The Bad News Bears (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 remake entitled Bad News Bears. Also notable was the score by Jerry Fielding, which is an adaptation of the principal themes of Carmen.


Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), an alcoholic and former minor-league baseball player, is recruited by a city councilman and attorney who filed a lawsuit against an ultra-competitive Southern California Little 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, 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: First up, is sharp-tongued Amanda Whurltizer (Tatum O'Neal), a skilled pitcher (trained by Buttermaker when she was younger) who is the 12-year-old daughter of one of Buttermaker's ex-girlfriends. 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 (Jackie Earle Haley). With Whurlitzer and Leak 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 (Vic Morrow). As the game progresses, tensions are ratcheted up as Buttermaker and Turner engage in shouting matches, and the players become more ruthless and competitive against each other. After a heated exchange between Turner's son (and Yankees pitcher) Joey (Brandon Cruz) and the Bears at-bat catcher Engelberg (Gary Lee Cavagnaro), Joey intentionally throws a wild beanball nearly striking him in the head. Horrified, Turner goes to the mound and slaps his own son. On the next pitch, Engleberg hits a routine ground ball back to Joey who exacts revenge against his father by holding the ball until Engleberg 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 the ultra-competitive Roy Turner - puts the benchwarmers on the field, thus giving everyone a chance to play. After narrowly losing the game 8 to 7, Buttermaker gives the team free rein of his beer cooler, and they spray it all over each other. Although they did not win the championship, they have the satisfaction of trying, knowing that winning is not so important. The condescending Yankees congratulate the Bears telling them 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 other players cheer and yell, "Wait 'til next year!" The movie ends with a photograph of the team.