A lot of parts of Major League (1989) were filmed in Milwaukee Wisconsin; the director filmed the stadium scenes at Milwaukee County Stadium, Bob Ueker, the famed baseball hall of famer is the regular radio commentator for the Milwaukee Brewers having a significant part in the movie and they film makers used 60,000 local Milwaukee people as extras to fill the stadium for several scenes (including JPFmovies personnel).
I was in high school at the time and the call went out for anyone who wanted to be an extra in the movie simply had to show up at the stadium so I did! Also there is a scene (there is a clip of it) which used my family’s downtown apartment! What the heck have I been thinking all of these years not reviewing this sports comedy classic?
The inspiration came to me when I was watching the Netflix original series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt with SEJ and in one of the shows a teacher who was trying to get fired from teaching his GED class put in the movie Major League then it hit me like a thunder bolt—Must Review. As much I think this s a great film SEJ takes the opposite stance as you will clearly see.
Major league as a potent cast written and directed by David S. Ward, starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, Renee Rousseau, Bob Uecker, Pete Vuckovich (former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher) and Corbin Bernsen. It was a very profitable film costing $11 million and grossed $50 million in domestic release.
The story begins with a former Las Vegas showgirl Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) who has inherited the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her deceased husband. She has received a lucrative deal to move the team to Miami, and she aims to trigger the escape clause in the team’s contract with Cleveland if season attendance falls below 800,000. In her attempt to sabotage the team she bring in new players consisting of aging veterans and inexperienced rookies, hoping to make the worst team ever that would certainly cause attendance to decline. Donovan hires Lou Brown, a former coach from the Toledo Mud Hens to lead the team.
During spring training in Tucson, Brown and veteran catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) discover the new team has a number of interpersonal issues as well as their own struggles with the game, such as the prima donna nature of Roger Dorn (Corbin Berson), the only player on a long-term contract with the Indians, and the weak arm of veteran pitcher Eddie Harris who is forced to doctor his pitches with everting from snot to Crisco.
As the season starts, the team is unable to overcome these problems and starts on a losing streak. Their rookie pitcher, Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), has an incredible fast ball but with no control, leading him to be called “Wild Thing” because he sets an American league record of throwing 4 wild pitches in one inning; however, by chance, Brown discovers Vaughn has eyesight problems, and when they fit him with glasses, his pitching drastically improves, helping the Indians to a series of wins. The rest of the team rallies behind this, putting aside personal issues and coming together to bring the Indians higher in the division standings.
Phelps tries to demoralize the team by taking away their luxuries such as a private jet, but the team still holds strong, and appears to have a shot at winning the division. Meanwhile, Taylor finds that his ex-girlfriend Lynn is living in Cleveland, and tries to get her to come back to him even after learning she has become engaged to a new beau.
When Phelps’ original plan falls through, she decides that she will purposely void the contract, despite the financial penalty, and will move the team to Miami regardless. Donovan relays this to Brown, who informs the team that no matter how well they do, they will be fired after the season. Taylor leads the others to agree that they should do the best they can and win the division. To spur the team, Brown uses a covered cardboard standup photo of Phelps from her showgirl days, pulling off a piece of the cover for every game they win. The team succeeds in tying the division with the New York Yankees, leading to a one-game playoff to determine the title.
In the playoff in Cleveland, the Yankees take an early lead but Pedro Cerrano is able to overcome his inability to hit a curve, knocking out a home run to tie the game. In the top of the 9th, with the bases loaded and the Yankees’ power hitter Clu Haywood (Vuckovich) at bat, Brown has Vaughn pitch relief despite past confrontations Vaughn has had with Haywood. Vaughn manages to strike out Haywood, sending the Indians up to bat.
With the game tied and the Indians with two outs, the speedy Willie “Mays” Hayes manages a single to get on base, and then steals second. Taylor steps up, and after signaling to Brown, calls his shot to center field. With the Yankees prepared for the long play, Taylor instead bunts, allowing Hayes to make it to home safely and win the game. The team and crowd erupt into cheers while Phelps realizes that she likely not be able to move the team after this. As the team celebrates, Taylor sees Lynn in the stands, no longer wearing her engagement ring. The two rush to hug each other as the city celebrates the victory.
Not only do I find this movie funny on all sorts of levels, but the personal connection I have with it only glorifies and possibly skews my objectivity in examining this piece of cinema. Bob Uecker does a fantastic job merely acting as himself as he does every Brewer game, but many people outside of Milwaukee don’t get to share his humor. Sure it has a cheesy ending but the comedy leading up to it is well worth overlooking that point. For a 1999 film it is in my opinion one of the great films of the 80s and I would urge anyone to watch it with an open mind. Additionally, please watch the clips as they give the flavor of what major league was all about. Contrived perhaps, but funny nonetheless. And even though it had a story beginning there was still some great moments in movie sports history.
Now we move on to SEJ’s review, which is not so kind and I’m quoting this verbatim:
“Based on the first few minutes of major league I got the impression the scenes were weakly written. The logo of the team was simply absurd. It is stupid to attempt to play badly so you can move to a state with a more desirable climate. Furthermore, Wesley Snipes, character who was meant to be funny came off as bizarre and childish.”
Since she only would watch the first few minutes of the film give it whatever weight you so choose.
I apologize about the length of this review but there was so much to say.