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Toby Whitewood

June 22, 2011

Chico’s Bail Bonds Player of the Week: Toby Whitewood

[My ode to the 1977 movie The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training is now available. To celebrate, I’ll be shining a weekly spotlight on the boys in the customized van.]

The first two Bears to appear on screen in the 1976 film The Bad News Bears have strong connections to the adult world. The first of these boys shown, Kelly, is even taken for an adult, perhaps sardonically, by Buttermaker, who mutters “thanks, mister” to Kelly after the latter lights his cigarette for him. Kelly operates a motorized vehicle like an adult, smokes cigarettes like an adult, and even seems to be as freighted in his scowling silence with adult world troubles and history as the wrinkled, morning-boozing Buttermaker. After lighting his future coach’s cigarette, he rides off on his motorcycle, leaving the sunny little league field, the little boy world, to go back to his adult world burdens and mysteries.

The next Bear to appear, and the first to utter a line of dialogue, is Toby Whitewood, who arrives at the field with his shifty, unctuous politician father and so is the first of the Bears to witness that his new coach is an alcoholic mercenary rather than the altruistic caretaker that most children assume the adults in their lives to be. It’s unclear whether this information registers with Toby, who is sent away by his father from the decidedly adult conversation between coach and councilman, but later moments featuring Toby in both the first film and the sequel reveal that Toby absorbs at least some of the things he overhears while in the proximity of adult goings-on. For example, in the first Bears movie, he explains to Buttermaker (going on something that he overheard his father saying) that Jose and Miguel don’t speak English. For another example, in the sequel Toby arrives at the field with sole knowledge of the identity of the team’s new coach.

The Bears don’t have a team captain, but if they did you could make a case that it would be Toby. Of the Bears who lead in various ways, Kelly (the team’s superstar) is too much of a lone wolf to man that role, Ogilvie (the de facto assistant coach and, in the sequel, the team’s sober-minded co-parent, along with the stoic, worldly Kelly) not enough of an on-field presence, Tanner (the inspirational leader) too fiery and volatile. This leaves Toby, who knows things about the adult world without losing his essential identity as a boy, and who is able to speak for the boys to adults. He’s the one who informs Buttermaker that the guys took a vote and decided they don’t want to play anymore, and in the sequel he’s the one who tells Kelly’s dad that while they need him to pose as a coach they don’t really need him to coach. (Interestingly, in both cases these Toby-voiced team decisions to separate from the adult in charge lead very quickly to coaches Buttermaker and Leak finally and fully taking the reins and leading the boys.)

Not much is shown of Toby’s playing abilities in the first film, but in Breaking Training he blossoms into arguably the team’s second-best player, after Kelly. In the game in the Astrodome, he singles in both of his at-bats, the second of those hits sparking the big last-inning comeback. He also scores a run, and he records the most rousing put-out of the game, tagging out a Toro who falls for the ol’ hidden ball trick. (This trick, which is denigrated by the Toros’ coach as a “cheap cotton-picking faggot trick,” is predicated on one of the more noticeable of sequel’s many departures from standard little league rules, which don’t allow for runners to lead off, but then again with decidedly elongating and pubescent figures such as the sequelized versions of Kelly, Ogilvie, and Rudi, perhaps the Bears have somehow moved en masse and without explanation out of little league to Babe Ruth league.) The whole trick plays out like an illustration of Toby’s connection to the adult world, the ball that Coach Leak slips into Toby’s glove like an objectification of all the many bits of esoteric knowledge adults have passed along to Toby. Toby, unsurprisingly, handles this new adult-given secret like a pro, poker-facing the Toros runner into taking a lead.

But Toby’s true nature comes out not during the ruse but just after it has been revealed. If Kelly, a Bear you could easily imagine also donning a poker face, had been the one to tag the fooled runner out, he would have likely reacted afterward coolly, as if it was no big thing, but Toby is still a boy, and he roars and cheers and laughs as he shows that he had the ball the whole time. Throughout the sequel, Toby is one of the team’s most exuberant enthusiasts, a leader of what I have come to think of as the “wow, cool” chorus, the boys amazed by the van and the open road and motel rooms and nudie magazines and the Astrodome and the Astros and by simply having the chance to play. He knows things about the adult world, but he has not yet slipped into that dim, weary realm.

