Chip Shots: Asking For A Friend

July 6, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


Does a baseball movie watched from start to finish count as watching baseball from beginning to end? Asking for a friend.
I watched a little bit of baseball this last week, but nothing from start to finish. I watched in full length, however, the 1976 movie The Bad News Bears.
Okay, I’m not asking for a friend.
The movie, featuring a large cast of kids between ages 6 and 14 playing in a California little league likely suited for kids from ages 9-12, is a 1970s timepiece because there are some things then that would not happen in life or even in movies today.
1976 might seem like ancient times for those removed by at least one generation from the movie’s release date, but I recommend it as a great watch, nonetheless.
It’s not as kind nor as gentle as another popular kids’ baseball movie, The Sandlot, but its characters and their stories are entertaining.
The movie is about a rag tag group of Little League baseball players placed on one team formed from a legal settlement triggered by parents whose kids – many of whom were rejected by other existing teams in the league – comprise the titular Bears (sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds – an actual business).
Those of you who know sports movie formulae realize this will be a rag tag group that will be molded into a competitive squad as the movie reaches its dénouement.
Along the way, however, you have two Academy Award winners in the cast (Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal), and Jackie Earl Haley, a young character actor with an impressive resume of other character roles in ensuing years (e.g., Breaking Away for all you IU alum).
The two aforementioned child actors, O’Neal (12 years old), and Haley (14 years old) are the unlikely catalysts to the Bears’ in-season turnaround.
Since there might actually be readers who have not seen this movie - I have no idea what my “demo” is, but I sense its mostly people my age, or some Gen X-ers – the complete plot is omitted in our discussion this Saturday morning.
Let’s talk about putting together the movie, instead.
Haley, who was already 14, plays a Kelly Leak, a troublemaking 12-year-old who rips cigs, skillfully operates a lighter to ignite them, and terrorizes the fans and players at the local diamond while recklessly riding his Harley Davidson Z 90.
Haley is still sort of a runt at 14 but pulls off his character’s age due to how skinny and how short he is for that age. O’ Neal gives a better performance than her Oscar-winning role IN 1973’s Paper Moon in the role of 11-year-old Amanda Whurlitzer, who becomes the Bears’ ace on the mound. She was 12 in real life.
Jodie Foster turned down the role to play her unforgettable character in taxi Driver, and Kristy McNichol turned down the role because of time conflicts with her role on the TV series, Family.
Those of you close to my age likely recall the three aforementioned talented child actors would eventually star together in the movie, Little Darlings.
Matthau – Oscar winner in a supporting actor role for 1966’s Fortune Cookie – and Tony Award winner for his role as Oscar Madison in the Broadway play version of The Odd Couple, masterfully plays Morris Buttermaker, a middle-aged, self-employed pool cleaner and former minor league pitcher in the MLB’s A’s farm system (said in passing).
Buttermaker not only drinks beer in the dugout during practices and games, but he also pours some whiskey in his beer in at least one scene.
This is something you would not see in Little League parks in this era. I was almost “eleven going on twelve” – that was important to point out when I was a kid - when the movie was released, and most of the parents in attendance ripped multiple cancer sticks in the stands and in the dugouts. I did not see, however, any coaches drinking alcoholic beverages.
Buttermaker’s best line is, “But, this quitting thing is a hard habit to break,” delivered to his team as they contemplate giving up after a rough start to the season. This is actually some conventional wisdom that transcends generations.
Additional things you would not see nor hear in today’s Little Leagues abound in the movie, but here are a few sticking out in my mind.
Tanner Boyle, the Bears’ bellicose, foul-mouthed shortstop, delivers a profane postgame salvo following a loss to the Yankees, another team in the league stacked with talent and intense, competent coaching. Boyle’s salvo is still fun to watch and hear even though manners have improved in the current era.
Mike Engleberg, the Bears’ corpulent, trash-talking catcher, is on the receiving end of the word “fat” by his coach and among others. I’m assuming body-shaming is taboo in Little League these days. Engleberg, a slugger, by the way, hits a ball that smashes his coach’s windshield in an early practice.
Engelberg’s archenemy is a pitcher on the rival Yankees team. Joey Turner, played by Brandon Cruz, who played the role of Eddie in the TV version of Courtship of Eddie’s Father, is coached, and fathered by Roy Turner, Vic Morrow’s character in the film.
Roy hits Joey while conferencing on the mound when Tuner the younger complains about not physically being able to pitch. There are two things going on here you wouldn’t see in today’s Little League:
First, there are rules about rest and pitch count. Second, with all the smartphones and other devices used by fans in the stands, Roy hitting his son would go viral, and the treble damages from this video going viral would start rolling as soon as someone posted the video.
The mercy rule, something that makes a sportswriter’s or event worker’s end of the day at the diamond a little more finite, would have shortened the first game where the Yankees and Bears clashed. The top of the first inning score was 26-0 in favor of the Yankees.
In this era, it is likely after a certain number of runs separating the two teams, players on the team with the convincing lead would intentionally do something like leave the batter’s box or get picked off on base to speed up the game. Softball teams usually leave the base early as a courtesy to end a brutally eternal inning.
I hope you enjoy watching The Bad News Bears – the 1976 version, not the garbage 2005 remake - if you’ve never seen it before. Manage your expectations on the language and the name-calling, though. Remember, this was 1976, and it’s just a movie.

