Coach (played by Walter Matthau) (barging into the team bunk cabin): “What's going on in here?! Huh?! What's all the racket about?! I thought I told you to go to sleep!!”
Artie (played by Dan Aykroyd): “We were trying to, Coach, but Alan made too much noise because he was… buzzing off!”
Team (Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Garrett Morris): “Alan was buzzing off! Alan was buzzing off! Alan was buzzing off!!”
Coach: “Come on, you guys…cut it out! Come over here, Alan.. come over here…”
[Coach and a disconsolate Alan—played by John Belushi-- sit down.]
Coach: “Nothing wrong in what you were doing, Alan. It's perfectly normal for someone your age to bend his barb once in a while. Everyone does it, there's nothing to be ashamed of….It's a natural function - everyone does it….Let me tell you a story about a ballplayer I knew, who, uh… used to buzz off five, six, seven times a day. And his teammates, they made fun of him, they razzed him all the time. And he was ashamed, and it was affecting all aspects of his game. He had trouble throwing, fielding, hitting with power, running to the bases… And then, one day, he just accepted the fact that he was a chronic buzz off. And once he accepted that fact, he became a great ballplayer, and he went on to hit three home runs in the last game of the 1977 World Series!”
[The team is amazed by the identity of the buzz off.]
Team: “Reggie Jackson!!!!!!”
Coach: “Reggie Jackson. That's right, Alan, you're in good company.”—Saturday Night Live, Season 4, Episode 7, December 2, 1978, “The Bad News Bees” segment, directed by Dave Wilson and James Signorelli
I can still remember almost as if it were yesterday the first time this spoof of The Bad News Bears—one of the best skits in the show’s long history—aired, as well as the percussive laugh that came out of me at the slow uncoiling of the outrageous punchline.
“The three home runs in the last game of the 1977 World Series” occurred on this date 35 years ago against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and this Bunyanesque—no, Ruthian--feat by Reggie Jackson was as explosive in its way (home runs on three consecutive swings--plus one in his last at bat the day before!) as the SNL punchline.
In his wildest dreams, the slugger—then at the end of a hugely controversial first year with the New York Yankees, when he tangled with manager Billy Martin and catcher-sparkplug Thurman Munson—was never the five-tool player that Alex Rodriguez was in his prime. Nor did he always come through in the clutch. But unlike A-Rod, he never wilted when the lights shone brightest on him. (Even striking out, he made the air tremble.)
Sixteen years after the New York media made him a tabloid fixture, 15 years after SNL made fun of him, Mr. Buzzing Off—oops, I mean Mr. October—had the last laugh when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
(John Belushi and Walter Matthau are pictured here.)