***

I found out this past weekend that I’m one hug removed from David Stambaugh, who played Toby Whitewood. Some years ago Stambaugh was a member of a touring acting company that also included my cousin Andrea, who had glowing things to say about her fellow actor’s good heart and warm personality. Stambaugh seems to have eventually given up acting for a life as a minister. In a Hollywood Interview feature from just a few months ago, the reverend reflected on his life as a Bear.

***

And speaking of Bears and interviews, Alex Belth at Bronx Banter was kind enough to lob a few questions my way about the new book.

16 comments

  1. Love this series, plus the two linked interviews. I have always had trouble distinguishing one one Bear from the next but you brought Toby back to me.

    Gonna find the book today.


  2. That first scene between the elder Whitewood and Buttermaker is fascinating. I watched BNB this weekend with someone who had never seen the film, and she asked, hey, what was the big deal about Buttermaker getting paid? It’s on the down-low to most everyone, even Cleveland never questions Buttermaker’s motivation for coaching to his face, presuming that even with all the controversy surrounding the court-ordered inclusion of the Bears into the North Valley League, Buttermaker shows up for the same reasons that get her, Roy Turner, and the rest of the NVL’s soul-withering cabal out of bed every morning: “What could be better?” Buttermaker’s compensation is partly to get Whitewood’s conscience off the hook, when he chest-puffingly notes that his job was too important for him to miss for something as crass as coaching. But really, it’s a facade created by adults ( like the entire Little League construct) to “protect” the innocence of their children, when in actuality its true function is to fast-track them into the cynical world of adults. Newsflash, Councilman: these kids are already there, even as they remain hungry for genuine attention and sincere affection (much like their own parents and like-aged role models).

    Do you sense the Whitewood household is one of divorce…? It is never explicitly stated, but there is not a reference to a Mrs Whitewood, and Toby’s dad is certainly practiced in keeping his son emotionally distanced via conversation. Nature and nurture have combined to make Toby an ideal liaison between the age groups, for sure. It’s curious that Mr Stambaugh has taken on a similar peacemaking role in his real life, curious and somewhat satisfying.


  3. Any way to get the Bad News Bears roster on the Topps design baseball cards of the era? Now that would be way cool. If I had the talent and the time I would go for it.


  4. Yeah, I don’t know how to do that either. The following post at Wrigley Wax features three Bears in the 1976 Topps style:
    http://wrigleywax.blogspot.com/2011/02/flick-friday-bad-news-bears.html


  5. For shits and/or grins… and did this one during a dull conference call:

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsKellyLeak.jpg

    I’m not very good at photoshop stuff, just hack around with my free time occasionally… the word BEARS at the top was cobbled together from one random PADRES and BLUE JAYS card to get all the letters for bears… The picture seems like something a Topps photog would take at spring training perhaps minus the cigarette.


  6. That’s awesome, nunyer. You mind if I maybe use that shot in a future “player of the week” post?


  7. I only made it because I figured some of the readers here might get a kick out of it… so by all means, use it how ever you’d like. (It was my original intention to use one of the Breaking Training players you’ve already featured.. but a cursory google search didn’t supply any images for Rudy or Toby that seemed workable.)


  8. Sorry for the double post, but I need to credit Joshy Rosenbaum as well… as I immediately fired up Photoshop are started looking for 77 Topps and BNB pics right after reading his reply this morning.

    Also, I have the template saved, so it will be relatively easy to make additional ones provided with decent source pics. Once the Breaking Training DVD arrives from Netflix, I might get ambitious and take some “in action” screen caps from the movie and make some more cards… Although my ability to quickly abandon any and all ambition is legendary, just ask my wife.


  9. Great job – love the cigarette, and the dinged card corners – only thing missing is Mr. Leak’s signature on the card (!)


  10. Oh yea, forgot that 77 Topps had those damn signatures!!

    The dinged corners came courtesy of the original source… which was an internet image of a Rick Reuschel 77 Topps.


