Major League (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David S. Ward|
|Produced by||Chris Chesser|
|Written by||David S. Ward|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Dennis M. Hill|
|Morgan Creek Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
|Running time||107 minutes|
Major League is a 1989 American comedy film written and directed by David S. Ward, starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, Bob Uecker, and Corbin Bernsen. Made for US$11 million, Major League grossed nearly US$50 million in domestic release. The film deals with the exploits of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians baseball team and spawned two sequels (Major League II and Major League: Back to the Minors, which were released by Warner Bros.), neither of which replicated the success of the original film.
Rachel Phelps, a former Las Vegas showgirl, has inherited the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her deceased husband. She wants to move the team to the warmer climate of Miami, which has promised her a sweetheart deal including a new stadium. In order to do this, she must reduce the season's attendance at Cleveland Stadium to under 800,000 tickets sold, which will trigger an escape clause in the team's lease with the city of Cleveland. After she moves the team, she would also be able to release all the current players and replace them with new ones. Believing that finishing dead last will knock attendance down low enough for her to move, she instructs her new General Manager Charlie Donovan to hire the worst team possible from a list she has already prepared. The list includes veteran catcher Jake Taylor, who has problems with his knees and was last playing in Mexico; incarcerated pitcher Ricky Vaughn; power-hitting outfielder Pedro Cerrano, who practices voodoo to try to help him hit curve balls; veteran pitcher Eddie Harris, who no longer has a strong throwing arm and is forced to doctor his pitches; and third baseman Roger Dorn, a one-time star who is under contract but has become a high-priced prima donna. As manager, Phelps hires Lou Brown, a career minor league manager of the Toledo Mud Hens who works in the offseason as a tire salesman.
At spring training in Tucson, Arizona, the brash but speedy center fielder Willie "Mays" Hayes crashes camp uninvited, but is invited to join the team after displaying his running speed. Spring training reveals several problems with the new players. Vaughn has an incredible fastball but lacks control. Hayes is able to run the bases quickly but hits only pop flies, and Cerrano, despite his tremendous power, cannot hit a curveball. The veterans have their own problems: Dorn refuses to aggressively field ground balls, afraid that potential injuries will damage his upcoming contract negotiations, and it becomes clear that Taylor's bad knees will be a season-long concern. On the final day, when Brown is to cut the team down to 25 players, Dorn plays a practical joke on Vaughn, making him believe he was cut, resulting in a locker-room brawl.
After the team returns to Cleveland before the season begins, Taylor takes Vaughn and Hayes out to dinner but comes across his ex-girlfriend Lynn, who is dining with her current beau. Taylor believes he can try to win her back by proclaiming that he has a major league job again, but is disappointed to hear that she is already engaged.
The Indians' season starts off poorly. Vaughn's initial pitching appearances end in disaster, with his wild pitches earning him the derogatory title "Wild Thing." On a rare occasion when Vaughn does get a ball over the plate, it is hit well over 400 feet by the New York Yankees' best hitter, Clu Haywood. Brown discovers that Vaughn's eyesight is poor; once Vaughn gets glasses his wildness all but vanishes. "Wild Thing" remains Vaughn's nickname, and he becomes the team's ace. The team begins winning and is able to bring their win-loss percentage to .400. Phelps realizes this is not bad enough to stall attendance and decides to demoralize the team further by removing luxuries, such as replacing their team jet airplane first with a dilapidated prop plane, then with an old bus. However, these changes do not affect the Indians' performance and the team continues to improve. Donovan reveals Phelps' plan to Brown, who then relays the same news to the players. Brown also tells them that if the team plays too well for Phelps to void the lease, she will release them all and replace them with even worse players in the offseason. Taylor says that, since they have nothing to lose, the team should get back at Phelps by winning the pennant. Brown motivates the team further by providing a double-layered cardboard cutout of Phelps from her showgirl days, with the second layer divided in 32 pieces- the amount of wins Brown tells them they need to win the pennant. After every victory, a piece of the second layer is removed, eventually presenting a nude picture of Phelps.
The team plays very well down the stretch of the season, and clinch a tie for first in the American League East by beating the Chicago White Sox on the last day of the season. This forces a one-game playoff with the division's co-leaders, the Yankees. Prior to the playoff, Taylor continues to try to woo Lynn back and they share a night together. Vaughn learns that he will not be the starting pitcher for the game and goes to a bar to mope, where he encounters Suzanne Dorn. On the television broadcast of the Indians' victory party, Suzanne had seen her husband leave the team's hotel lobby with another woman; she retaliates by luring Vaughn to sleep with her. Vaughn is unaware of who she is until she tells him when she leaves Vaughn and Taylor's shared apartment.
