Major League is a 1989 American baseball comedy film that was made with the production company, Morgan Creek Productions, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is written and directed by David S. Ward, while it was produced by Chris Chesser and Irby Smith. It stars Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, Bob Uecker, Rene Russo, Dennis Haysbert, Corbin Bernsen, Charles Cyphers, Chelcie Ross, Andy Romano, Kip Powers, Steve Yeager, Pete Vuckovich, Willie Mueller, Stacy Caroll, Todd Johnson, Neil Flynn, Ed Grode, Jr., and Marc Daniloff.
As it was made for $11 million, Major League grossed nearly $50 million in its domestic release. The film deals with the exploits of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians baseball team (which is set in 1989, the same year as this film was released), and spawned two sequels (Major League II and Back to the Minors), in which neither replicated the success of the original film from critics and audiences alike.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
Former Las Vegas showgirl Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) inherits the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her deceased husband. Phelps hates Cleveland and wants to relocate the team to Miami. The Indians' contract with Cleveland contains an escape clause stipulating that the team may relocate if attendance falls below a certain level. Determined to put together the worst Major League team in the country, Phelps hires Lou Brown (James Gammon), the manager for the Toledo Mud Hens, to manage the team and promotes former manager Charlie Donovan (Charles Cyphers) to general manager.
During spring training in Tucson, the team's shortcomings become evident. The team's lone star, third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), is an egotistical prima donna whose skills have faded. Staff ace Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) has to rely on illegally doctoring the baseball due to his weakening arm. Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), a voodoo-practicing Cuban import with significant power, cannot hit breaking balls and clashes with the devoutly Christian Harris. Veteran catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), a former star turned drunk who had spent the last few years playing in the Mexican League after his knees gave out, has lost so much strength on his throws that he cannot reach second base.
The two players who draw the most attention are brash young outfielder Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), who simply showed up at spring training without an invite, and pitcher Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a convicted felon on work release from a California prison. Hayes claims he can "run like Hayes", and proves to be the fastest player on the team, and "hit like" his namesake, but is unable to hit the ball very far. Vaughn can throw a fastball well above 90 miles an hour, but has no control over it, which earns him the nickname "Wild Thing".
The team predictably starts the season on a losing streak. Lou then discovers Vaughn's control issues stem from an uncorrected visual impairment. After being fitted with glasses, Vaughn's performance improves and the team begins to win. Meanwhile, Taylor tries to reunite with his ex-girlfriend Lynn (Rene Russo) despite her being engaged to another man.
Phelps, angered by the team's improvement, tries to demoralize them by removing team amenities. She replaces their chartered team jet, first with a rickety propeller plane and then an old bus. She then refuses to fix their workout equipment, and even has the hot water to the locker room turned off. Despite her efforts the team continues to win and brings themselves into contention for the division championship.
Eventually Charlie is able to reveal Phelps's plan to Lou. Lou then calls a team meeting and announces that all of the players on the current roster would be released at the end of the season no matter the outcome. With nothing to lose, Taylor says they should just focus on winning the pennant. For added motivation, they use a cardboard cutout of Phelps from her showgirl days, peeling off sections of clothing for each game they win.
The team succeeds in tying the division with the New York Yankees, leading to a one-game playoff to determine the champions. However, Lou decides to start Harris in place of Vaughn due to his experience. Vaughn then ends up in bed with a woman who he later finds out is Suzanne Dorn, Roger's wife (Stacy Carroll); who had slept with Vaughn in as revenge for her husband being unfaithful during a victory party.
In the playoff game in Cleveland, the Yankees take an early lead but Cerrano finally gets a good pitch and hits a home run to tie the game. The ninth inning begins with Harris loading the bases after recording two outs, with their best hitter Clu Haywood on deck. Lou decides to switch Harris out with Vaughn, who manages to get his revenge on Haywood, striking him out on three straight fastballs. In the bottom of the inning, the Yankees bring out "The Duke" (Willie Mueller), their headhunting closer. The Indians manage to catch the Yankees off guard thanks to Hayes' speed after singling and stealing second base, and an unexpected bunt from Taylor to win the game.
As the team celebrates, Dorn punches Vaughn in the face for what happened the night before but then quickly pulls him up so they can keep celebrating. Taylor spots Lynn in the stands, no longer wearing her engagement ring. The two rush to hug each other as the city celebrates the victory.
Alternate ending Edit
The theatrical release includes added scenes of Rachel Phelps showing dismay with the team's success. An alternate scene included on the "Wild Thing Edition" DVD shows a very different characterization of Phelps. Lou Brown confronts Phelps over her plan to sabotage the team and announces his resignation. Phelps then reveals the threatened move to Miami was merely a ruse to motivate the team, as the Indians were on the verge of bankruptcy when she inherited them and she could not afford to hire star players or maintain standard amenities. She also tells Lou that she felt he was the right manager to bring the ragtag group together. Lou does not resign, but Phelps reasserts her authority by saying that if he shares any part of their conversation with anyone, she will fire him. The film's producers said that while the twist ending worked as a resolution of the plot, they scrapped it because test audiences preferred the Phelps character as a villain.