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|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$49.8 million|
Major League is a 1989 American sports comedy film written and directed by David S. Ward, starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, 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 Back to the Minors, which were released by Warner Bros.), neither of which replicated the success of the original film.
Former Las Vegas showgirl Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) has inherited the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her deceased husband. Phelps has received a lucrative deal to move the team to Miami, and she aims to trigger the escape clause in the team's contract with Cleveland if season attendance falls below minimum levels. To do this, she fires most of the existing players and has her new General Manager Charlie Donovan bring in new ones from a list of aging veterans and inexperienced rookies, hoping to make the worst team ever that would certainly cause attendance to decline. Phelps hires Lou Brown, a former coach from the Toledo Mud Hens to lead the team.
During spring training in Tucson, Brown and veteran catcher Jake Taylor discover the new team has a number of interpersonal issues as well as their own struggles with the game, such as the prima donna nature of Roger Dorn, the only player on a long-term contract with the Indians, and the weak arm of veteran pitcher Eddie Harris who is forced to doctor his pitches to stay competitive. As the season starts, the team is unable to overcome these problems and starts on a losing streak. Their rookie pitcher, Ricky Vaughn, has an incredible fast ball but with little control, leading him to be called "Wild Thing"; however, by chance, Brown discovers Vaughn has eyesight problems, and when they fit him with glasses, his pitching drastically improves, helping the Indians to a series of wins. The rest of the team rallies behind this, putting aside personal issues and coming together to bring the Indians higher in the division standings. Phelps tries to demoralize the team by taking away their luxuries such as a private jet, but the team still holds strong, and appears to have a shot at winning the division. Meanwhile, Taylor finds that his ex-girlfriend Lynn is living in Cleveland, and tries to get her to come back to him even after learning she has become engaged to a new beau.
When Phelps' original plan falls through, she decides that she will purposely void the contract, despite the financial penalty, and will move the team to Miami regardless. Donovan relays this to Brown, who informs the team that no matter how well they do, they will be fired after the season. Taylor leads the others to agree that they should do the best they can and win the division. To spur the team, Brown uses a covered cardboard standup photo of Phelps from her showgirl days, pulling off a piece of the cover for every game they win. The team succeeds in tying the division with the New York Yankees, leading to a one-game playoff to determine the title.
In the playoff in Cleveland, the Yankees take an early lead but Pedro Cerrano is able to overcome his inability to hit a curve, knocking out a home run to tie the game. In the top of the 9th, with the bases loaded and the Yankees' power hitter Clu Haywood at bat, Brown has Vaughn pitch relief despite past confrontations Vaughn has had with Haywood. Vaughn manages to strike out Haywood, sending the Indians up to bat.
With the game tied and the Indians with two outs, the speedy Willie "Mays" Hayes manages a single to get on base, and then steals second. Taylor steps up, and after signalling to Brown, calls his shot to center field. With the Yankees prepared for the long play, Taylor instead bunts, allowing Hayes to make it to home safely and win the game. The team and crowd erupt into cheers while Phelps realizes that she likely will not be able to move the team after this. As the team celebrates, Taylor sees Lynn in the stands, no longer wearing her engagement ring. The two rush to hug each other as the city celebrates the victory.
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 conceived 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, but Phelps reasserts her authority by saying that if he shares any part of their conversation with anyone, she will fire him.
This alternate ending was actually the original ending and was filmed and shown to test screening audiences before the movie's release. The producers said that although the twist ending worked as a resolution to the plot, they scrapped it after preview audiences responded negatively, preferring the Phelps character as a villain.
- Tom Berenger as Jake Taylor
- Charlie Sheen as Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn
- Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn
- Margaret Whitton as Rachel Phelps
- James Gammon as Lou Brown
- Rene Russo as Lynn Weslin
- Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle
- 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
- Steve Yeager as Duke Temple
- Peter Vuckovich as Clu Haywood
- Willie Mueller as The Duke
- Stacy Carroll as Suzanne Dorn
- Neil Flynn as longshoreman Indian fan
|Cleveland Indians (Major League)|
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 (and three Green Bay Packers games per season), doubles as Cleveland Stadium for the film, although several exterior shots of Cleveland Stadium were used, including some aerial shots taken during an Indians game. In fact, the sign for the TV station atop the scoreboard is for WTMJ, the NBC affiliate for Milwaukee. One of the ending scenes of the movie is in West Milwaukee's legendary restaurant, 4th Base which showcases their unique horseshoe bar that is shown in the celebration scenes. Another restaurant scene, at the then Gritz Pazazz on Milwaukee's north side, is no longer open for business. 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.