Taylor advises Vaughn to keep his distance from Dorn for most of the game by staying in the bullpen. The game remains scoreless until the seventh inning when Harris gives up two runs. Cerrano comes to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and misses badly on two curveballs. He angrily threatens his voodoo god Jo-bu, saying "if you no help me now I say fuck you, Jo-bu, I do it myself." Cerrano then hits the next pitch--another curve--for a two-run homer. (Ironically, Harris -- a devout evangelical Christian who earlier in the film criticized Cerrano for practicing voodoo -- now keeps Cerrano's Jo-bu doll at his side while warming up.) In the top of the ninth, the Yankees are able to load the bases for the power-hitting Clu Haywood, and Lou decides to bring Vaughn in to pitch to him, telling Taylor he feels Rick is due for a good result against Haywood. While Taylor taunts Haywood from behind home plate, Vaughn strikes out his nemesis on three straight fastballs to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Hayes manages an infield single. The Yankees respond by bringing in their headhunting closer, Duke Simpson, to pitch to Taylor. After Hayes steals second, Taylor and Lou trade signs in the dugout and whatever Jake decided to do his manager agrees to. Taylor steps back in and points to center field, calling his shot. The Duke responds by throwing a fastball straight at Taylor's head, but the catcher is undeterred and gets back up pointing again. However, with Hayes running, Taylor bunts instead, catching the Yankees infield off-guard. Despite his weak knees, Taylor manages to beat out the throw to first as Hayes rounds third and heads for home plate, catching the Yankees off-guard again. Hayes slides safely into home, giving the Indians the win on a walk-off single. As the team celebrates, Dorn punches Vaughn in the face but then helps him up to continue the celebration. Jake finds Lynn in the stands, who raises her left hand to show that she is no longer wearing an engagement ring.
The theatrical release's ending includes Rachel Phelps, apparently unable to move the team because of increased attendance, angry and disappointed about the team's success. An alternate ending on the "Wild Thing Edition" DVD shows a very different characterization of Phelps. Lou tenders his resignation and tells Phelps that he can't in good conscience work for her after she sought to sabotage the team for her own personal gain. Phelps then tells him that, in fact, she loves the Indians and never intended to move them. However, when she inherited the club from her late husband, it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Unable to afford top flight players, she decided to take a chance on unproven players from the lower leagues, whom she personally scouted, and talented older players who were generally considered washed up. She tells Lou that she likewise felt that he was the right manager to bring the ragtag group together.
Phelps made up the Miami scheme and adopted a catty, vindictive persona to unify and motivate the team. As the players believed that she wanted the Indians to fail, she was able to conceal that the team could not afford basic amenities such as chartered jet travel behind a veil of taking them away to spite the players.
Lou does not resign, and Phelps reasserts her authority by saying that if he shares any part of their conversation with anyone, she will fire him.
Producers said that while the twist ending worked as a resolution of the plot, they scrapped it because test screening audiences preferred the Phelps character as a villain.
Major League was notable for featuring several actors who would go on to stardom: Wesley Snipes and Rene Russo were relative unknowns before the movie was released, while Dennis Haysbert remained best known as Pedro Cerrano until he portrayed US President David Palmer on the television series 24.
The film also featured former Major League players, including 1982 American League Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich as Yankees first baseman Clu Haywood, former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Willie Mueller as the Yankees pitcher known as "The Duke", and former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager as third-base coach Duke Temple. Former catcher and longtime Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker played the Indians' broadcaster Harry Doyle. The names of several crewmembers were also used for peripheral players.
Charlie Sheen himself was a pitcher on his high school's baseball team. At the time of filming Major League, his own fastball topped out at 85 miles per hour. (In 2011, Sheen said that he had used steroids for nearly two months to improve his athletic abilities in the film.)
- Tom Berenger as Jake Taylor
- Charlie Sheen as Ricky Vaughn
- Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn
- Margaret Whitton as Rachel Phelps
- James Gammon as Lou Brown
- Rene Russo as Lynn Wells
- Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes
- Charles Cyphers as Charlie Donovan
- Chelcie Ross as Eddie Harris
- Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano
- Andy Romano as Pepper Leach
- Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle
- Steve Yeager as Duke Temple
- Peter Vuckovich as Clu Haywood
- Stacy Carroll as Suzanne Dorn
- Neil Flynn as longshoreman Indian fan
The film's opening montage is a series of somber blue-collar images of the Cleveland landscape synchronized to the score of Randy Newman's "Burn On": an ode to the infamous night in Cleveland when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire.
