MAJOR LEAGUE—-“JUUUST a bit outside.” From 1989 lineup, one of the team of baseball movies that people who love the game like to have in their roster. Slap it on, pop a brew, wolf a dog, relax with the boys. “You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?”
JC couldn’t muff it any worse than the burnouts, has-been’s, felons, voodoo worshipers and Bible thumpers tapped for the notoriously unlucky Cleveland Indians, in this affectionate comic version of the perennially losing team. Nasty ex-showgirl ‘Rachel Phelps’ (Margaret Whitton) inherits the club from her deceased husband. She doesn’t like baseball or Cleveland, and schemes to relocate herself and the club to Miami. Her idea to assure the team will change towns is to make sure they’re dead last in the league. A slew of misfits are hired to ensure failure. The on-the-way-out-field includes myopic fastball pitcher and moody “Wild Thing” ‘Rick Vaughan’ (Charlie Sheen), knee-blown catcher ‘Jake Taylor’ (Tom Berenger), prima donna fielder ‘Roger Dorn’ (Corbin Bernsen) and brash base-stealing rookie ‘Willie May Hayes’ (Wesley Snipes). Seen-it-all manager ‘Lou Brown’ (James Gammon) tries to shape them up. Will the underdog spirit rise to the occasion?
Written & directed by David S. Ward as a labor of love for the real-life team (“I figured the only way they were ever going to win anything in my lifetime was to do a movie and they’d win”), it’s predictable but pleasing, not fall-down hilarious but companionably funny, with jokes and situations light enough to keep a consistent smile going, breaking into a good number of chuckles and laughs. It’s a laid-back, summery, hang-out situation made breezy and rewarding by the well-meshed cast.
Fielded for $11,000,000, it slammed a line drive to #26 in ’89, sprinting home with $49,797,000 in the USA, another $25,000,000 sliding across the plate internationally. “This guy threw at his own kid in a father-son game.”
With Rene Russo (35, gifting us with her feature debut), Charles Cyphers, Chelcie Ross (religious ‘Eddie’), Dennis Haysbert (‘Pedro Cerrano’, Cuban voodoo disciple), Bob Uecker (calling it like a champ), Andy Romano, Steve Yeager and Pete Vukovich. Shot in Cleveland (now that’s good sportsmanship!), Milwaukee and Tucson. 106 minutes. Play ball!
* Five years later, several in the cast returned but Major League II struck out. After spending three times as much to field, it got terrible reviews from George Won’t in the box seats and Bronx cheers from Rick & Linda Public in the unfulfilled bleachers. Four years after that came the proverbial strike three, Major League: Back to the Minors, with only Bernsen and Haysbert on hand from the original. It lived down to its title.
Known by their name since 1915, upon conclusion of the 2021 season, changing times compelled the Cleveland Indians to change their identity to the Cleveland Guardians. Not caring a flying ball whether name changes affect either millionaire shortstops or pot-gutted drunks with painted faces raving in the stands, from this dugout we figure if it really slurs a sizable chunk of the public (roughly five million Native Americans), then go ahead. Certainly, much of the old mascot & trademark stuff ought to be seen as offensive to anyone with a brain, heart or pancreas. That blurted, let’s hope that after The Great P.C. Wave of the Deploring 20’s has done its corrective healing wonders (and idiotic incidental damage) on the consciences (and toilets) of America, let’s hope we worthless, guilty-of-everything-since-the-ice age Boomer dregs will be allowed to even own, let alone enjoy, something that may remotely touch on the 1000% abominable past of our collectively hateful parents and universally mega-privileged childhoods, without first taking a crackled knee to someone who after a few semesters and a calf tattoo really has the world/life/history/sex/justice/recipes all figured out. App that, punk.