A 1989 movie about a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. In this case, they're the Cleveland Indians, a baseball team that hadn't made a playoff appearance in over 30 years. No one in Cleveland knew who was on the team, which was a calculated move by Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), the Rich Bitch team owner. It's all part of her ploy to get the franchise to fail so badly that she can void her contracts and move the team to Florida. To this end, she assembles the sorriest bunch of ballplayers she can find. If that sounds unrealistic, keep in mind, this was before either the Miami Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays existed, and seven years before the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore.The characters include:
Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a recently released felon with a blazing fastball and control issues (both with his pitching and his temper);
Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), a catcher a decade past his prime and who never got over the one he let get away (Rene Russo);
Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), a third baseman who is the epitome of the prima donna, more concerned with his endorsements and contract stipulations than his field play.
Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), a leadoff man with Rickey Henderson-like speed on the basepaths who meekly pops out whenever he's at bat (thanks to his delusions of being a power hitter).
Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), a voodoo-practicing power hitter who can't hit a curveball.
Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross), a somewhat preachy veteran pitcher with a worn-out arm who has resorted to loading baseballs with Vaseline and, occasionally, his own snot.
Lou Brown (James Gammon), a tire salesman (and career minor league manager) who's tapped to be the manager who presides over the madhouse.
Throughout the movie, all of the new Indians' various quirks are revealed. Dorn's rookie pranks on Vaughn earn him more than a few fights, and Vaughn later sleeps with Dorn's wife (though he didn't know who she was at the time); Taylor fights to get his ex back from her new socialite boyfriend; Cerrano prays to Jobu many times, but doesn't get any closer to hitting a curveball; Harris gets a painful karmic comeuppance for his spiritual bad-mouthing, and Lou tries to get Hayes to hit like a leadoff man rather than a cleanup hitter.Eventually, the owner's scheme is revealed to the team, and they go from worst to first (well, tied for first) with visual aid help from her... showgirl days. They're forced into a one-game playoff with the Yankees for the American League East title, and the ending is one of the more inventive Down to the Last Play endings in sports movie history.The film spawned a sequel in 1994, changing leadoff men (Hayes is still there; he's just played by Omar Epps) and leading men (Berenger for Sheen). Here, Vaughn has let the fame of the previous year go to his head, mostly seeking lucrative endorsement deals. This is elaborated by having to choose between two Love Interests, publicist Rebecca Flannery (Allison Doody), and philanthropist Nikki Reese (Michelle Burke). One wants to build his image, the other to keep him down-to-earth.The other team members have their own subplots. Taylor is cut from the team for the new rookie Rube (a country boy who can't throw the ball back to the pitcher) and big offseason acquisition Jack Parkman (a no-nonsense guy who is pretty much the epitome of "clubhouse cancer", but is a very good hitter), but is retained as one of Lou's assistant managers; Dorn is retired and has bought the team, but has to sell it back to the Rich Bitch after financial troubles force him to trade Parkman; Cerrano, having converted to Buddhism, is now a happy guy who's lost his edge until he's challenged by Japanese acquisition Taka Tanaka; Hayes, like Vaughn, let the previous year go to his head; he shot a movie with Jessie Ventura in the offseason and lost his edge on the basepaths. Another worst-to-first comeback ensues, though under the guidance of Taylor after Lou has a heart attack; the Down to the Last Play ending in this one is a lot less inventive than the first. The sequel coincided with the real-life Tribe's 1990s resurgence (where they went to World Series in 1995 and 1997; in the 1997 Series they lost to the Florida Marlins, in what some would call ironic).In 1998, another sequel, Major League: Back to the Minors, came out, which focused on a minor league team (The Salt Lake Buzz) with a new manager (played by Scott Bakula) and a pretty much all new cast of characters. The only carryovers from the original movies are Dorn (who now owns the Minnesota Twins, who the Buzz are the AAA farm team), Cerrano, Tanaka, Baker (who are players on the team), and Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker, the announcer). This one focuses mostly on Bakula's manager, especially with his teaching methods with a hot batting prospect and a pitching prospect who has a blazing fastball but no other pitches, and his battles with the manager of the Twins (played by Ted McGinley, signifying the series' Jump the Shark moment).A fourth movie is reportedly in the works.This film series provides examples of:
Artistic License: Even if they are nobodies, they're playing in the big leagues, and in real life the players' union would never tolerate the indignities the Indians are subjected to (bus travel, no training equipment, etc.).
