threatens him. He alternates between left- and center-field and has a crush on Amanda. After joining the team, he forms close friendships with Tanner, Ahmad and Ogilvie.
  • Erin Blunt as Ahmad Abdul-Rahim, a black Muslim boy who plays in the outfield, is liked by everyone on the team and adores Hank Aaron; Ahmad strips off his uniform in shame after committing several errors in the Bears' first game, but is convinced to return to the team by Buttermaker and is used for bunts in games due to his speed. He is shown to be close friends with Tanner.
  • Gary Lee Cavagnaro as Mike Engelberg, an overweight boy who plays catcher; a great hitter, he frequently teases Tanner about his size. He breaks Buttermaker's windshield with a baseball at the first practice. He has a deep rivalry with Yankee pitcher Joey causing them to throw insults at each other.
  • Alfred W. Lutter as Alfred Ogilvie, a bookworm who memorizes baseball statistics. He's mostly a bench-warmer who assists the coach with defensive strategy. A backup outfielder/first baseman, but reluctant to play because he feels he's one of the lesser-skilled players on the team.
  • David Stambaugh as Toby Whitewood, an unassuming boy who plays first base. He knows about the other players' personalities, is intelligent and well-spoken, and at times speaks on behalf of the team. He is the son of councilman Bob Whitewood, who secretly paid Buttermaker to coach the team.
  • Quinn Smith as Timmy Lupus, initially described by Tanner as a "booger-eating spaz;" plays right-field and is considered to be the worst player on the team — if not the entire league — but he 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 shows the odd ability to properly prepare a martini for Coach Buttermaker while the team was assisting the coach with pool cleaning.
  • Jaime Escobedo as Jose Aguilar, Miguel's older brother who plays second base; doesn't speak English.
  • George Gonzales as Miguel Aguilar, Jose's younger brother; mostly plays right-field. He does not speak English. He is so short that the strike zone is practically non-existent.
  • David Pollock as Rudi Stein, a nervous relief pitcher with glasses who is a terrible hitter; at times he is asked by Coach Buttermaker to purposely get hit by pitches in order to get on base. Also a backup outfielder.
  • Brett Marx as Jimmy Feldman, a fairly quiet third baseman with curly blond hair.
  • Scott Firestone as Regi Tower, a fairly quiet, red-headed third baseman whose dad vocally attends practices and games. Also plays first base.
  • Brandon Cruz as Joey Turner, the star pitcher for the Yankees. 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.


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.

Matthau was paid $750,000 plus over 10% of the theatrical rentals.[3] Tatum O'Neal was paid $350,000 plus a percentage of the profits.[4] These were later estimated to be $1.9 million.[5]


Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 97% based on reviews from 30 critics and an average rating of 7.6/10. 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."[6]

In his 1976 review, critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and called it "an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society".[7] Gene Siskel awarded two-and-a-half stars out of four, calling the film's characters "more types than people" and the kids' foul-mouth dialogue "overdone," though he found O'Neal's performance "genuinely affecting."[8] Variety called it "the funniest adult-child comedy film since 'Paper Moon'," and lauded the "excellent" script.[9] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times declared it "the best American screen comedy of the year to date," adding, "Bright, pugnacious and utterly realistic as most children seem to be today, these kids are drawn with much accuracy and are played beautifully."[10] Vincent Canby of The New York Times found the film only "occasionally funny" but praised screenwriter Bill Lancaster for "the talent and discipline to tell the story of 'The Bad News Bears' almost completely in terms of what happens on the baseball diamond or in the dugout."[11] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post praised it as "a lively, spontaneously funny entertainment" that "could rally a large parallel audience seeking less innocuous and stereotyped pictures with and about children."[12] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "miraculously funny and entirely delightful."[13]


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 for what would be their final time. This subtly referenced masturbation which was alluded to as "buzzing-off".

American Film Institute

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box Office Information for The Bad News Bears. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Bad News Bears, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  3. ^ "Par Queries Walter Matthau". Variety. July 2, 1980. p. 4.
  4. ^ "Ryan O'Neal: Does Father Know Best?: Ryan O'Neal". Los Angeles Times. 23 July 1978. p. v24.
  5. ^ Lee, Grant (28 August 1977). "Ryan O'Neal: A Love-Hate Story". Los Angeles Times. p. q1.
  6. ^ THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976) at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Review, The Bad News Bears, Chicago Sun-Times, April 13, 1976
  8. ^ Siskel, Gene (April 14, 1976). "'Bad News Bears' takes a swing at Little League". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 5.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: The Bad News Bears". Variety. April 7, 1976. 23.
  10. ^ Thomas, Kevin (April 7, 1976). "Matthau, O'Neal Throw Strikes". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1, 9.
  11. ^ Canby, Vincent (April 7, 1976). "At Bat With Matthau and O'Neal in 'Bad News Bears'". The New York Times. 28.
  12. ^ Arnold, Gary (April 8, 1976). "A hit for 'The Bad News Bears'". The Washington Post. 53.
  13. ^ Milne, Tom (November 1976). "The Bad News Bears". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 43 (514): 228.

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