"The Bad News Bears"
Posted: September 26, 2008
As the Major League Baseball regular season winds down this week and my beloved Chicago Cubs have secured a spot in the National League playoffs, I am reminded about all of the lean years that Cubs' fans had to endure over the last century since "The Cubbies" last won the World Series in 1908. I have also reminisced fondly about one of the worst teams ever assembled in youth baseball history. The ball club was managed by my father and featured a collective set of 13 and 14-year-old misfits. The Lake Villa Twins only won one game in 1978 and its still amazes me that we were able to finish the season intact.
"The Bad News Bears", the 1976 movie starring manager Walter Matthau and pitcher Tatum O'Neal, told the story of a group of misguided teenage players who never won a game until the female star joined the club. The "Bears" eventually won the championship. It has always been one of my favorite sports movies, although I am not sure if my infatuation with the film reminded me of my experience as a member of the Lake Villa Twins or was because of my infatuation with Tatum O'Neal.
The 1978 Twins featured a fairly athletic group of young men, but many of the players did not have the family support system in place to get the kids to games and practices. Consequently, my father would often pick up my teammates in his 1967 MG Midget Sports car, which comfortably sat four people - including the driver. I have vivid memories of six teenage boys and Dad waving to others on the highway as we made our way to the ball diamond twice a week.
In the original "Bad News Bears" movie, the team sponsor was "Chico's Bail Bonds". If we knew of a bail bondsmen the day of the last game of the 1978 season, the Lake Villa Twins may have been able to get our starting catcher and first baseman out of juvenile court. A more appropriate sponsor of our team that year would have been the makers of Pall Mall cigarettes, since the catcher and first baseman told my father that they would play better if they could smoke a cigarette during the game. Youth sports was so different 30 years ago.
The Lake Villa Twins won the last game of the season that year despite only having eight players in uniform (baseball). Our team upset the undefeated squad that only needed to beat us to win the title.
I hope Kevin McDermott and Robert "Beaver" Westin have kicked the cigarette habit and are enjoying the fruits of their labor in the public domain.The other names of team members escape me as time has passed. But I do remember those were the days when the Chicago Cubs were a really bad ball club - much like the Lake Villa Twins, who were dysfunctional, but memorable.