The film was notable for featuring several actors who would go on to stardom: Snipes and Russo were relative unknowns before the movie was released, while 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 Duke Simpson, 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.
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.)
The film debuted at No. 1 at the box office. The movie had a mostly positive reception. It has an 82% "fresh" rating on review website Rotten Tomatoes based on 38 reviews, with trade magazine Variety calling it "sheer crowd pleasing fun".
Due to the success of the film, 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 players' 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, attempting to turn around the Twins' AAA team, the Buzz. This movie cost $46M and grossed only $3.6M. A possible third sequel, Major League 3, was reported in 2010 to be in development by original writer and producer David S. Ward. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Snipes would return, with the plot revolving around Ricky Vaughn coming out of retirement to work with a young player. In 2015, Morgan Creek Productions announced that the sequel was still in the works.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
In popular culture
When he joined the Cubs in 1989 (the same year the film was released), pitcher Mitch Williams' extravagant wind-up and release, and his frequent wild pitches, earned him the nickname "Wild Thing." As with Rick Vaughn's character, the Wrigley Field organist played "Wild Thing" as Williams came out of the bullpen. A few years later, in 1993 with the Phillies, Williams started wearing the number 99 on his jersey, the same number that Vaughn wears in the film.
The film became an inspiration for the real Cleveland Indians and the city, given the long-standing Cleveland sports curse that had left Cleveland without any sporting championships since 1964. Between 1995 and 2001, the team reached the playoff several times and went to the World Series twice, though losing both times.
In the years since its release Major League has become a beloved film of many professional baseball players and announcers, and is often referenced during game broadcasts. For example, in 2014, for the film's 25th anniversary, Major League catcher David Ross filmed a one-man tribute to the film, with Ross playing the part (among others) of Lou Brown, Pedro Cerrano, Willie Mays Hayes, Rick Vaughn, and Roger Dorn. Additionally, as part of their 2014 "Archives" set, the trading card company Topps celebrated the film's 25th anniversary by creating baseball cards (using the same design as the company's 1989 base set) of Roger Dorn, Jake Taylor, Eddie Harris, Rachel Phelps, Rick Vaughn, and "Jobu."
Soon after the films 25th anniversary in 2015, the character Jobu (Pedro Cerrano's voodoo figure) was immortalized and produced by a company called "The Jobu Lifestyle." The packaging is a reference to Cerrano's locker that made up Jobu's shrine.
- "MAJOR LEAGUE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 6, 1989. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
- "boxofficemojo.com". Box Office Mojo: Major League. Retrieved May 27, 2006.
- Cronin, Brian (July 20, 2010). "The film Major League originally had a dramatic twist at the end involving the team's owner.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
- "Major League - Wild Thing Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- Marianne Garvey (June 29, 2011). "Charlie Sheen used steroids during 'Major League'". msnbc.com. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Easton, Nina J. (April 11, 1989). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Major League' Wins Season Opener". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
- Thomas, Kevin (April 7, 1989). "Movie Reviews : 'Major League' in a League by Itself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- James, Caryn (April 7, 1989). "Reviews/Film; Idiocies and Idiosyncrasies Of Bungling Ballplayers". The New York Times. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- Corliss, Richard (April 24, 1989). "Cinema: Don't Run: One Hit, One Error". Time. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "Sheen returning for third 'Major League'? - Movies News". Digital Spy. June 23, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- Jagernauth, Kevin (September 24, 2015). "Remakes Of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Exorcist, and Major League In the Works". Indiewire. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
- Although, according to an interview on the The Dan Patrick Show (October 22, 2008), Williams' number change had nothing to do with the Major League film. Williams said he had wanted the number 99 for years because of his admiration for the football player Mark Gastineau, who also wore number 99. Williams said that he did not change his number until 1993 because that was his first chance to do it.
- "Ross recreates 'Major League'," MLB.com (April 2, 2014).
- "Major League 25th Anniversary Wax Pack," Topps official website. Accessed February 18, 2015.
- "Arizona Childhood Friends Recreate Major League's Jobu," AZ Central. Accessed April 16, 2015.
- "There's a Company Exclusively Selling Licensed Jobu Figurines from Major League," Cleveland Scene. Accessed April 16, 2015.
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