Sammi Kane Kraft, whose real-life baseball abilities earned her the role of pitching ace in 2005’s “Bad News Bears,” tragically passed away Tuesday morning from a car accident in Los Angeles at 20 years old. She had made two films previously.
She was a passenger in an Audi that was speeding on the westbound 10 Freeway near Crenshaw Boulevard at approximately 1:30 a.m. when it rear-ended a big rig and then was hit by another car, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Frankie Kraft, her brother, reported that Nancy Kraft passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Molly Kate Adams, 21, the driver of an Audi, was treated for moderate injuries and arrested on suspicion of felony drunk driving, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). It’s reported that both other drivers escaped without major harm.
Kraft was discovered playing ball year-round on a baseball diamond in Los Angeles, where her family had relocated from New York so that she and another brother could pursue their passion of playing baseball.
Tatum O’Neal, who portrays Amanda Whurlitzer in the 1976 original film, earned her role as Amanda Whurlitzer by throwing a 75 mph fastball during a casting call in Encino, according to The Daily News of Los Angeles in 2005.
“Amanda is such a unique character that it would be impossible to out-Tatum’ Tatum O’Neal,” director Richard Linklater stated in 2005. “I didn’t want to keep cutting away to some boy with a wig who could throw.”
At 13 years old when the film premiered, Kraft played the sole girl on a misfit baseball team coached by Billy Bob Thornton’s character. She credits Thornton with giving her acting tips and helping her with crying scenes that came naturally to her, according to Kraft.
“I could never fill Tatum O’Neal’s shoes, but I tried to make the role my own,” Kraft told the New York Daily News in 2005. “I added a touch of New York in me – some toughness and smart-ass.”
Frankie Kraft said she wasn’t interested in acting as a career, but rather “was just kind of enjoying all of it.” She always had a smile and an infectious laugh; her Robert De Niro impressions were amazing, and she never took anything too seriously.”
Sammi was born April 2, 1992 in Livingston, N.J. She grew up with two brothers as part of a baseball-playing family and excelled at baseball throughout her teenage years.
As an 8-year-old pitcher for the Toluca Lake Titans baseball team and the only girl on their roster, Sammi once threw nine strikes in the final inning to seal victory. Her tough-as-nails performance was characteristic Sammi – “she was just that kind of chick,” Frank recalled. “Sammi was definitely that kind of girl.”
At El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, she played varsity girls softball for the school. After graduation in 2010, she continued her studies at San Francisco State and formed the folk-country rock band Scary Girls with friends.
After returning to Los Angeles earlier this year, Kraft enrolled at Santa Monica College and often performed as a solo singer-guitarist at small venues. On her last night on earth, Kraft attended a show and tried to network with bands, according to her brother.
Last year, Kraft and her brother had been working on a musical called “Funerals,” inspired by their grandmother’s passing. To prepare, Kraft spent one week in January in New York working with actors on the production.
Frankie said, “Now I understand why it must be finished for her. Our baby was ours and it shouldn’t go to waste.”
One of the songs she composed for the musical, “Time,” features the line: “Time slows without warning.”
She is survived by her parents, Shelly and Lulu Kane Kraft of Marina del Rey; brothers Frankie and Bobby; as well as her grandfather Syd Kane.