Major League (1989)


Major League is a 1989 American satire comedy film written and directed by David S. Ward starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, 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. In order to do this, she must reduce attendance at Municipal Stadium below a total of 800,000 ticket sales 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. 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 Rick Vaughn, the brash but speedy center fielder Willie "Mays" Hayes (who was not invited to camp), power hitting outfielder Pedro Cerrano, who practices voodoo to try to help him hit curve balls, veteran pitcher Eddie Harris, who lacks a strong throwing arm and is forced to doctor his pitches, and third baseman Roger Dorn, who is already under contract but is a high-priced prima donna. As manager, Phelps hires Lou Brown, a tire salesman who "has managed the Toledo Mud Hens for the last 30 years". Spring training in Tucson, Arizona reveals several problems with the newer players. Vaughn has an incredible fastball but lacks control. Hayes is able to run the bases quickly but hits only pop flies, and while Cerrano has tremendous power he cannot hit a curveball. The veterans have their own problems, as Dorn refuses to aggressively field ground balls, afraid that potential injuries will damage his upcoming contract negotiations. 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. After the team returns to Cleveland for their opening game, 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 love again but is disappointed to hear that she is already engaged. The Indians' season starts off poorly with Vaughn's initial pitching appearances ending in disaster, his wild pitches earning him the derogatory title "Wild Thing". Brown discovers that Vaughn's eyesight is poor and once Vaughn is given glasses he becomes very accurate and "Wild Thing" becomes Vaughn's nickname, even using the song of the same name as his theme music on walks from the bullpen. The team begins winning and are able to bring their win-loss percentage to .400. Phelps realizes this is not bad enough to stall attendance and decides to remove luxuries the team has, such as replacing their airplane with a bus. However, these changes do not affect the Indians' performance and the team continues to improve. Donovan reveals Phelps's plan to Brown who then relays the same news to the players, telling them that if the team plays too well for Phelps to void the lease, she will bring in worse players who will. Taylor says that, since they have nothing to lose, the team should get back at Phelps by winning the pennant. Brown gives the team an incentive by removing one portion of a dress on a cardboard cut-out model of Phelps taken during her showgirl days for every win the team achieves. The team plays very well down the stretch of the season, and eventually clinch a tie for the division by beating the Chicago White Sox on the last game of the season. This forces a one-game playoff with the division's co-leaders, the New York 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. Suzanne Dorn, after seeing her husband during a television broadcast leave the team's hotel lobby with another woman, lures Vaughn to sleep with her. Vaughn became aware of who she was when she told him shortly before leaving Vaughn and Taylor's apartment the next morning. Based on Taylor's advice, Vaughn keeps 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 to give up his loyalty to the voodoo gods, and hits a two-run home run off a curveball on the next pitch to tie the game. In an ironic twist, it is Harris (a seemingly devout Christian) who places Cerrano's voodoo doll Jo-bu at his side while warming up. At the top of the ninth, the Yankees are able to load the bases and Vaughn is called in, the crowd roaring their excitement over "Wild Thing." Vaughn and Taylor are concerned when Dorn comes over to the pitcher's mound but he only gives Vaughn sound advice for pitching to the next batter. Vaughn is able to strike out the Yankee's best batter in three straight pitches and end the inning. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Hayes manages to single to first and subsequently steals second. Taylor is next to bat, and after signaling back and forth with Brown, points to the bleachers, calling his shot. However, Taylor bunts instead, catching the Yankees infield off-guard. Despite his weak knees, Taylor get to the first base safely. Hayes, knowing that the infield is focused on catching Taylor at the first base, clears the third base and goes for the home, catching the Yankees off guard again. Hayes slides safe into home, giving the Indians the win. As the team celebrates, Dorn punches Vaughn in the face but then helps him up to continue the celebration, while Jake finds Lynn in the stands, who raises her left hand to show that she is no longer wearing an engagement ring, indicating that she wishes to be with him.