Jake is forced to admit at his ex's cocktail party that he "makes the minimum." Even back then, major-league minimum was a couple hundred thou a year (it's $450K or thereabouts in 2014). Hardly the pittance everybody makes it out to be.
Badass Boast: Hayes tells Haywood that he bought 100 pairs of batting gloves for the season, "one for every base I'm gonna steal." He promptly gets picked off, but during the Indians' late-season Miracle Rally, he's seen nailing more and more pairs of battling gloves to his wall.
Hayes: Excuse me while I take my first steps towards the Hall of Fame!
Bowdlerise: Sits with Die Hard 2 and The Big Lebowski as maybe the funniest dubbed-over-cussing TV edits in existance (for example, Dorn's I Have Just One Thing to Say speech below replaces "motherfucker" with "guy" in a completely different inflection, sort of like what you got from the announcers in the early Madden Playstation games).
Blind Without 'Em: Not truly blind, but Lou eventually realizes the problem with Rick's control: he needs glasses.
Brick Joke: Pedro's "hats for bats" are being used by him in the on-deck circle in the last game.
California Doubling: The scenes set in the Indians' home park were actually filmed in Milwaukee's County Stadium, then-home of the Brewers. Averted, however, in the case of the spring training scenes, which were filmed at Tucson's Hi Corbett Field, which was the Indians' actual spring training park at the time.
In the second movie, Oriole Park at Camden Yards doubled as Cleveland Stadium.
In the third movie, College Park at the College of Charleston acted as the Salt Lake Buzz's stadium. Averted with the big-league club; the fact that the movie got permission to use the Metrodome as a filming location is why the Buzz are a farm team of the Twins in the movie.
Calling Your Shots: Invoked, lampshaded and then subverted. Early in the first film when he first gets to the Indians' stadium, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) steps up to the plate and calls an imaginary home run. Near the end of the movie he pulls out this Chekhov's Gun during the Big Game (see inset photo, above), emulating Babe Ruth (see Real Life, below). Then he bunts.
Harry Doyle: What's this? Taylor is pointing to the bleachers! He's calling his shot! Nobody's done this since Babe Ruth in the '32 World Series!
Captain Ersatz: Averted quite refreshingly, thanks to MLB's relaxed practices of letting films use its images and logos, even for R-rated films such as this and The Fan.
Catch Phrase: "Juuuuuuust a bit outside." Though it was only said once, it's now all Bob Uecker's.
Cerebus Syndrome: The first film plays the climactic game as straight as can be with minimal attempts at humor.
Cleveland: Chosen due to the Indians' mediocrity at the time.
Crazy Enough to Work: Taylor signaling to Brown for what amounts to a squeeze play with Hayes on second. Brown notes that it's "a hell of an idea" and relays it to Coach Temple and Hayes. Truth in Television, it's been pulled off before, as seen here with Toronto's Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis. Taylor's is more impressive, as it's with two outs in the inning, so he has to beat out the throw for Hayes to have a chance to score.
Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: After Dorn refuses to dive for a ground ball that nearly costs them a win, Taylor tells him that if he ever lolligags in the field again: "I'm gonna cut your nuts off and stuff them down your fucking throat!"
While watching his aging outfielder try to track down a fly ball.
Bench coach: Got a late jump on it.
Gus: Not only that, he ran in the same spot for too long.
Then when he gives Pops a "gift" to signal a change in position.
Pops: This is a first baseman's glove.
Gus: Yeah, that's what the guy at the sporting goods place said.
Also, Haywood of the Yankees, who has some snarky exchanges with Hayes and Taylor.
Defictionalization: Uecker was in the middle of his long solid career as a Real Life game announcer for the Brewers. After the first movie came out he did more national games and World Series coverage during The Nineties.
When the real-life Indians games at Jacobs Field were snowed out in 2007, they played the series in Milwaukee. (Granted, it was in Miller Park as County Stadium was gone, but still....) Had the series been played in Cleveland, the Indians were going to give away Rick Vaughn-style glasses.
The Rick Vaughn bobblehead.
Many Real Life relief pitchers now have a Theme Song that plays when they come in, in imitation of Rick Vaughn's Wild Thing intro.
Mitch Williams of the Philadephia Phillies, known for his lack of control much like Ricky Vaughn, acquired the nickname "Wild Thing" not long after this movie. He also switched his jersey number to 99... just like Vaughn.
