Last week, I highlighted the 12 highest rated sports movies streaming on Netflix. And while Major League isn’t currently available, it’s without a doubt one of the most enjoyable sports flicks of the last 25 years.
Paramount Pictures was initially skeptical about even doing the movie, according to writer and director David S. Ward, because baseball had just started being broadcast on cable and studio execs didn’t think people would pay to watch a movie about the sport in a theater. Ward and a cast of hotshot young actors like Wesley Snipes and Charlie Sheen, along with veterans like Tom Berenger, proved the studio wrong with a #1 box office opening weekend that would usher the film into the sports movie pantheon and spawn two sequels.
In celebration of one of the funniest baseball comedies to ever step up the plate, here are 20 facts you might not know about the cinematic version of the ’89 Cleveland Indians.
1. Charlie Sheen didn’t have to fake his fastball. Vaughn’s 101 MPH fastball was something that came naturally to Sheen, who pitched in high school and was offered an athletic scholarship to the University of Kansas. Sheen of course wasn’t pitching at 101 MPH, but he did have good enough mechanics and arm strength to throw a pitch in the mid-80s. Also working on his side…
2. Charlie Sheen was all ‘roided up. Yes, you read that right, Sheen admitted to Sports Illustrated that he got juiced up for the role because he thought it would make his pitch even faster. Considering the guy’s history of drug abuse, it’s probably not that surprising he was on the juice.
3. Sheen’s 85 MPH fastball became 101 MPH with a few camera tricks. In order to give Sheen’s fastball extra speed, the pitcher’s mound was moved up 10 feet — normally the pitcher’s mound is 60’6″ away from home plate — with the camera shots being behind home plate, giving the illusion of a faster pitch.
4. Writer and director David S. Ward made the movie to see the Indians win. Ward is a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan and made Major League as a tribute to his favorite baseball team because he thought it might be their only shot at ever winning in his lifetime. Ward recently told the News-Herald that it’s his favorite movie he ever worked on.
“Emotionally, I don’t think there’s any film that would rank higher with me. It just combines so many things that I love. You love every movie you make in some way. Even the ones that don’t do well. Sometimes, your orphans you like even more because nobody else does. But Major League was not an orphan. What can I say, there’s no movie that has a bigger place in my heart than Major League.”
5. Jobu the Voodoo doll is still around today. Cerrano’s doll had the power to hit a curveball and then kick back for a few drinks and a cigar. The team’s unofficial mascot now belongs to Morgan Creek Productions managing director Brian Robinson, who keeps the doll atop his piano and has turned down offers of $35,000 for the little guy.
6. Some of the extras on the team were named after actual Cleveland Indians players. After Rick Vaughn strikes out and returns to the dugout he his congratulated by the character Keltner. Ken Keltner played as a third baseman for the 1941 Indians and helped end Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.
7. Director David S. Ward was unaware of Bob Uecker’s broadcasting experience. Ward chose Bob Uecker for the part of announcer Harry Doyle because he liked the actor’s Miller Lite commercials and his role on Mr. Belvedere. It wasn’t until later that he learned Uecker had the nickname “Mr. Baseball” and had been the radio broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers for almost 20 years.
8. Jake Taylor and Lynn Wells’ wedding was cut, because BASEBALL. A scene with the wedding of Jake and Lynn was filmed and supposed to occur after the Indians victory over the Yankees, but was left on the cutting room floor. Producers felt the scene would put too much focus on Jake and Lynn instead of the baseball team.
9. Willie Mays Hayes’ catch off the wall during the final game was a tribute. Not only was the catch done because it obviously looked good on film, but to give a nod to Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett who had a reputation for his catches off the center-field wall. The catch is also said to pay tribute to Gorman Thomas and his catch that helped send the Brewers to the World Series in 1982.
10. The Indians’ sparse crowd on opening day wasn’t entirely accurate. In the film the Indians have trouble drawing a crowd for their opening game, but even during Cleveland’s bad years they would generally sell out the opening home game of the season.