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.).
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 fastball after he beans a player by accident: he needs glasses.
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.
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.
Cleveland: Chosen due to the Indians' mediocrity at the time.
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.
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.
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.
Down to the Last Play: The first movie has an inventive twist, but the other two play it pretty much dead straight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The film never explicitly says what happens in the 8th. Maybe someone draws a walk and doesn't score.
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
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 Playboy magazine on the airplane while mocking Cerrano's religion.
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. Fortunately, he improves when the team does.
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!
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!"
Nerd Glasses: Rick Vaughn was fitted with them in the first movie.
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.
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!")
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.)
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.
Religious Russian Roulette: Pedro Cerrano threatens to leave Jobu unless he helps him hit a curveball. Then he does in his last at-bat:
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.
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.
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.