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‘Let them play!’: Bob Watson fondly recalls ‘Bad News Bears’ movie filmed at Astrodome

Big League Stew

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bob Watson has held many roles during his life in baseball. He was an MLB vice president, a World Series-winning GM of the Yankees and he hit 184 home runs over a 19-year career that includes time with the Astros, Yankees and Braves.

One of Watson's most memorable moments on the diamond, however, isn't even noted in his Wikipedia entry. That would be the great cameo he had during "Bad News Bears in Breaking Training," the movie that famously brought two '70s icons — Kelly Leak and the Astrodome — together.

Now semi-retired, Watson was here at the winter meetings to discuss the newest Hall of Famers as a member of the committee that elected them.

But we couldn't resist the urge to also talk a little Hollywood.

"What I really remember about that is, I didn't want to be a movie star," Watson said. "Because, even if you get the lines right and the scene is right, you have to do it 15 times. There was a lot of standing around."

He's talking about you, perfectionist director Michael Pressman.

"The other thing I remember was my line," Watson said. "'Let the kids play.'"

And that's almost what he said, as the video clip above documents. Watson actually said, "Hey, c'mon, let the kids play!" and it was a key moment in the movie.

View photo

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(Big League Stew)

The Astros gave filmmakers only 45 minutes between games of an Astros doubleheader to film the scenes in which the Bears played some tobacco-chewing teens on the Houston Toros. You might remember the plot: Officials tried to shoo the boys off the field until Tanner Boyle resisted in the name of Timmy Lupus. But his defiance didn't gain any traction until Watson and some of his teammates entered the home dugout and saw what was happening. Joe Ferguson, Enos Cabell, J.R. Richard, Ken Forsch, Roger Metzger, Cesar Cedeño and Bill Virdon are all credited as having appeared in the movie, but only Watson had a line of significance. It inspired William Devane's character (along with that of Oscar nominee-to-be Jackie Earle Haley) to take the field and get the crowd chanting.

"William Devane was cool," Watson recalled.

But all that standing around? Less so.

Over the years, Watson has received residuals for his role in the movie. But the amounts printed on those checks have been laughable.

"This year sometime, I think I got a check for 15 cents," Watson said. "Over the 35 years since the movie was made, the checks ran from five or 10 dollars down to 10 cents."

Not nearly enough to keep Watson in the acting business.

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