Demoted to Extra: Lynn Wells, Jake Taylor's Love Interest in the first movie, gets one scene in t he sequel and is never even mentioned again. The same can be said for Taylor himself, who is the main character of first movie, has a much smaller role in the second, and doesn't appear at all in the third.
Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: A quiet argument between Jake and Lynn in the library about an affair he had while they were dating escalates to where she screams, "WHAT A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT, I HAVE A MUCH BETTER BODY THAN SHE DOES!", causing the library patrons to take notice at the pair. Both are pretty sheepish about it, with Jake shrugging, "She's right."
Disproportionate Retribution: In the third movie, when Anderson hits a game-winning home run instead of laying down a bunt as he was told, he's benched for a 3-game series.
Taylor threatens to literally neuter Dorn if he keeps up his lackadaisical play.
When Jake, Willie, and Rick see Lynn on a date, Rick offers to "drag him out of here, kick the shit out of him".
Down to the Last Play: The first movie has an inventive twist, but the other two play it pretty much dead straight.
Drowning My Sorrows: Rick after learning Lou is selecting Harris to start the do-or-die game with the Yankees
Father to His Men: Lou proves to be a solid coach - demanding when needed, defending his players when it becomes known the bitch owner is screwing the team.
Similarly, Gus Cantrell, though he can be harsh at times (and, in fact, for the first half of the movie, the hot hitting prospect hates how he's so hard on him), gets the best out of every one of his players.
Fire-Forged Friends: Harris and Cerrano celebrate together at the end of the first, as do Dorn and Vaughn; Dorn slugs him for sleeping with his wife, but picks him up and hugs him again.
Flipping the Bird: While Rachel isn't looking at them, the entire team gives her a simultaneous bras d'honneur, then simultaneously drop their arms when she turns around.
Foreign Cussword: When Rachel Phelps buys back the team in the sequel and taunts her way through the locker, Tanaka is able to toss some vicious insults at Phelps in his native Japanese. Since he does it with a polite smile and bow, Phelps thinks he's complimenting her.
Similarly, the Asian groundskeepers in the first movie. "They're shitty" indeed.
Foreshadowing: Inside the empty stadium, Taylor imagines himself calling his shot a la Babe Ruth and hitting a home run. He tries this ploy in the climactic game.
In some places; in the second movie, Cerrano kills a bird with a swing; he goes into the outfield to mourn the bird and has to be tagged out. In Major League Baseball rules, he's out the moment he veers from the baseline. Averted well with the first movie, though.
He actually isn't. The batter hasn't veered from the baseline unless a tag attempt is made or he hasn't clearly abandoned his attempt to run to the next base because he believes that he is out, or because he believes that the inning or game has ended.
Only eight spots in the batting order, not nine, elapse between Taylor's groundout in the 7th inning and his bunt single in the 9th. See the IMDb Goofs page.
Correctly averted with Cerrano's game-tying home run in the playoff game. A player is not automatically out for carrying his bat around the bases; only if he uses the bat to hinder the fielders or gain an advantage is he out. Since a home run is a dead ball, Cerrano could not be (and is not) declared out.
Groin Attack: When Vaughn hits a cardboard pitching dummy during spring training. The dummy collapses in pain.
He also takes a dummy's head off with a pitch.
Taylor's neutering threat to Dorn
Gut Feeling: Lou summons Vaughn to face Haywood in the ninth inning, in a tie game with runners on. Taylor questions it (Haywood had homered in the two previous times he faced Vaughn), but Lou coolly says, "I got a hunch he's due." Ricky proves him right.
Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted with Lou's. One, he doesn't actually die from it; two, no one actually knows he's having one because he's in the middle of chewing out his players at the time.
Lou: Taylor, it's not your job to make excuses. That's all you guys do good! It's either a leg thing, or a spiritual thing, or a psychological thing, or a heart attack! Jake: Who used heart attack? Lou: Me. (collapses)
Hypocritical Humor: When Cerrano interrupts Harris' locker room prayer, Harris yells out in frustration, "Jesus Christ, Cerrano!" Harris is also reading a Hustler magazine on the airplane while mocking Cerrano's self-crossing during the turbulent flight.
