The Rudi Stein Problem

Bad News Bears is a great baseball movie, perhaps the greatest baseball movie. But I've got a few strategic issues with the 1976 picture that unexpectedly turned Joyce Van Patten into an international superstar.

One of my biggest issues is 

The Rudi Stein Problem


First, let me take you back to day one of practice for the Bears. 

It's a beautiful, spring afternoon and we're getting to know each other & trying to figure out who can play what position.

“I got a pretty good arm,” says the eager Rudi Stein, who volunteers to pitch.  

That’s all Stein was: a volunteer. No one else wanted to be the hurler that would take seven comebackers off the shin per game. No one else wanted to be the face of that team, and my goodness did that team have some faces.

Truthfully, there just weren't a ton of options:

* Engleberg is eating candy through the bars in his catcher's mask and openly feuding with his new coach and the season is barely 10 minutes old

* Tanner Boyle falls down every time he does anything

* Lupus is out in right field with hay fever

* They've got a left-handed third baseman in a velvet jogging suit who is afraid of the ball

It's just a mess of a first day of practice, and there's no one else willing to get on the mound and take the daily shellacking. So, Stein was the guy. That’s fine for a non-serious little league where the kids and coaches are getting some fresh air and having fun playing our national pastime.

But the North Valley League is no such organization. 

The players have a genuine hatred for each other. The coaches we are able to meet/greet are either drunks or psychotic. (I'm still hoping they one day release a new Bad News Bears DVD with extras where in one of the deleted scenes the Bears come back and beat the Yankees & Ron Turner is shown having hung himself in the dugout while Cleveland, played by Van Patten, sobs in front of the body).

Anyway, Stein is historically bad and the Bears pay for it in the standings. Stein's bouncing pitches, giving up rockets to all fields, throwing to the wrong bases, accidentally swallowing whole the rosin bag while attempting to field a bunt (another deleted scene).

The Bears struggle, but Buttermaker's more savvy than his rum-nose & failing pool-cleaning business would have you believe. 

He finds Amanda Whurlitzer selling maps on a street corner (normal 11-year old girl behavior) and remembers "this kid's got a curve ball and I used to have sex with her mother. Maybe I can somehow get her t....." (passes out on the side of the road).

Whurlitzer eventually joins the team, is pitching a ton of innings, sure, but she's dominant and the best pitcher in the league. Now Stein has the freedom to return to whatever he was doing before he became a Bear. 
The clarinet?

The Bears miraculously finish the regular season in second place and get a shot at the Yankees. 

Unfortunately, that wear and tear on the arm leads to Whurlitzer getting hurt in that championship game.

Buttermaker has to go to the pen.

Who does he turn to?

Rudi Stein.

Wait..............RUDI STEIN?!

At no time during the regular season, in practice or maybe during a gin-soaked stumble down the Pacific Coast Highway on-ramp, did Buttermaker see if ANYONE ELSE could pitch? Ogilvie is the team statistician, refuses to play, he just wants to count foul balls and chart pitches. He couldn't at one point say "hey, Buttermaker, I know Amanda is pitching great, but let's say she gets hurt....you know, STEIN is the only other pitcher we have. Want to try to see if anyone else can pitch?"

Maybe Ogilvie tried, but Buttermaker had passed out while sunbathing nude in right field during an intrasquad scrimmage, who knows. But I still put this on Ogilvie. It's his job that he was never hired for.












What about Chico?

He's sponsoring the team, he couldn't have brought something up?

THAT'S YOUR NAME ON STEIN'S JERSEY, CHICO.

And now we're in the late innings of a tied championship game and Stein gets the ball again!

Just keep going down the roster, you'll find someone:

Ahmad Abdul Rahim?

Either of the Agilar brothers?

The lefty they moved from 3rd to 1st? He can't give it a shot?! (Sure, that might’ve meant Jose Agilar: First Baseman, Part 2, and we saw how poorly went Part 1, but they're not going to even see if the lefty can get some people out?)

Give Tanner Boyle a shot. He may have been a 3'4 racist and bully with no arm strength who never looks to where he's throwing the ball, but he must've been better than Rudi Stein.

If people would rather have anyone, EVEN THE RACIST, to pitch instead of the kid you currently have on the mound, you might have the wrong kid on the mound.

And finally: 

WHAT ABOUT KELLY LEAK?

According to Toby Whitewood, Leak is "the best athlete in the area" and he can't pitch?! This kid is all-area, probably headed to college on a scholarship and/or the prison baseball team and you're telling me he can't pass Rudi Stein on the pitching depth chart?!

The Bears deserved that runner-up trophy.