30 Things You Never Knew About the Movie ‘Major League’
There are plenty of sports movies out there. But within the niche genre of sports comedy, movies that hold a candle to the hilarity of ‘Major League’ are few and far between. Whether you’re a fan of memorable quotes — mostly hilarious ones — or ridiculous scenes, ‘Major League’ is definitely a fan favorite. Follow along as we delve into 30 things that may surprise you about the film and its notable actors, like Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, and many more.
Charlie Sheen had a nasty fastball in real life
That’s right, we know you assumed Charlie’s fastball was fake. But if you thought this, then you were wrong. Apparently, he was an impressive athlete in high school, which was made obvious when he received an opportunity for a full-ride scholarship to play for the Jayhawks at the University of Kansas.
While he wasn’t pitching more than 100 miles per hour in real life (as his character was in the movie), he still reportedly threw for an impressive 85 mph. However, you’ll be surprised to hear the lengths Sheen went to in order to resemble the physique of an MLB player.
Many of the scenes were improvised
One of the more hilarious lines was never intended to be in the script. Pitcher Pete Vuckovich, who portrayed Yankees slugger Clu Haywood, actually made up the funny line, “How’s your wife and my kids?” This is pretty impressive considering it’s doubtful he had any acting experience prior to the film.
The saying goes that director David Ward prompted him by saying he should spit out a line he could see MLB players saying to each other while on the field. Sounds like their banter is pretty tongue-in-cheek as far as we can tell, but certainly hilarious either way.
All roided up
In a way, it’s almost ironic — and just generally surprising — that this movie ended up being a commentary on what would eventually plague the MLB — illegal use of steroids. Specifically, we’re talking Charlie Sheen and steroids. He actually used the performance-enhancing drug so that he could fully live up to his character.
To be fair, we’re not that surprised, because it’s Charlie Sheen. The guy has a long history with drug issues. However, the fact he used a drug that would later be the bane of the MLB is quite hilarious to say the least, and almost portrays him as an unwitting prophet of sorts. As Sheen would say, “Winning.”
Dennis Haysbert’s home runs were legit
It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the movie — when Dennis Haysbert smashes a screaming line drive out of the park. Of course, it’s understandably assumed this scene is fake, but if you were to presume this, you would actually be wrong. Indeed, there was a reason why he refused to throw away the bat after hitting it.
Why, you may ask? It turns out he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it because he felt so enthused by hitting the homer in real life. That’s a pretty awesome way of going about acting, when you show flashes of being a pro.
Ever wonder why the last names of the extras seemed familiar? That would be because they were taken from actual athletes from the Cleveland Indians. Well, not all of them, but a solid sum either way. In one of the scenes, this is particularly evident during a batting scenario.
After one of the characters, Rick Vaughn, strikes out at the plate, he heads to the dugout. He’s then consoled (or cheered on) by a character named Keltner. It turns out —although probably not by chance — that Ken Keltner played for the Indians in 1941 as a third baseman who was instrumental in ending Joe DiMaggio’s legendary hitting streak.
An homage to Rickey Henderson
Wesley Snipes’ character, Willie Mays Hayes, is based off of the speedy Hall of Famer Henderson. During the film, he was playing for the New York Yankees and he was having a stellar season with a .305 batting average, and capped off the year with a mind-boggling 93 stolen bases.
There’s a certain appreciation for a sports comedy when the director chooses to model it as closely on real-life teams as possible. In the case of Major League, they certainly achieved this with grace. But we’re not sure what’s more humorous: the movie or Snipes’ questionable baseball skills …
Wesley Snipes didn’t have the best baseball talent…
While Willie Mays Hayes was an absolute wrecking ball of talent on the field, the same can’t be said for Wesley Snipes. For example, we can generally agree the scene where Hayes wakes up and beats two teammates in an all-out sprint could be somewhat comparative to the legendary Rickey Henderson.