Harris: Sure, now you come around! He's not fooled! *goes back to Hustler*
I Need a Freaking Drink: In the second movie Bob Uecker (Harry Doyle) starts opening day drinking Avian water, but switches to beer when the Indians lose, piling up empty bottles and moving on to hard liquor as the season progresses and things get worse and worse. Eventually, he passes out wearing a wifebeater, leaving the announcing to his hapless partner Monty. Fortunately, he improves when the team does.
In the first film, after Vaughn strikes out Haywood to escape a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, Doyle asks Monty, "Isn't this great?!", to which Monty simply reaches for Doyle's alcohol.
Important Haircut: In the second movie, Vaughn adopts a "corporate" image thanks to his new girlfriend and publicist, Rebecca Flannery. This includes him wearing suits and doing a commercial for Right Guard Sport Stick at a country club. He also gets rid of his trademark haircut from the first film. This new persona lasts until the final scene, where we see him now sporting his infamous hairdo once again, thereby shedding his "corporate" image and returning to his "Wild Thing" persona.
Everything Vaughn does in that scene shows that "Wild Thing" has returned. Just before he comes out, Vaughn, off screen, finally tells off the obnoxious Indians fan who had been pestering him and insulting him throughout the film. The fan sees that "Wild Thing" has returned before we do and immediately shuts his mouth. Afterwards, he comes out of the bullpen wearing his leather vest from the original. Once people notice that "Wild Thing" has returned, the song "Wild Thing" is played over the stadium's P.A. system as Vaughn walks to the mound, recreating a scene from the first film. Vaughn then pitches while wearing his skull and crossbones glasses that he hadn't worn in the second film up to that point. All of this leads to him showing that he's gotten his intensity back and now remembers how to throw a fastball after apparently having forgotten how to do so.
Then, after the Indians win the pennant, he dumps Rebecca after telling her that she's much too good for him and gets back together with his ex-girlfriend, Nikki, the woman who helped him bring back "Wild Thing".
Ironic Echo: Second movie, before Cerrano's last at-bat:
Cerrano: Parkman, my good friend. How you doin'?
Parkman: Look at the scoreboard, Buddha, I'm doin' fine.
After Cerrano hits a homer to give the Tribe the lead:
Cerrano(each syllable Punctuated! For! Emphasis! with a stomp towards and on home plate): Look at the scoreboard now, grasshopper!
Lame Excuse: Jake reasons cheating on Lynn with a flight attendant because the latter had "bet me fifty bucks she had a better body than yours and I had to defend your honor!"
Leitmotif: Several characters in each movie have their own.
Lighter and Softer: The PG-rated Major League 2 was this to the R-rated original, which featured much more adult content and was significantly darker in tone.
Look Behind You: Haywood gets Hayes picked off of first by telling him his shoe's untied.
Hayes himself does this in the second movie: after hitting a high pop fly, he runs the bases, gets behind the 2nd baseman, then yells "I GOT IT!", causing him to drop the ball. note This is a big "bush league" no-no in real-life baseball and is a certain way to get a fastball at your head next time up, not to mention losing the respect of your peers.
Malaproper: With Taka's first scene in Back to the Minors:
Taka: Family bicker. Customers complain. Everyone blames Taka. Have no...peace of brain!
Gus: 'Peace of mind'.
Taka: Same thing. *in Japanese* Is a duck's ass water-tight?
In fact, in his challenge to Cerrano in the 2nd movie, he has to consult a Japanese-to-English dictionary in the midst of his rage to find the words, and the best he can come up with is "You have no marbles!"
Motor Mouth: Jake is this behind the plate to get in the heads of the hitters. Truth in Television as baseball's slow pace allows for a lot of chatter amongst players.
Mysterious Past: It's never stated where Hayes came from or how he showed up to the Indians' spring training. Touched on by Doyle, who remarks that "we don't know where Hayes played last season."
Nerd Glasses: Rick Vaughn was fitted with them in the first movie; Lynn also has a similar pair of giant horn-rimmed glasses when she works at the library.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Harris, the old pitcher who uses an assortment of hidden greases and gels (and occasionally his own snot) to load the ball, is clearly based on famed spitballer Gaylord Perry.
Oh Crap: Rick's reaction in the first film to finding out his latest lay is Dorn's wife.
In the climax of the the first film, the Yankees third baseman when he realizes that Taylor had bunted. He shouts "Shit!" before making a charge at the grounder.
OOC Is Serious Business: Level-headed team leader Taylor threatening to neuter Dorn if he ever lacks for hustle again. Dorn's prima-donna antics pretty much stop after that.
