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Major League (1989)

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Major League
Major League
When these three oddballs try to play hardball, the result is totally screwball.
Directed By David S. Ward
Written By David S. Ward
Cast Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo
Produced By Chris Chesser
Film Editing By Dennis M. Hill
Cinematography By Reynaldo Villalobos
Music By James Newton Howard
Studio

Morgan Creek Productions, Mirage Productions

Country

United States

Language

English

Release Date

April 7, 1989

Runtime

107 Minutes

Rating R
Distributed By

Paramount Pictures, J&M Entertainment

Budget $11,000,000
Gross $49,797,148


Overview

A 1989 American sports comedy film written and directed by David S. Ward featuring a fictional roster of the real-life Cleveland Indians baseball team. The film starred Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, and Bob Uecker. Major League was a major hit and had two sequel films, Major League II and Major League: Back to the Minors.

Plot

Former Las Vegas exotic dancer, trophy wife, and major witch Rachel Phelps has just inherited the Cleveland Indians from her much older and now deceased husband. The Indians haven't had much luck or success for well ... decades and Phelps has just received a very lucrative offer to move the team to sunny and tropical Florida. It's a deal that she's very keen to take on as she despises Cleveland but it won't happen because the Indians have an iron clad contract with the city.

Or maybe not...

Phelps has found a loophole in the contract which states that should stadium attendance drop below minimum levels for an extended period of time; she can trigger an "escape clause" and wing it off for a much warmer climate. But to do that, she'll have to put together the right team. In essence, she doesn't want bad players ... she wants the worst, most awful players that she can find and field them so that the Indians don't just lose ... but finish dead last.

Part-time coach for a minor league team, The Mud Hens and full-time tire salesman Lou Brown is thus shocked when he gets a job offer to become the newest manager of the Indians. It's a rare opportunity to move up to a major league for a manager, but Brown finds his job is no sinecure as he has a rather ... unusual roster ranging from aging prima donna Roger Dorn who is more interested in looking good and avoiding possible injury than playing along with aging vet Eddie Harris who relies on good ol' fashioned doctoring of the ball to compensate for his weak pitch.

Then there's Cuban religious refugee Pedro Cerrano who came to America so he could practice voodoo and has an incredible stadium-clearing grand slam of a swing ... but only if it's a straight ball.  Rookie pitcher and ex-con Ricky Vaughn, gifted with an incredibly fast arm but precious little control over it along with his sidekick, the arrogant Willie Mays Hayes who is a world-class sprinter but a weak batter.

Veteran catcher and straight man Jake Taylor with bad knees desperately wants the Indians to do well, feeling it could be his last chance at a comeback.  Taylor is struggling to balance his professional life with his messed up personal one by making up with his former girlfriend, Lynn Wells who is now engaged with a well-to-do fiancee.

But Phelps discovers to her mounting disgust that even though her "dream team" is losing, they aren't losing enough. Hell, they actually seem to be improving! Stadium attendance is still down but not below her minimum threshold numbers so she embarks on several schemes to demoralize the team. Despite her attempts however, Taylor manages to rally the Indians and it is discovered that Vaughn whose shaky control has earned him the derogatory nickname of "Wild Thing" has an eyesight problem which is solved with glasses and tremendously aids in his accuracy and ability.

Brown's friend and Phelps' underling, Charlie Donovan then confesses the truth behind Phelps' losing strategy and that no matter how much the Indians improve, she will simply fire them all and try again with another round of misfits and losers to run through the gauntlet next season. Brown's revelation to the Indians however does the exact opposite as instead of destroying them, they decide that they simply have nothing left to lose ... except to spite the bitch by "winning the whole fucking thing" and driving them to launch a winning streak that ties them with the New York Yankees, resulting in a face-off with their highly ranked rivals for the Title Pennant.

