Posts Tagged ‘Bad News Bears’

Greg Brady vs. Danny Partridge

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

In the first half of the 1970s, two clans ruled Friday night television—The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.  Both shows aired on ABC.

Dodgers legend Don Drysdale met the Bradys in the episode “The Dropout” as a client of Mike Brady, America’s favorite fictional architect until Ted Mosby came along to recount the tale of how he met his children’s mother.  After Mike displays his design for Drysdale’s new house, he asks #53 to talk with the Brady Boys—Greg, Peter, and Bobby.

Greg Brady has a sure-fire career of success on the baseball diamond.  Or so he believes, anyway.  A pitcher in the Pony League, Greg has stars in his eyes after Drysdale offers encouraging, kind, and seemingly benign words about Greg being in the big leagues someday, maybe even a “bonus baby” with a lucrative deal.

The allure of a baseball career overshadows Greg’s sense of reality.  At Mike’s request, Drysdale visits 4222 Clinton Way, this time with the purpose of affirming the gritty parts of baseball to Greg, including soaking your pitching arm in ice.  Still, Greg’s ego expands the typical childhood fantasy of playing in the major leagues into a full-blooded assault on perspective.

When Greg gets pounded for 12 runs in the first inning of his next game, his coach benches him.  With tears in his eyes, Greg nearly gives up baseball until receiving fatherly insight from the Brady patriarch about not everyone being a Don Drysdale.

In the Partridge Family episode “The Strike-Out King,” Danny Partridge reluctantly pursues baseball to fulfill his mother’s request that he spend more time with children his own age, hovering on the cusp of being teenagers.  Surprisingly, Danny has the makings of an ace pitcher.  Dan the Man.

Even more surprising is the turn in Danny’s attitude.  After tasting success in his first game, Danny becomes enamored with baseball.  He rattles off baseball statistics like he’s preparing to partner with Curt Gowdy in the broadcast booth.  Then, Danny starts to feel pressure from a coach highlighting victory as the primary goal while forgetting that the kids need to have fun, too.

When Mrs. Partridge shows the coach that an emphasis on winning has destructive consequences to the kids’ emotional welfare, a shift occurs—the coach focuses on fun without losing any of his enthusiasm.  Danny, on the verge of quitting, rebounds to pitch the game.  His team wins the league championship.

Jackie Earle Haley has a small role in this episode as a teammate of Danny’s, a foreshadowing of his success in the The Bad News Bears series of movies.

Both episodes showcase the importance of keeping an ego in check.  Even when Greg’s idol dispenses insights about the realities of baseball’s dark side, Greg refuses to listen.  In Danny’s case, the coach as the ego problem.  By prizing a pennant while excluding emotional consequences, he unknowingly risks losing his ace pitcher.

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on August 31, 2014.

Rob Reiner and Baseball

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Baseball is a never-ending source for popular culture storytellers whose tales tap a range of emotional veins in fans of the National Pastime.

We cry when Gary Cooper reenacts Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech in The Pride of the Yankees.

We cheer when Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn strikes out Clu Haywood to win the American League East pennant for the Indians in Major League.

We laugh when the Chico’s Bail Bonds team from southern California’s North Valley League travels to Houston for a game at the Astrodome in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.

One of baseball’s biggest fans in the popular culture arena is Rob Reiner, who became a household name for his portrayal of Mike “Meathead” Stivic on the 1970s television show All in the Family.  He became one of Hollywood’s A-list directors.

In 1982, Reiner starred in Million Dollar Infield, a CBS television movie featuring challenges of middle age against the backdrop of a men’s softball team.  Reiner, Bruno Kirby, Christopher Guest, and Robert Costanzo play the core four characters, each with his own dilemma.  Guest’s character obsesses over baseball, ignores his son’s emotional issues, and prizes winning above all else.  Reiner’s character deals with divorce.  The team gives the men an outlet where they bond over a common goal of winning games.  Reiner co-wrote the script for Million Dollar Infield.

Reiner co-wrote the premiere episode for Happy Days.  Airing on January 15, 1974, the story revolves around Richie Cunningham—the main character—pursuing a bubbly blonde named Mary Lou.  When Richie’s friends want to know “how far” he got on a date with Mary Lou, the conversation takes place during batting practice.

