Movies At Random – Major League

“So, an eerie start for the Erie warriors as they drop a heartbreaker to the Yankees, nine to nothing. The post game show is brought to you by… Christ I can’t find it, the hell with it.”

A baseball team full of misfits defies the odds to go from worst to first in the American League, but can they go all the way to the World Series?

Major League (1989)
Written and Directed by David S. Ward

What great timing, watching and reviewing this movie about a lackluster Cleveland Indians team fighting to overcome their issues and facing off against a mighty New York Yankees team now, a day after the 2018 Yankees finished a sweep of the Indians in Yankee Stadium. It’s a lovely coincidence.

While I obviously am always rooting for the bruising Bronx Bombers to be the hero of any story, MAJOR LEAGUE takes a different route. The movie is about a Cleveland Indians team stripped to the bone of any name talent, expected to be last in the division. The widow of the team owner hates Cleveland and wants to tank the team’s chances of winning any games to get attendance down to nothing so she can move the team to Miami. It’s funny that Miami is used at the location for the relocation, since former Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria used a similar strategy of tanking his team’s chances of success for about 15 years until he sold the team off.

The team of nobodies that breaks camp with The Tribe have potential to be great: ex-con Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) can throw 100 miles an hour, but has little control; walk-on Willie Mays Hays (Wesley Snipes) is fast, but lacks plate discipline; Cuban defector Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) can hit a fastball into the next county but is lost against a breaking ball. But they all use the motivation of their owner wanting to screw with them and transfer it into a desire to win.

Haysbert, especially, gets to have a lot of fun with the Cerrano character, who probably has the most oft-quoted lines in the movie. Coming to the United States from Cuba to avoid religious persecution because of his voodoo beliefs, Cerrano uses an increasingly crazy series of ceremonies to get his spiritual benefactor, Jobu, to help him hit a curveball. Cerrano blesses his locker with a boa constrictor, offers up cigars and rum and even demands to sacrifice a live chicken in front of his curious and confused teammates.

We also get a subplot about former All-Star catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) trying to regain not only the glory of his youth on the diamond, but also the heart of his ex (Rene Russo), who’s moved on and is about to be married.

Regardless of who you root for, MAJOR LEAGUE is a fun baseball movie with great performances from Sheen, Snipes, Haysbery, Corbin Bernsen as star third baseman Roger Dorn, and James Gammon as tough-but-lovable manager Lou Brown. But this movie wouldn’t be nearly as fun without play-by-play announcer Harry Doyle, played by an ad-libbing Bob Uecker. Uecker makes all the movie’s in-game scenes classic comedy. He’s especially funny at the start of the movie, as he knows no one cares about the Indians and no one is listening to his call of the game.

On the DVD of the movie, David S. Ward discusses an alternate ending to the movie where it’s revealed that Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), the evil team owner, had no intention of moving the team to Miami. She tells manager Lou Brown that she hand-picked everyone on the team because she thought they had the potential to win, and that Brown could bring that potential out in them. The scene was cut because, Ward said, test audiences just wanted to hate Phelps, though that twist would have been a fairly typical movie moment. I think it would have worked fine with the original planned ending, but I can’t argue with the product we got in the end.