But not all is well with the Indians. Taylor is devastated when his relationship with Lynn which has been steadily been improving, has abruptly moved out of her apartment, presumably to live with her fiancee.  Vaughn also discovers that he will not be opening up as the pitcher for the title game. Roger Dorn's wife, Suzanne catches him cheating on her and decides to humiliate him by seducing the despondent Vaughn in a bar. After their sexual encounter, Suzanne cheerfully informs the ignorant Vaughn of her true identity to his shock. Afterwards, Vaughn finds himself laying low and trying to avoid a furious Dorn.

During the playoff, the Indians and the Yankees are bitterly tied at zero until the seventh inning where the tiring Harris is forced to concede two runs. Cerrano counters this by finally home running a curve ball, bringing him and Willie Mays Hayes in and upping the score 2-2.

With Harris clearly in trouble, Brown calls in Vaughn as a fresh pitcher who successfully succeeds in striking out his main nemesis, Clu Heywood and keeping the score deadlocked until the bottom of the ninth inning with Taylor at bat and Willie Mays Hayes at first. With the new Yankee pitcher Duke Simpson focused on Hayes and almost outing him from stealing second base, Taylor proceeds to taunt Simpson by imitating Babe Ruth's infamous called shot; a proclamation that he intends to hit a home run. Simpson responds with a fast pitch aimed at Taylor's face causing him to hastily duck. Taylor gets back up and refuses to dust himself off, instead calls his shot again. Simpson pitches again but in a surprise move, Taylor instead bunts which takes the defense off guard who had been prepared for a long shot. Hayes takes off and rounds third even as despite his weak knees, Taylor finishes his sprint to the first base and barely missing getting tagged out by the first baseman. The first baseman whirls around and hurls the ball to the catcher but Hayes slides in and makes it home, winning the game with 3-2.

Even as the entire stadium starts cheering with the sole exception of Rachel Phelps who no longer can move the team or fire the champion team, the Indians begin celebrating. Dorn rushes up and proceeds to slug Vaughn before laughing and helps the fallen pitcher up before embracing him. Meanwhile Taylor spots Lynn in the stands and she smiles before showing her bare hand without her engagement ring, indicating that she decided against marrying her fiancee.

Cast

  • 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

Production

Reception

Trivia

  • The writer and director of Major League, David S. Ward is a real life long Cleveland Indians fan. His inspiration for creating the script was simply because he thought it would be the only way he would ever see the Indians actually win anything.
  • The modern day tradition of major league relief pitchers, mainly closers having their own personal intro songs playing as they walked onto the field was directly inspired by this film.
  • Charlie Sheen was an actual high school pitcher who was offered a baseball scholarship to the University of Kansas. At the time of the shooting, Sheen's fastball was only in the high 80s which filmmakers proclaimed made it a lot easier to make it appear that his character could hurl a 100 mph fastball with special effects.
  • Dennis Haysbert's character of Pedro Cerrano was originally scripted to drop his bat after his climatic homerun swing against the Yankees before running the bases. However during the take, Haysbert hit an genuine home run and was so surprised that he took off running and forgot to drop the bat. Afterwards, it was decided to simply keep that bit in.
  • In an alternate twist ending, Lou Brown confronts Rachel Phelps to announce his resignation due to her attempts to sabotage the Cleveland Indians. Phelps however reveals that she loves the Indians and had no intention of moving to Florida but the club was on the verge of bankruptcy when she inherited it from her husband. She subsequently staged the whole thing and took the chance on hiring unproven rookies, the best of the aging veterans, and chose Lou because he was the best manager she could find willing to work for the meager salary she was offering. All of her "schemes" to demoralize the team was really because she could no longer afford the equipment and amenities and she hoped that the incidents would unify and motivate the team against her. It worked beyond her wildest dreams and drove up the attendance figures. Phelps continued to saying that if Brown continued as manager, they would have to continue the charade that she was a vindictive bitch. Test audiences reacted negatively to the twist conclusion, preferring the characterization of Phelps as the villain resulting in the director to pull that scene from the theatrical release.

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