In fact, the scene’s shot in slow motion, with Snipes sprinting meant to show him faster than he really was; and, if you notice, he’s never shown actually throwing a baseball. But hey, we’re not mad at the producers on this one, mainly because Henderson’s legacy deserves to be enshrined in the longevity of history.
Charlie Sheen wasn’t a huge fan of his eccentric haircut off-screen
Sheen is a fan of many things, including almost anything that involves drugs, reportedly. But the same can’t be said about his haircut for the movie, which apparently didn’t make him feel too good. Many of the actors would hang out at bars after filming for the day, and that’s often when Sheen would hear remarks about his hairstyle…
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he lamented that people would often call out his hairdo. “It generated so many comments at bars,” Sheen said. “I’ve got enough of that already. Add that to the mix, and it’s a recipe for a fistfight.” Whoa, take it easy there, buddy!
The script was #winning in the eyes of Sheen
When Charlie Sheen first read the script for Major League, he was very impressed. So impressed, in fact, that he labeled it as “crack.” And given his drug-using inclinations, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess this means it’s a good thing.
In fact, he compared it to the likes of the war drama Platoon — one of the more memorable war movies ever made, with impressive critical reviews that have stood the test of time. According to an interview with Sports Illustrated, Sheen was actually late to an important meeting with film director David Ward because he couldn’t put the script down.
Dozing off on the set
In some scenes, if you look carefully enough, you can see some of the extras falling asleep during certain scenes. Well, there was a very good reason for this. After all, if you were working obscure hours, wouldn’t you do the same?
Apparently, it got so bad that many of the extras had to be portrayed by cutouts so it didn’t appear there were sleeping fans — or a lack thereof — in the stands. According to Sheen, it was “four in the morning, and I had been in the bullpen nodding off … it was so late that a lot of the extras had gone home. If you really slow the movie down and look, you can see cutouts of people in the stands.”
Cleveland Indians’ No. 1 fan?
You can probably get away with saying that David Ward, who was the writer and director of the film, is arguably the biggest Cleveland Indians fan out there. For some fans, it’s certainly easier to get caught up in the fan frenzy than others, especially if you root for, say, the New England Patriots or New York Yankees, for example.
But since Ward is a die-hard Indians fan, this wasn’t remotely the case. In fact, he said he wanted to make the film so he could finally see his team win; and more specifically, that it was the only way they could ever win. Now that’s dedication!
There’s a pretty good reason why that one Yankee player appears to be larger and more terrifying than the average human being. The character, Clu Haywood, is played by former MLB pitcher Pete Vuckovich. To compound this, he’s listed at 6-foot-4 with a solid amount of muscle to boot.
There is some irony to this, however, since he was acting as a batter, which he didn’t have much experience doing while playing in the MLB. In fact, the Cy Young winner only batted in three seasons out of the 11 during his career, totaling just 208 at bats.
Good thing they kept the original ending
The ending of Major League is a hilarious one, if not just plain unorthodox altogether. But what the producers were mulling to replace it with would’ve likely only served to undermine its success. In the alternate ending, the owner — played by Margaret Whitton — reveals she only wanted to move the team’s location in order to motivate the players to do better.
They tested this proposed ending on a faux audience, and the results weren’t good. This makes sense, given this would have contradicted the owner’s initial plan to tank the team so they can move to a sunnier location — Florida. Overall, we think the original was certainly funnier in any case.
Wrong place, but still the right time
The plot of the film is supposed to take place in Cleveland, Ohio, for obvious reasons. But since the actual team’s schedule wouldn’t allow for it, the entirety of the film was shot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — it still pans out that neither the Brewers nor the Indians have had much franchise success.
To that end, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if it was either team that made it on the big screen for Major League. It also serves to mention they had difficulties working around the Milwaukee Brewers season as well; add another lackluster team to the list of potential teams for a comeback comedy sports movie.
The punch to Charlie Sheen was somewhat real
The end of the movie shows the Cleveland Indians celebrating their playoff win over the New York Yankees. As the team starts to break out into a congratulatory frenzy, Corbin Bernsen, who plays Roger Dorn, punches Charlie Sheen in the face for a dispute which happened the night before.
