The Comeback Kid (1980)

Bubba Newman (John Ritter) has been in the minor leagues for way too long and if he goes down one more level, he may as well never make it to the majors. So he quits to become the coach for a gang of poor kids — Walter Matthau, look out — and finds romance with Susan Dey. But since this is a TV movie, tragedy is looming and everyone will have to realize that life is not always fair.

Director Peter Levin made plenty of TV movies, everything from My Father’s Shadow: The Sam Sheppard StoryDeadly Nightshade and Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story to Popeye DoyleThe Royal Romance of Charles and Diana and Washington Mistress. He’s working from a script by Joe Landon, who also executive produced this and wrote Ritter’s special, John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body.

This is one to watch for the cast, as beyond Ritter and Dey, there’s Doug McKeon (who everyone else would say was in On Golden Pond, but I remember from Mischief), James Gregory (General Ursus!), Jeremy Licht (a member of The Hogan Family), Patrick Swayze, Angela Aames (Chopping Mall, Basic Training) and Kim Fields before she was Tootie.

Spoiler warning — one of the kids gets killed and it gets really dark. That really shocked me. Otherwise, this is the kind of TV movie that was made for those who couldn’t get HBO and the opportunity to watch Amanda Whurlitzer, Kelly Leak and Timmy Lupis play the Yankees.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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