  11. I got the Breaking Training DVD the other day… just sat down and gave it a watch… then went about creating some additional Bears cards in the 1977 Topps style… Probably because it is a 30+ year old movie and wasn’t shot using awesome digital uber cameras… most action shots were a blurry mess when the movie was paused… but I was surprised by the amount of silly fun I had freeze framing the movie looking for good screen capture candidates.

    Josh (or anybody else) feel free to use these however you like… I had a blast watching the movie and making them…

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsWhitewood.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsStein.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsRonzonni.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsRahim.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsOgilvie.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsFeldman.jpg

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/1977toppsBoyle.jpg


  12. Awesome! Thanks, nunyer. These are great.


  13. Aces, nunyer, really outstanding work. These have the wonderfully fuzzy 1970s feel of those movie trading cards — Jaws, Star Wars et al — that used to show up in my shoeboxes with the Topps baseball legions, though even as a youngster I had no recollection of purchasing them. I presume the Lupus, Miguel, and extremely rare Engelberg (Traded!) cards are short-packed for now…? I’ve added these to my 1977 Kelly Leak and created a desktop image that looks much like those uncut sheets of baseball cards that sometimes make their way out into the light… or at least looks much as I would prefer those cards to appear.

    Well, OK, my true wayback machine preference would be to have the Bears (either 1976 or 1977) show up on those 3-D cards found at the bottom of Froot Loops and other delicious Kellogg’s breakfast cereals. Tanner is already rocking a sweet 2-D-plus effect. Failing that, surely a Hostess shout-out is a possibility…? If you could fulfill this long-distance dedication in your best Casey Kasem voice, I can die a very happy man.


  14. Hah! The long distance dedication… nice touch LSFP… If you can provide a link to a template card, an example of one of the Hostess cards you have in mind, I will see what I can do. I have no artistic ability whatsoever, but I know just enough Photoshop to be dangerous.

    As far as the missing Engleberg, Miguel, etc… I had simply run out of time. During a two and a half hour window while my sons napped, I watched the movie from start to finish and then did those previously linked cards. Once the kids woke up, daddy’s computer leisure time was kaput.

    Also, thanks for the compliment on the Tanner card… It was a challenge to find decent “in action” stills due to limitations with the film. I didn’t want every card to just be a shot of the player standing still in the batter’s box, but with some of them that’s about all I could find that didn’t look like a blurry mess. Due to his face / helmet being largely in focus, I thought the Tanner card worked despite an overall image sharpness that would have never passed muster at Topps.


  15. You’re a prince, nunyer. The pantheon of cardboard gods eagerly awaits your induction of the other Bears.

    Hostess, circa 1975 (check out Darrell Porter doing a fine Oglivie preview):
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_8BVcGoREYwc/SUCyIgpymqI/AAAAAAAADI0/2L6VdSvSxBw/s1600-h/Hostess-Carlton.jpg
    The blog this is lifted from also reminded me of the RC Cola cans that had MLB players on them, I had a Catfish Hunter can all through college for some strange reason (probably because it was catnip to the ladies) but hadn’t thought of them in decades. Wow.

    Here’s the 1977 Kellogg’s 3-D set:
    http://www.deanscards.com/Baseball-Cards/264/1977-Kelloggs.aspx
    Note that Steve Carlton is still rocking that mustache. Who do you suppose would be the first Bear with facial hair? The obvious answer is Kelly, badass cool factor and all that, but based solely on an ability to grow and sustain it, I’d say Rudy. It appeared that he was shaving regularly no later than Breaking Training, anyhow.


  16. Hey LSFP, I didn’t forget about your request for some Hostess and/or Kelloggs fun with the Bad News Bears… Just that I’ve been spending a couple of relaxing weeks largely away from the computer. A three-pane Bears card in the Hostess mold is still on my to-do list. :)

    However, I did spend a relaxing couple of hours sorting my old 1987 Topps commons into team piles with my five year old. This is part of my psychological program to indoctrinate him into the world of baseball. Looking through the team piles, I made this quick little tribute to my personal collection of ’87 commons having waaay too much Dickie…

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c358/nunyerbiz/scan0001.jpg



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