THE COMEBACK KID (1980) John Ritter stars in a second (maybe third) generation made-for-television Bad News Bears clone

The Comeback KidTheme Song: Seasoned composer Barry De Vorzon (The Warriors, as well as co-writer of Joe Walsh’s In The City) composed the bumper music for The Comeback Kid.


The bumper music is quite different from The Warriors music, but hey, we’ve all gotta pay bills sometime, so let’s not judge too harshly.

Interesting Dated References: Being able to relentlessly pursue and harass a female jogger without her freaking out, punching you in or around your genitals, and calling the police; John Ritter referencing himself as being 29 years old.

Best Line: Ham-fisted dialogue featuring young kids talking about getting wasted and high as John Ritter antagonizes them into working out.

Social Context: The Comeback Kid is a second (maybe third) generation Bad News Bears clone. In the late 70s and early 80s everyone was so bad at parenting they made an entire film genre to help them believe that if they were shitty adults they could somehow motivate children with positive results. Since The Comeback Kid was made-for-television, the movie comes off as a bit pedestrian. Ritter does a good job with the script, flexing a little dramatic acting muscle during his Three’s Company downtime.

Summary: Ritter stars as Bubba Newman, a hot shit Double-A baseball pitcher. At almost 30, his star is fading and Coach has grown tired of his antics, which include kissing a large-breasted woman (Angela Aames RIP, Scarface, Bachelor Party) in the middle of an inning.

After being excused from a game for giving up runs, Ritter is informed by his coach that he’s being demoted to the Triple-A team so they can bring up a younger guy. Ritter refuses and storms off to get drunk with teammate Patrick Swayze.

The Comeback Kid

The Comeback Kid marks Swayze’s first television role, and second overall after the nearly impossible to find Skatetown USA. Don’t give me that bullshit about, “My friend has a torrent of Skatetown USA,” because that shit doesn’t play and he’s a poseur who never tests his torrents after downloading them to see if they are corrupt or not.

The Comeback Kid

Swayz-dog gets a limited amount of screen time, but he makes good use of playing a “good ol’ boy” baseball player. When it comes to the drunken dancefloor scene though, you can see Swayze in the background dancing a little too well( below, left).

The Comeback Kid

So after the drunken dancefloor, there’s a drunken barroom brawl and everyone leaves the bar without police involvement. Then Ritter gets pissed off inside because he wants to party really heavy, but no one else does, ya know? So he goes home alone and falls asleep.

The Comeback Kid

The next day Ritter sits at home drinking, reading the newspaper, and listening to the radio, which are things people did in the 80s. Later that night he goes to the public park to throw beer cans at home plate before passing out on the pitcher’s mound.

The Comeback Kid

In the morning, a bunch of crusty-looking kids wake him up and harass him. After cleaning up in a public restroom sink, Ritter does the next creepiest thing and decides to relentlessly pursue a female jogger through the park.

The Comeback Kid

The woman, Megan (played by Susan Dey), informs Ritter she is in charge of Parks & Recreation and just happens to need someone to coach their sports program for disadvantaged youths.

The Comeback Kid

After more relentless pursuit and showboating she agrees to go to lunch with Ritter. This is the only time in all of time that the pursued has agreed to go to lunch with the purser. Over lunch Dey agrees to let Ritter coach the kids without so much as a criminal background or sex offender registry check.

The Comeback Kid

Over a 30-minute montage, Ritter gets to know the kids, attempts to motivate them, gets fired, rehired, and convinces Dey to go on a dinner date. Only instead of taking her on a date, he drags her out with his baseball friends to a belly dancing-themed restaurant.

The Comeback Kid

All his baseball friends (including Swayze) act all rowdy. Ray (Rod Gist) repeatedly references how Ritter likes to hook-up with young chicks, all while some woman belly dances and serves them food that she regurgitates from her belly.

The Comeback Kid

Dey gets really uncomfortable with the food regurgitation and leaves. Ritter immediately turns his back on all of his friends, says they behave like children, and drives Dey home. The next day he goes to audition for his Double-A team and gets rehired.

The Comeback Kid

After a bunch of emotional turmoil, including a camping sequence with the kids, Ritter becomes super mean to Dey and tells her he spent all the parks money on a pitching machine. Then I get reminded of how terribly boring these synopses can be when I lose interest halfway through and they devolve into boring play by play analysis.

The Comeback Kid

Even though Ritter has a glorious return to baseball, his heart just isn’t in it. He keeps thinking about the kids and Dey. Eventually he goes back to beg Dey to take him back.

The Comeback Kid

Seeing Ritter has returned, the kids get excited and rush over on their bikes to try to see him. The weakest kid in the bunch, Paul (Jeremy Licht, the creepy kid from Twilight Zone: The Movie), is hit by a car and killed.

The Comeback Kid

All the kids mourn and have a ridiculously long conversation about grief, death, and sadness with Ritter and Dey. They seriously must have hired 10 youth counselors to help write this dialogue. Again, Ritter does well with the material and even though I’m almost 100% dead inside, I still got a little misty.

The Comeback Kid

Then they have a track meet and Michael, the older brother of Paul who never wanted to participate, makes a triumphant return, frantically trying to physically outrun the emotional problems that will someday consume him. Yes, the team couldn’t afford track uniforms so they all wear tie-dye clothing. No, the dead kid does not comeback. Oh, and Tootie (Kim Fields) was one of the disadvantaged youth.

Poster and Box Art: Made-for-television movies don’t have a huge budget for box art. All you get is a still photo from the promotional materials and some poorly selected fonts. The ad featured above was banking on America’s love affair with Ritter.

Availability: Used VHS on eBay. There was a complete version on Youtube but it’s gone now. That’s okay though because the background compression on it made you feel like you’re on acid and about to drop out of art school.

Leave a Reply