Opposing Sports Team: The New York Yankees in the first movie, the Chicago White Sox in the second, and the Minnesota Twins in the third.
Overly Narrow Superlative: In the intro to the second film, Vaughn is described as setting a record for strike-outs in one season by an ex-con.
Parody Commercial: American Express in the first movie ("Don't steal home without it!") and Right Guard in the second ("Anything less would be uncivilized... upside down!")
Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Jake and Lynn's fiancee Tom duel in this in front of her and a guest party, much to her embarrassment. Finally, when they're out of earshot from everyone, the passivity stops:
Poor, Predictable Rock: Hog Ellis in the third movie is a pitcher who can throw a dizzying fastball and that's it. He learns a decent curveball in in the last third or so of the movie, but that's still a very limited repertoire for a star pitcher (which is, of course, why he's still in the minors in the first place, though generally he'd be in single-A ball rather than triple-A.)
Power Walk: Charlie Sheen does an epic solo power walk near the end of the movie, as his character's theme music plays over the stadium loudspeakers and the crowd goes wild.
The third film is a rare example of making both the heroes and their opposition (the Twins) a ragtag bunch of hapless players. The reason Dorn sets up the exhibition game between them, besides money, is because he thinks the AAA club could actually beat his awful big-league team.
Rotating Protagonist: In the first movie, the closest thing the film got to a protagonist was Berenger's Jake Taylor. In the second movie, he's Kicked Upstairs to bench coach (and eventually interim manager), while the protagonist becomes Sheen's Rick Vaughn. The third movie, only tangentially related to the first two, focuses on Scott Bakula's manager character, Gus Cantrell.
Rousing Speech: Lampshaded in the second movie, when Brown (in the hospital pending heart surgery) tells Taylor (who will be managing the team in the decisive playoff game that night) not to do it; Taylor does it anyway, complete with a thick layer of Narm. Subverted in the third movie, when Cantrell says how he hates the Rousing Speech, but it's "in my contract"... then tells his team to "win this one... for me."
In the first two movies, Lou gives a couple of them: the "winning streak" speech, and the one he gives when he finds out about the Springtime for Hitler plot (complete with showgirl visual aid).
Inverted with Rachel Phelps in the 2nd movie: After they win the first three games of the series, she gives a Rousing Speech designed to make them choke...and they lose the next three games.
Schmuck Bait: Cerrano's last at bat in the 2nd movie. Parkman just called a fastball that Pedro missed by a mile.
Cerrano: That last pitch, man...that was beautiful.
Parkman calls the same pitch...and Cerrano crushes it.
Sleeves Are for Wimps: Vaughn has to be reminded that 'we wear sleeves in the majors.' During the American Express ad in the film, he's wearing a Tux with the sleeves torn off.
When Taylor takes him out to dinner, he chooses a place that requires ties. So he wears a tie...over his usual outfit. Vaughn's first line in the restaurant? "I feel like a banker."
Speak of the Devil: When Lou is fed up with the "nickel-and-dime" equipment and resources in the clubhouse, he says aloud that he's "gonna get that bitch on the phone"; the camera pan reveals Rachel Phelps already down there, firing back, "You wanted to speak with the bitch?"
Spinning Paper: Well, not spinning, but the worst-to-first montages captured shots from the wins in paper form; also used to give a quick backstory on the torturous Cleveland Indians history at the start of the movie.
Strictly Formula: The movie could not be more clichéd (misfit team pulls together to win). It gets away with this by doing the old (ancient!) formula really well, which sometimes counts more than being original. Tropes Are Not Bad indeed.
Take a Third Option: When Lou reveals the Springtime for Hitler scheme to the team, he lets them know that if they didn't finish last to the point where Phelps could move them, she would dump the whole team and try it again. Jake prefers a third option since they'll be out of jobs soon: "Win the whole fucking thing." The team agrees.
In the first movie, Harris steals "Jobu's" rum and snarls a curse at him. He is promptly hit on the head by a flying bat.
In the third movie, when Gus Cantrell asks God for a good player or just strike him dead right there, he's knocked unconscious by a line drive. Of course, he wakes up to Cerrano's smiling face in the dugout...
Unreliable Narrator: To punch up the radio calls for the tepid Indians games, Doyle tends to comedically embellish the action, such as reporting Hayes's check-swing dribbler as a scorching grounder that the second baseman had to knock down.