Movie Project #9: Major League [1989]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Major League [1989]

Major League [1989]
Director: David S. Ward
Writer: David S. Ward
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy/Sports
Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen
Running Time: 107 minutes

For as much as I love baseball, it’s baffling that it has taken me this long to watch Major League. I’m a sucker for films about sports, especially baseball, and this David S. Ward comedy still has a large number of vocal supporters to this day.

It’s easy to see why this film is so revered. For one, it’s a classic underdog story. The protagonists are the perennial losers known as the Cleveland Indians, a team that could be called the Cubs of the American League (now that the Red Sox have snapped their awful streak). When Major League was filmed, the team hadn’t won a World Series in 41 years. Now, 25 years later, that streak is up to 66 years. The idea of turning around a team that has been losers for so long is always appealing, and Major League sets up such a rags-to-riches story perfectly.

After the fictional Indians owner passes away, his wife, a former showgirl named Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), inherits the team. Although she enjoys baseball, she hates Cleveland. Her goal is to move the team to a much more desirable location, say Miami, but in order to do so she must lower the season’s attendance to under 800,000 tickets sold. She concocts a maniacal scheme to bring in a brand new group of players comprised of has-beens, bottom tier minor leaguers, ex-convicts and anyone else who has no chance of being on a legitimate big league team.

Major League [1989]

This group of misfits includes erratic hurler Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), oft-injured catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), diva-esque third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), voodoo-practicing power hitter Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and the speedy but light-hitting Willie Mays Hayes (a young Wesley Snipes). To manage the team, minor league skipper Lou Brown (James Gammon) is brought in.

It could be argued that these guys have talent, but they have significant flaws of varying importance. At first, as expected, they are terrible. The team is regularly blown out at the beginning of the season. The fan attendance dwindles rapidly, and everything seems to be working out according to the new owner’s plan.

But somehow, some way, the team starts getting better. “Wild Thing” Vaughn gets a pair of hipster glasses that improves his eyesight and his game drastically. Willie Mays Hayes uses his speed to beat out tepid ground balls. The offense starts clicking. All of a sudden, the Indians are fighting for the division lead.

Major League [1989]

It’s here where the film starts to lose its footing a little bit. This was going to be a predictable story from the start, but once the team starts winning, the film becomes a series of one sports cliché after another. It still has its moments, but Major League is at its best when we’re watching this group of castoffs failing miserably. Hell, I could watch an entire movie based on the spring training scenes alone — the bumbling introductions of the players is comedy gold. Even better are the scenes that feature an incredibly snarky Bob Uecker as the game’s announcer.

There are plenty of laughs, memorable characters and enough one-liners to grant Major League entry into my regular baseball film rotation. I didn’t fall in love with it as much as, say, Bull Durham, but it still makes for a great time. Now if only the Indians could get their own “Wild Thing” to finally remove them as laughingstocks of the American League.


14 thoughts on “Movie Project #9: Major League [1989]

  1. ruth says:

    I just read a review of this yesterday. I’m not into sports movies, let alone baseball which I totally don’t get. But I might see it for the cast, esp a young Wesley Snipes! 😀

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hi Ruth, I think this one is pretty accessible to everyone. The characters are off the wall, there’s a romance subplot, and it has some truly hilarious snarky humor in it. Definitely worth a watch if you happen to stumble upon it on TV or something.

  2. Alex Withrow says:

    Glad you were able to check this one out! I really love Major League – it’s one of my go-to comedies. Bob Uecker is just priceless, isn’t he? Snark to the umpth degree. “Juuuust a bit outside.”

  3. Jules says:

    These movies were a staple of my childhood. Was glad to see a review of it here on this project, nicely done as usual. Also bohoo for their 66 year streak of no world series. As a lifelong-suffering cubs fan, that sounds like friggin yesterday!

    Good stuff.

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