A similar male bonding scene takes place in When Harry Met Sally, directed by Reiner.  During an outing at the batting cages, Harry confides to his best friend, Jess, that his platonic relationship with Sally is wonderful because there are no miscues, expectations, or hurt feelings that may happen if the relationship escalates to a romantic level; ultimately, Harry and Sally become a couple.

Reiner voiced a baseball named Screwie in the 2006 animated movie Everyone’s Hero.  In an interview with Alan Schwarz of the New York Times published on September 17, 2006, Reiner compared being a baseball manager handling players to being a movie director handling a cast.  “You have to know, based on their personalities, which ones to push and which ones to back away from,” said Reiner.  “Managers, it’s the same thing.  It’s managing personalities so that you get the best out of your players.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on March 1, 2014.

The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training

Friday, November 11th, 2016

The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training gives the underdogs from southern California’s North Valley League a shot at the Houston Toros—a bigger, stronger, and faster team.  Where else could the climactic game take place but the Astrodome—the post-modern Eighth Wonder of the World.

With Tatum O’Neal and Walter Matthau from the 1976 movie The Bad News Bears absent in this 1977 sequel, the Bears need a pitcher, a coach, and a way to get to Houston.  Timmy Lupus, the team’s worst player, cannot travel with the team because he broke a leg while skateboarding.

Enter Carmen Ronzonni, a friend of Kelly Leak—the Bears’ star player.  Employing a maintenance worker bordering on mute, the Bears construct a scheme to have him masquerade as the coach with basic sentences to greet the parents.  After the parents drop off the kids, Kelly et al. take a van to Houston.  During the Bears’ voyage, the audience hears Looking Good, a song performed by James Rolleston, with lyrics by Norman Gimbel and music by Craig Safan.

A subplot reveals Kelly’s other reason for traveling to Houston—his long gone father.  Kelly confronts him at a factory.  Initially, Michael Leak agrees to be a figurehead so the team can have a legitimate coach, something they hadn’t considered.  But his status too changes; the Bears realize he can help them in their game against the Toros.  Kelly’s already strained relationship with his father continues to fracture during a tense moment in a practice where the father eclipses the son as the team’s leader.

Right before the game at the Astrodome, Tanner, the wise-cracking shortstop, gives a locker room speech mirroring the climactic “Win One for the Gipper” speech in Knute Rockne, All-American, a movie he saw late at night while the rest of the team was asleep in the hotel room.  Tanner’s speech could easily be titled “Win One for the Looper” in a nod to Lupus.

The four-inning game between the Toros and the Bears takes place between the games of a doubleheader at the Astrodome.  Only one problem, though.  The powers that be call the game on account of time.  Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno of the Houston Astros appear in the dugout.  When they find out that the game ended prematurely, Watson exclaims, “Come on, let the kids play!”

Inspired, Michael Leak takes the field and shouts, “Let them play!  Let them play!”  Kelly joins him in the chant, signaling a new relationship between the two Leaks.  The Bears follow suit, as does the Astrodome crowd.  Meanwhile, Tanner refuses to leave the field, evading the two suited gentlemen trying to capture him.

Caving under the pressure, the decision makers resume the game.  Carmen slams an inside-the-park grand slam for a Bears victory.  The Bad News Bears in Japan followed, marking the end of this 1970s baseball movie trilogy.

Boston Globe film critic Bruce McCabe wrote, “The film is perhaps most successful when it stops trying to figure out exactly what it’s supposed to be and goes for a certain kind of laugh.  One such moment is when a loony groundskeeper is conned by the kids into pretending to be their manager.  Another is when the van, filled with adolescent and preadolescent boys, backs up on a freeway to give a ride to a comely young hitch-hiker who has decided she’d rather not be a passenger.”

A version of this article originally appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 1, 2014.

Houston, You Have A Problem

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

A once venerable symbol of the future is on the precipice of being an ignored relic of the past.

The Houston Astrodome. The first domed stadium. The 8th Wonder of the World.

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