Does a baseball movie watched from start to finish count as watching baseball from beginning to end? Asking for a friend.
I watched a little bit of baseball this last week, but nothing from start to finish. I watched in full length, however, the 1976 movie The Bad News Bears.
Okay, I’m not asking for a friend.
The movie, featuring a large cast of kids between ages 6 and 14 playing in a California little league likely suited for kids from ages 9-12, is a 1970s timepiece because there are some things then that would not happen in life or even in movies today.
1976 might seem like ancient times for those removed by at least one generation from the movie’s release date, but I recommend it as a great watch, nonetheless.
It’s not as kind nor as gentle as another popular kids’ baseball movie, The Sandlot, but its characters and their stories are entertaining.
The movie is about a rag tag group of Little League baseball players placed on one team formed from a legal settlement triggered by parents whose kids – many of whom were rejected by other existing teams in the league – comprise the titular Bears (sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds – an actual business).
Those of you who know sports movie formulae realize this will be a rag tag group that will be molded into a competitive squad as the movie reaches its dénouement.
Along the way, however, you have two Academy Award winners in the cast (Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal), and Jackie Earl Haley, a young character actor with an impressive resume of other character roles in ensuing years (e.g., Breaking Away for all you IU alum).
The two aforementioned child actors, O’Neal (12 years old), and Haley (14 years old) are the unlikely catalysts to the Bears’ in-season turnaround.
Since there might actually be readers who have not seen this movie - I have no idea what my “demo” is, but I sense its mostly people my age, or some Gen X-ers – the complete plot is omitted in our discussion this Saturday morning.
Let’s talk about putting together the movie, instead.
Haley, who was already 14, plays a Kelly Leak, a troublemaking 12-year-old who rips cigs, skillfully operates a lighter to ignite them, and terrorizes the fans and players at the local diamond while recklessly riding his Harley Davidson Z 90.
Haley is still sort of a runt at 14 but pulls off his character’s age due to how skinny and how short he is for that age. O’ Neal gives a better performance than her Oscar-winning role IN 1973’s Paper Moon in the role of 11-year-old Amanda Whurlitzer, who becomes the Bears’ ace on the mound. She was 12 in real life.
Jodie Foster turned down the role to play her unforgettable character in taxi Driver, and Kristy McNichol turned down the role because of time conflicts with her role on the TV series, Family.
Those of you close to my age likely recall the three aforementioned talented child actors would eventually star together in the movie, Little Darlings.
Matthau – Oscar winner in a supporting actor role for 1966’s Fortune Cookie – and Tony Award winner for his role as Oscar Madison in the Broadway play version of The Odd Couple, masterfully plays Morris Buttermaker, a middle-aged, self-employed pool cleaner and former minor league pitcher in the MLB’s A’s farm system (said in passing).
Buttermaker not only drinks beer in the dugout during practices and games, but he also pours some whiskey in his beer in at least one scene.
This is something you would not see in Little League parks in this era. I was almost “eleven going on twelve” – that was important to point out when I was a kid - when the movie was released, and most of the parents in attendance ripped multiple cancer sticks in the stands and in the dugouts. I did not see, however, any coaches drinking alcoholic beverages.
Buttermaker’s best line is, “But, this quitting thing is a hard habit to break,” delivered to his team as they contemplate giving up after a rough start to the season. This is actually some conventional wisdom that transcends generations.
Additional things you would not see nor hear in today’s Little Leagues abound in the movie, but here are a few sticking out in my mind.
Tanner Boyle, the Bears’ bellicose, foul-mouthed shortstop, delivers a profane postgame salvo following a loss to the Yankees, another team in the league stacked with talent and intense, competent coaching. Boyle’s salvo is still fun to watch and hear even though manners have improved in the current era.
Mike Engleberg, the Bears’ corpulent, trash-talking catcher, is on the receiving end of the word “fat” by his coach and among others. I’m assuming body-shaming is taboo in Little League these days. Engleberg, a slugger, by the way, hits a ball that smashes his coach’s windshield in an early practice.
Engelberg’s archenemy is a pitcher on the rival Yankees team. Joey Turner, played by Brandon Cruz, who played the role of Eddie in the TV version of Courtship of Eddie’s Father, is coached, and fathered by Roy Turner, Vic Morrow’s character in the film.
Roy hits Joey while conferencing on the mound when Tuner the younger complains about not physically being able to pitch. There are two things going on here you wouldn’t see in today’s Little League:
First, there are rules about rest and pitch count. Second, with all the smartphones and other devices used by fans in the stands, Roy hitting his son would go viral, and the treble damages from this video going viral would start rolling as soon as someone posted the video.
The mercy rule, something that makes a sportswriter’s or event worker’s end of the day at the diamond a little more finite, would have shortened the first game where the Yankees and Bears clashed. The top of the first inning score was 26-0 in favor of the Yankees.
In this era, it is likely after a certain number of runs separating the two teams, players on the team with the convincing lead would intentionally do something like leave the batter’s box or get picked off on base to speed up the game. Softball teams usually leave the base early as a courtesy to end a brutally eternal inning.
I hope you enjoy watching The Bad News Bears – the 1976 version, not the garbage 2005 remake - if you’ve never seen it before. Manage your expectations on the language and the name-calling, though. Remember, this was 1976, and it’s just a movie.

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