While the average audience member would have probably assumed this was planned, it was more of an accident and ended up staying in the movie. As per the plot, the punch was given because Sheen’s character had slept with Dorn’s wife. A punch well-deserved! Either way, it certainly serves to add hilarity to the scene.
There’s a certain secrecy behind the cult Jobu voodoo doll
Aside from the fact it had a knack for hitting difficult curveballs on command, the Jobu voodoo doll is still in existence today. We get it, some people appreciate a certain fondness for stuffed animals or other inanimate objects, but this example is somewhat bizarre to an extent.
Reportedly, the doll is now owned by the managing director of Morgan Creek Productions, Brian Robinson. And if you want the doll, then you shouldn’t expect to be getting it any time soon, or possibly ever. Allegedly, he has declined five-figure offers for the doll. Some people really need their good-luck charms …
The director had no clue about Bob Uecker’s baseball-announcing prowess
When director David Ward hired on Bob Uecker for the role of a baseball commentator, he didn’t know what he was getting into. In fact, many sports movies use mediocre commentators or ones that have little to no experience at all. However, this wasn’t the case with Uecker, remotely.
Thanks to his creative commentary and Uecker’s character, Harry Doyle, you could say the movie achieves new heights. His professional experience certainly shined through, too, thanks to 20 years of experience as a radio broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Cleveland sports fans still embrace the movie
When a vast swath of a city shows their love for a movie, that’s when you know it has to be really good. Such is the case with Major League and the city of Cleveland’s many inhabitants. If you look carefully, you’ll usually see fans wearing Vaughn jerseys to almost every Cleveland Indians game.
And while many may say there were better baseball movies during the ’80s, Major League provided the sports world with a bevy of one-liners to choose from. From “Going somewhere, meat?” to “Are you trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?” this movie has plenty of hilarious scenes to keep the viewers coming back.
Clever camera manipulation
It’s hard to believe Charlie Sheen was throwing 100 MPH heaters, even in his prime with steroid use giving him an extra boost. To be exact, he was supposedly pitching 101 MPH fastballs. And while he didn’t achieve this in reality, the movie made it seem like this was the case, thanks to some handy camerawork.
For starters, the pitcher’s mound was moved toward home plate, giving Sheen a closer vantage point to throw the ball to the catcher. And since the camera was situated behind the plate, it made it seem like he was pitching must faster than he really was, too.
Empty stadium on-screen, but not so much in reality
In the movie, the Cleveland Indians stadium was pretty much a wasteland with hardly any fans in the stands on opening day. However, this actually wasn’t the case. In fact, Cleveland Indians fans are pretty loyal to their team. And they have no reservations showing their appreciation and loyalty.
And let’s be real, Cleveland has had some pretty bad seasons over the course of its history. Yet despite all of that, their fans have regularly filled up a substantial amount of stadium seats. You definitely have to give them credit where credit is due.
Rachel Phelps (played by Margaret Whitton), the general manager of the team in the movie, is actually based on the former owner of the Minnesota Twins, Calvin Griffith. He was instrumental in the Washington Senators transitioning to the Twins after 60 years under the former franchise, and oversaw many successful seasons.
While the character of Rachel Phelps is based on him, it’s funny how the two are vaguely similar, at best. One of those similarities was that Griffith was also somewhat controversial. On the field, however, there was no gray area, as the Twins would go on to be multiple championship contenders.
Never get between Jobu and his rum
There are many things people won’t let others interfere with, whether that comes in the form of others tampering with personal materials, or whatever the case may be. In this case, inanimate objects have feelings, too, especially in Major League.
In other words, you don’t want to mess with Jobu. And in this case, it seems like Harris was more fond of his toy than anyone else. In the locker room scene, the players gather around his corner to see him using it as a good-luck charm. He then tells one of the players, “It’s very bad to steal Jobu’s rum.”
