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The film Major League is an all-time sports classic. A comedy that follows a group of lovable losers brought together to tank a season so the Cleveland Indians owner can sell the team and cash in by moving them to Miami.

Only, the misfit MLB players, from rookies to veterans, have other things in mind. Despite the odds against them, the ragtag team, led by manager Lou Brown, comes together and starts winning games.

That team includes memorable characters such as the aging catcher Jake Taylor, pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the speedy outfielder Willie Mays Hayes, and the voodoo-practicing slugger Pedro Cerrano.

The movie plays off the storied failure of the team then known as the Cleveland Indians (currently the Guardians). It features a group of widely known actors and actresses who went on to become megastars – Rene Russo, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes – and those who had already been established stars expanding their resume with a top comedy – Tom Berenger and James Gammon.

The film inspired two sequels, grossed nearly $50 million off an estimated budget of $11 million, and almost always gets featured in anybody’s list of best baseball or sports movies in history.

This coming weekend marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Major League. And with that, we recap the top moments from an iconic film.

If you don’t agree with this list then we say, “F*** you, Jobu.”

An Introduction To “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn

In the movie Major League, Charlie Sheen portrays the character of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, a talented but erratic pitcher with a troubled past. “Wild Thing” is hot-headed. He’s rebellious. And he can’t control his pitches to save his life.

As the story progresses, he learns to harness his raw talent (thanks to a pair of glasses) and becomes a crucial member of the team. It’s that first scene when Vaughn arrives on the back of a motorcycle and you just know Sheen’s character is going to become one of the more interesting ones.

“Look at this fuckin’ guy,” is a tone-setting line for the character from first base coach Pepper Leach (Andy Romano) and is just flat-out funny.

Vaughn would inspire real-life relief pitcher Mitch Williams to take on the nickname “Wild Thing” playing the song by that title as he entered the game – just like Ricky.

Vaughn’s first time coming out of the bullpen with glasses and “Wild Thing” playing as his introductory music gets an honorable mention.

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I Do It Myself

For me and my friends personally, nobody in the movie elicited more out-loud laughter than Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert).

Cerrano is a talented but superstitious baseball player who defected from Cuba. He fills the lineup as the Indians power hitter, known for his impressive home runs. However, he struggles mightily with breaking balls.

The outfielder also happens to be deeply superstitious and his personal deity, Jobu, becomes a major aspect of his personal story. He often prays to Jobu for help. He had a shrine to Jobu in the team locker room.

But in the team’s must-win game, Cerrano steps to the plate in a crucial at bat. Hitless. Hasn’t even made contact. And the Yankees pitcher tosses him a pair of curve balls. His swings are so far off course that the pitcher just laughs as he prepares to throw a third strike, easy out.

It’s at this point that Cerrano has had enough of Jobu not helping him. And his realization that he must become a hero for the team based on his own skills is both a hilarious line and a great completion of his story arc.

“I’m pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You no help me now?” Cerrano says to his idol. “I say ‘Fuck you Jobu’, I do it myself.”


The Duke, As Described By Uecker

Duke Simpson, the Yankees’ relief pitcher, is a skilled reliever with a brutal heater and a reputation for hitting batters on purpose. Simpson, played by Willie Mueller, is a crucial antagonist in the film Major League.

Time and time again, the Indians players fail when facing Duke.

But it is Harry Doyle, played by the great Bob Uecker, who gives viewers an idea of just how competitive the Yankee pitcher is with this introduction in the movie’s ultimate game.

“The Duke leads the league in saves, strikeouts per inning, and hit batsmen,” Doyle says. “This guy threw at his own son in a father-son game.”

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Owner Rachel Phelps In The Locker Room

Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) is the new owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, having inherited it from her deceased husband.

She is a cunning and manipulative woman, determined to move the team to Miami, where she believes they will be more profitable. She is the main baddie in the movie, consistently trying to thwart the team’s success on the field.

And she is ruthless. No scene bears this out more than when she goes into the locker room, refuses to fix the hot water, knocks on Vaughn’s jock to make sure it works, and smacks Cerrano on his ass all while chastising her own players.

While today anybody can go in any locker they want, a female in the men’s locker room at the time Major League came out was startling. But it laid the groundwork for developing the character as borderline evil.

The Penal League

Another scene that helped establish Ricky Vaughn as truly a “wild thing” was his introduction to the other players, particularly center fielder Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes).

Hayes wants to know a little bit about Vaughn’s baseball experience. The exchange between the two is comedy gold.

“What the hell league you been playing in?” asks Hayes.

“California Penal,” Vaughn replies.

Hayes then says, “Never heard of it. How’d you end up playing there?”

“Stole a car.”

‘Don’t Steal Home Without It’

The team’s success eventually lands them a commercial for American Express, where the group pokes fun at their losing history and the fact that nobody knows who they are.

“No matter how far out of first we are, it’s cool,” says Vaughn of the card, complete with sleeves torn off his suit.

The commercial also points out that the team is legit at this point with manager Lou Brown (James Gammon) declaring, “We’re contenders now.”

And the whole thing gets wrapped up perfectly as Hayes, full suit and bow tie, slides into the plate in front of the team.

“American Express, don’t steal home without it.”

A Bit Outside

Bob Uecker played MLB baseball. He had broadcast experience with the Milwaukee Brewers. And he was a comedy genius, really, parlaying his mediocre playing career into self-deprecating humor that made him a star of endlessly amusing commercials for Miller Lite and a frequent guest of the late Johnny Carson.

So he was a natural fit to play announcer Harry Doyle in the movie Major League.

His one-liners became part of movie lore, with the phrase “Juuuust a bit outside,” uttered by Doyle in describing a pitch about 5 feet off the plate, still being used to this day by anybody who has ever played sports or tried to throw something.

Admit it, you’ve heard it or said it yourself dozens of times.

Uecker delivered some other gems in the movie for sure:

  • “Just a reminder, fans, comin’ up is our ‘Die-hard Night’ here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant.
  • “One hit, that’s all we got, one goddamn hit?” Assistant: “You can’t say goddamn on the air.” Doyle: “Don’t worry, nobody is listening anyway.”
  • “The post-game show is brought to you by… Christ, I can’t find it. To hell with it.”
  • “The Indians win it! The Indians win it! Oh my GOD, the Indians win it!”

The Game-Winning Scene

And with that last quote from Doyle, we are reminded that for all the comedy bits, all the laughs throughout the movie, all the truly funny characters, Major League is best defined by the final scene when, “Oh my God, the Indians win it!”

For a comedy, the final sequence is incredible. Solid cinematography you’re just not used to seeing in a movie of this nature.

The plot, with Hayes getting his moment of glory by first beating out a grounder for an infield single, stealing second, and then ultimately sliding safely into home for the game-winning run.

Jake Taylor getting his redemption story, throwing off the opponent by calling his shot only to lay down a bunt and have to run it out on a pair of old, hurting knees, grimacing in pain all the way down the first base line, allowing Hayes to score.

And the team, finally getting the win against the Yankees, against their nemesis in Duke, in the one game that actually matters. In the bottom of the 9th.

It’s just a tremendous bit of footage that gives viewers all the feels when the hard-luck team of losers finally succeeds.

And of course, Taylor getting the girl (his ex-wife) back in the end.

As far as baseball movies go, Major League is certainly one of the top contenders all-time. It may not be the best sports comedy you’ve ever seen, but it is certainly on everybody’s list.

And deservedly so. Give it another look as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of its release. A couple of hours you won’t regret.

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