Classic Baseball Movies: Major League

The 1989 satire comedy Major League, written and directed by David Schad Ward, who’s other film credits include such notable movies as The Sting, for which he won an Oscar for the Best Original Screenplay, Cannery Row, The Sting II, The Milagro Beanfield War, King Ralph, Sleepless In Seattle, Major League II, Down Periscope, and Flyboys, was a labor of love for Ward who grew up in South Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, a hugh fan of his hometown Indians and was quoted as saying when he wrote the movie script that it would be “the only way they were ever going to win anything in his lifetime”.

Cleveland Indians:

One of the eight charter franchises of the American League, and originally playing in Grand Rapids, Michigan before moving to Cleveland in 1900, where they have been known as the Lake Shores, Blues, Bluebirds, Broncos, Naps, Molly McGuires, and since 1915, as the Indians. Cleveland won World Series titles in 1920 and 1948, and currently has one of the longest title droughts in baseball history, second only to the Chicago Cubs.


It is against this backdrop Ward decides the plot for Major League will be to have the team’s villainous owner Rachel Phelps inherit the Indians from her deceased husband, and attempt to move them to Miami’s warmer weather, knowing in order to do so she must reduce the team’s attendance below 800,000 fans to enable the team’s escape clause with the city of Cleveland to become effective. Phelps plans to accomplish this by ridding the Indians of all the current players on the team and ordering her General Manager to form the worst team he possibly can from a self-prepared list she provides him with. The only problem is the team learns about her plans, and refuses to be the charmed losers she hopes for, going on to defeat their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, in a one-game playoff to win the American League pennant thereby foiling her best laid plans.

The Team:

The best term used to describe the Cleveland Indians players in the movie is an ensemble of misfits that includes a Tire Salesman named Lou Brown to be the Manager, who’s only baseball experience has been managing the Toledo Mud Hens Minor League team for the past thirty years, a high priced prima donna thirdbaseman named Roger Dorn who won’t aggressively field groundballs in order to protect his future contract negotiations, a washed-up, weak, and baseball-doctoring verteran pitcher named Eddie Harris, a voodoo practicing power-hitting outfielder named Pedro Cerrano who can not hit curveballs and constantly keeps his voodoo doll Jo-Bu by his side, a speedy, brash, and not invited to training camp centerfielder named Willie Mays Hayes who only hits pop flies, a veteran catcher with severe knee problems named Jake Taylor who has a minor subplot in the movie of trying to win back the love of his ex-girlfriend and is upset upon hearing about her impending engagement to someone else, and Rick Vaughn, a former jailbird who’s previous baseball experience is playing in the California Penal League. Vaughn also has a vision problem nerd glasses finally corrects, a strong desire to intentionally hit opposing batters, and enters games to the theme music from The Troggs song “Wild Thing,” that was written by Chip Taylor.


To make conditions even worse for her players Phelps removes little luxuries from them, including replacing the team’s airplane with a bus, and threatening to bring in even worse players than what she has already fielded if they keep winning, but when General Manager Charlie Donovan informs the Manager about Phelps plans, and he relays them to the team, they decide they have nothing to lose so they will just when the pennant no matter what she does, and Brown encourages them all the more by removing one piece of a dress on a cardboard cut-out of Phelps from her Las Vegas Showgirl days for every game the team wins. Additionally, before the playoff game with the Yankees Taylor and his ex-girlfriend share a night of passion together, and Vaughn, learning he will not be the game’s starting pitcher, goes to a bar to console himself and meets Dorn’s wife, who after watching her husband leave the team’s hotel lobby with another woman, tricks Vaughn into sleeping with her, and he only learns who she is just before she leaves his apartment the next morning causing Vaughn to stay in the bullpen as far away from Dorn as he can possibly get to avoid a disruptive confrontation with him about it before the big game.


Scoreless until the seventh inning, and tied at the top of the nineth when the Yankees load the bases, Vaughn is called in to pitch with the roaring crowd and “Wild Thing” blarring in the background, and proceeds to strike out the Yankees best hitter on three straight pitches. When Cleveland comes to bat in the bottom of the inning, and there are two outs recorded, Hayes singles to get on base then steals second with Taylor coming to bat, who imitating Babe Ruth, calls his shot by pointing to the bleachers and the Yankees infielders drop back out of position. Catching them by surprise Taylor lays down a well placed bunt and manages to make it safely to first base. The alert Hayes clears third, and again catching the Yankees offguard slides safely home winning the pennant for the long suffering Indians. Dorn punches Vaughn in the face for sleeping with his wife then helps him up off the ground to join in the team’s celebration. Taylor and his ex-girlfriend reunite, and Phelps is left distraught, angry, and utterly disappointed her plans completely failed.


With the majority of the movie filmed in Milwaukee County Stadium, which no longer exists, Major League was notable for providing several Actors such as Rene Russo, Dennis Haysbert, and Wesley Snipes a platform to launch much bigger careers from. Major League also introduced famous Baseball players Bob Uecker, Steve Yeager, Willie Mueller, and Pete Vuckovich into the script, reunited Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen who had previously starred together in the motion picture Platoon, and is still considered by the Cleveland Indians an important part of their history.


Starring roles for Major League included Tom Berenger as Jake Taylor, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, Charlie Sheen as Rick Vaughn, James Gammon as Lou Brown, Margaret Whitton as Rachael Phelps, Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes, Rene Russo as Lynn Wells, Charles Cyphers as Charlie Donovan, Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano, and Chelcie Ross as Eddie Harris.

Featured Performers included Andy Romano, Steve Yeager, Bob Uecker, Stacy Carroll, Pete Vukovich, Richard Pickren, Mary Seibel, Kevin Crawley, Bill Leff, Skip Gripuris, Mike Bacarella, Gary Houston, Ward Ohrmann, Marge Katlisky, Deborah Wakeham, Tony Mockus Junior, Keith Uchima, Kurt Uchima, Richard Baird, William M. Sinacore, Julia Milaris, Michael Thoma, Roger Unice, Joe Liss, Patrick Dollymore, Gregory Alan Williams, Michael Hart, Peter Rushkin, James Deuter, Joe Soto, Ted Noose, Tim Bell, Thomas P. Purdoff, Lenny Rubin, Jack McLaughlin-Gray, Alexandra Villa, Michelle Minyon, Jeffrey J. Edwards, Alex Flores, Michael F. Twarog, Michael Kuster, and Ted White.

Uncredited Contributors included Byron Brown, James Barwick, Con Geary, A.J. DiSpirito, Shea Farrell, F. Gary Gray, Brad Weber, and John Meier.


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