Going the extra mile
Apparently, Charlie Sheen wasn’t the only actor to have some form of baseball experience under his belt. In addition to the many other cast members who had a history of playing the sport — Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Chelcie Ross, for example — many of them attended a baseball boot camp under the direction of Ward.
And he went all out. He enlisted the help of former professional Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager to whip his cast into baseball shape and learn the fundamentals. And just like that, over just a few weeks, the cast and crew improved in all aspects of the game … except for Wesley Snipes, of course.
Uecker basically made up his lines as he went along
Like a true sports broadcaster, Bob Uecker would constantly improvise on the fly during the game, making for a genuine experience for the listener. After all, who would want to listen to a scripted commentary for a baseball game? Chances are it would make for a pretty forgettable experience.
After recognizing his experience, Ward let him have free rein during the broadcasts. Specifically, he was instructed to say “whatever comes into your head,” according to an interview. However, he was instructed to expand upon certain topics, that way he had a relative direction in terms of the dialogue.
Staying faithful to the film
Wesley Snipes had other acting opportunities during the ’80s. In fact, he was offered a role for a Spike Lee film, titled Do the Right Thing. At this point in his career, Snipes hadn’t had any big acting breakthroughs, so he wasn’t at the peak of popularity yet. So it’s a true testimony to his loyalty to the film to stay on.
However, his decision also may have benefited him in the long haul, especially since his role in Major League was probably a better move for his career. Of course, Snipes would later go on to star in future Spike Lee films. He’s also been quoted as saying Lee helped him immensely with his career, too.
The groundskeepers were actually related
As a common theme for many 1980s comedies, Major League would have been remiss if it didn’t include a few montages. To their credit, they included plenty. And one of these depicted the hilarious groundskeepers, who were actually father and son in reality.
During the montages, the usual scene shows the two riffing on how bad the Indians are or complaining about how the players are not up to legitimate standards. The two men who played the roles were Keith Uchima and his father, Kurt.
The music is credited with carrying over into the MLB
After Major League first released, a new trend began in the MLB with regards to specific introduction songs for different players. To add to this, Charlie Sheen became somewhat annoyed when a particular professional player used his character’s theme song for his stadium entrance.
During his career, closing pitcher Mitch Williams adopted Sheen’s song “Wild Thing” from the movie, and to make things more hilarious, he changed his jersey number to the same as Vaughn’s from the movie — 99. You would think Sheen would be appreciative of this, but clearly he wasn’t a huge fan.
Jobu still lives on in the Cleveland Indians’ locker room
As of late, the Cleveland Indians have met with some moderate success, with a World Series appearance in 2016 and four playoff showings from 2013-18. Part of their ascendancy could be attributed — according to all those mystic lovers out there — to Pedro Cerrano and the rest of the Indians staff, because of a locker room change-up.
In the locker room (during 2016), they added a Jobu doll shrine from Major League seemingly for good luck. Included in the locker was a sweatshirt with an image of Jobu etched into it. The most hilarious part of it, though, was that it included the phrase “It’s very bad to steal Jobu’s rum.”
King of the quote board
Of course, the movie has its fair share of epic quotes. However, the inevitable question becomes, who is the main actor giving most of the catchy one-liners? If you’re a true fan of the movie, you’ll know it is the one and only Tom Berenger — who portrayed Jake Taylor.
And as you get older, you begin to appreciate Berenger’s role in Major League more and more, especially if you’re in your late 30s or 40s. He’s been in a fair share of other hits from the ’80s, too, including Platoon and The Big Chill. It should also be noted he made an appearance in Inception, as well.
Rumors of its return
There have been rumors in the works of a possible sequel that would feature a reunification of the gang: Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Tom Berenger, and many others. We realize the chances of this are pretty slim, considering this was first reported in 2010.
It was also said it will have no semblance to Major League: Back to the Minors, which released in 1998 to little acclaim. Until then, you have the option of owning the illustrious Major League on DVD.