Despite being set in Cleveland, the film was principally shot in Milwaukee because it was cheaper and the producers were unable to work around the schedules of the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns. Milwaukee County Stadium, then the home of the Brewers, doubles as Cleveland Municipal Stadium for the film, although several exterior shots of Municipal Stadium were used, including some aerial shots taken during a sellout game. In fact, the sign for the TV station atop the scoreboard is for WTMJ, the NBC affiliate for Milwaukee. Both facilities have since been demolished: the playing field of County Stadium is now a Little League baseball field known as Helfaer Field, while the rest of the former site is now a parking lot for the Brewers' new home, Miller Park; the new Cleveland Browns Stadium, a football-only facility owned by the City of Cleveland and used by the Browns, sits on the site of its predecessor.
In addition, an error in continuity appears at the beginning of the film. It appears that Lou Brown is being promoted to manage the Indians from their farm club; in reality, the Mud Hens were at the time (and still are) the top minor league affiliate for the Indians' rivals, the Detroit Tigers. Also, it would have been impossible for him to have been the Mud Hens' manager for the previous thirty seasons; if this were the case he would have had to have managed the team from 1957 onward and the Mud Hens did not exist as a team from 1953 until 1967 (due to a name change in 1953 and a move to Wichita, Kansas in 1956).
Box office reception
The movie debuted at No.1 at the box office. The movie had a mostly positive reception. It has an 85% "fresh" rating on review website Rotten Tomatoes, with trade magazine Variety calling it "sheer crowd pleasing fun".
Due to the success of the movie, two sequels have been produced - neither of which achieved the original's success. Major League II returned most of the original stars, with the notable exception of Wesley Snipes, and focused on the following season and the player's reaction to the previous season's success. This movie cost $25M and grossed $30.6M. Major League: Back to the Minors again starred Corbin Bernsen, but this time as the owner of the Minnesota Twins and his attempt to turn around the Twins' AAA team, the Buzz. This movie cost $46M and grossed only $3.6M. A possible third sequel, titled Major League 3, is reportedly in the works by David S. Ward, the writer and producer of Major League. The movie would return Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Snipes with the plot revolving around Ricky Vaughn coming out of retirement to work with a young player.
The Team (by uniform number):
- 00 - Willie Mays Hayes, CF
- 7 - Jake Taylor, C
- 8 - Duke Temple, 3rd Base Coach
- 10 - Eddie Harris, SP
- 12 - Crespi, Position Unknown
- 13 - Pedro Cerrano, RF
- 14 - Van Dyke, Position Unknown
- 15 - Reyna, SS
- 16 - Pepper Leach, 1st Base Coach/Pitching Coach
- 20 - Larson, 2B
- 21 - Kuntz, Position Unknown
- 23 - Graham, Backup 1B
- 24 - Roger Dorn, 3B
- 26 - Lindberg, Position Unknown
- 27 - Campi, Position Unknown
- 28 - Pearson, Position Unknown
- 30 - Metcalf/Ward, 1B
- 33 - Bushnell, SP
- 34 - Lou Brown, Manager
- 37 - Stocker, Relief Pitcher
- 38 - Tomlinson, LF
- 39 - Reaves, Assistant Coach
- 40 - Keltner, SP
- 41 - Rhoads, Position Unknown
- 44 - Mosser, Position Unknown
- 45 - Schindler, Position Unknown
- 47 - Gentry, SP (Cut in Spring Training)
- 48 - Huffman SS
- 49 - Winter, Position Unknown
- 99 - Rick Vaughn, SP
- ?? - Mitchell Friedman, Position Unknown
- "boxofficemojo.com". Box Office Mojo: Major League. Retrieved 27 May 2006.
- Marianne Garvey (June 29, 2011). "Charlie Sheen used steroids during 'Major League'". msnbc.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29.
- "Major League - Wild Thing Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- Easton, Nina J. (1989-04-11). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Major League' Wins Season Opener". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Thomas, Kevin (1989-04-07). "Movie Reviews : 'Major League' in a League by Itself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- James, Caryn (1989-04-07). "Reviews/Film; Idiocies and Idiosyncrasies Of Bungling Ballplayers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- Corliss, Richard (1989-04-24). "Cinema: Don't Run: One Hit, One Error". Time. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- Published Wednesday, Jun 23 2010, 14:41 BST (2010-06-23). "Sheen returning for third 'Major League'? - Movies News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Major League|
- Major League at the Internet Movie Database
- Major League at Rotten Tomatoes
- Major League at Box Office Mojo
- DVDTalk.com Review of "Major League - Wild Thing Edition"