‘JUST A Bit Outside’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Major League’
Before going on to direct Sleepless in Seattle, David S. Ward hit a home run with Major League, transforming Wesley Snipes into a star, creating a surprisingly sought-after haircut, and giving forever tormented Cleveland baseball fans something to cheer about. That last part was literally the driving force behind making the movie, as Ward once told ESPN: “I figured I would never see the (Cleveland) Indians win anything unless I wrote a movie where they did. That was the real genesis behind the movie.”
The 1989 classic remains a beloved sports comedy to this day, so grab yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and learn more about the best Major League movie (mostly because none of the sequels had Snipes in it)...
The Alternate Ending
While the theatrical release ended with Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) stunned as her team celebrates their victory, the “Wild Thing Edition” DVD added the twist ending where Phelps reveals that she never wanted to move the team to Miami (there was never even an offer). Instead, she simply concocted the whole story because her dead husband left the team bankrupt, and she wanted to motivate them somehow. The ending was cut from the original film because test audiences preferred Phelps to remain the villain.
The Studio Didn’t Think People Would Want to See a Baseball Movie
During an oral history, the director explained that it took four years to make the movie because the studio didn’t think folks would want to watch it. “The studios kept explaining that baseball had just started being broadcast on cable, and people could see the game anytime they wanted; why would anybody pay to see a movie about it?” Ward explained. “We finally brought it to a company called Morgan Creek, and they thought it would be a good reteaming of Tom Berenger (Jake Taylor) and Charlie Sheen (Ricky’ Wild Thing’ Vaughn) from Platoon.’”
Charlie Sheen Took Steroids to Improve His Fastball For the Movie
Sheen told Sports Illustrated that it was the only time he ever took steroids. “I did them for like six or eight weeks,” he admitted. “You can print this; I don’t give a fuck. My fastball went from 79 (mph) to like 85.”
The Actors Had to Attend a Baseball Camp
Ward wanted his cast to look like the real thing, so he chose actors who either played baseball at school or were natural athletes, like Snipes (who was cast in White Men Can’t Jump for the same reason). “A thing I did with most of them before I cast them, I took them outside, and we just played catch,” Ward explained to Yahoo! “I saw who could throw and who couldn’t. As we got further along and we had people who were into the final two or three, we had them do batting practice. I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t throw the ball. It’s very hard to disguise that.”
Ward then got former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager to come and drill his rookies with a two-week training camp in Los Angeles. “If you’re not in shape and you’re not able to make baseball moves, it’s very easy to injure yourself — to pull a hamstring or something else that takes a lot of time to heal,” Ward continued. “Baseball moves are a lot of stops and starts. You go from a stop to a very quick run. If you’re not used to using those muscles, you can injure yourself. If there’s a day when you want to shoot a guy making a throw or running and making a catch, and he can’t run, you gotta find something else to do.”
This, of course, is how Yeager got himself a part as third-base coach Duke Temple.
The University of Arizona’s Baseball Team Once Did a Parody of the Movie
The movie was partly filmed at the University of Arizona’s Hi Corbett Field, which is why the 2017 Arizona Wildcats team decided to do a short parody film of the Major League players arriving for Spring training.
Wesley Snipes’ Audition Was Disastrous
Snipes confirmed during an interview with Collider that he did, indeed, turn down a small part in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing to play the wily Willie Mays Hayes in Major League. However, he said he was sure he wouldn’t get the part on account of his “ridiculous” audition. “They’d flew me out for another audition,” Snipes recalls. “When I landed, they literally brought me from the airport to the studio. Dropped my bags there. The assistant said, ‘Hey, hello, welcome. Hey, they want you over at the field.’ I was dressed in a flight suit, in like a pilot’s flight suit and boxing shoes. Had no little league experience. Had none of that. So then I said okay. And when I got out to the field, there in the bleachers, in the stands on the field, are all the other actors that are auditioning, fully dressed in baseball gear. In their baseball uniforms, fully dressed.”
Snipes continued, saying that everyone started laughing when he joined them on the field. “So when I finally ran around the bases and tried to turn from second to third and ended up way out in the outfield, because my feet, I had no traction. The cats are falling out in the stands. When I made it back to home plate, literally the producers, the other auditioners, the actors, everybody was laughing their ass off. I had to laugh too, because I was like, ‘Hey man, what else can I do? I got no traction. I got boxing shoes on.’ Yeah. Then they took me back to the office and said, ‘Okay, you’re hired.’ Go figure that.”
The Third Movie Would’ve Seen the Team FInally Play the World Series
When asked why the Cleveland Indians never played the World Series in the first two films, Ward revealed that it was kept for the third film — the one they never got to make (instead, we got the standalone sequel, Major League: Back to the Minors, that didn’t involve the director at all). “We were building toward the third movie, Major League III. It has already been written, and we’ve been trying to get Morgan Creek Productions to make it for the last few years without much success,” Ward explained in 2016. “I didn’t have a trilogy in mind when I made the first one. When I did the first one, I just wanted it to be successful, and I wanted people to embrace the movie, and once they did, I said, ‘Well, in the movie, we only win the division.’ We don’t even win the American League Championship. In the second one, we find out they lost to the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS.”
He further explained that he thought it “might be a stretch, even in a comedy, to have the Indians win the World Series (in the first movie). Also, you have to go through so many playoff games to get to the World Series that it makes the end of the movie a long montage of winning playoff games. I didn’t feel the movie was about that. I figured out how to do it for the third movie. The World Series is a natural place for them to go after doing everything but win the World Series.”
Skip Griparis Originally Auditioned For a Role as a Baseball Player
The actor and comedian played baseball as a kid and was asked to bring a glove and ball to prove it to the filmmakers. “Most of my audition was for a player at bat,” Griparis remembers. “Then they asked me to read one line as Colorman. I read, ‘You can’t say fuckin’ on the air!’ They all laughed and said thanks. I said, don’t you want to see me play ball? They said no. I said bye, and I figured I had whiffed again. I had forgotten all about it two weeks later when I got a call from Glen, my agent, (saying) ‘Skip, you got the part... Colorman!’ If I didn’t pee in my pants, I should have.”
That Time the Real Cleveland Indians Erected a Jobu Shrine
While there have been individual players and some teams over the years who’ve embraced the movie’s superstitious Jobu doll, the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) made a whole shrine in their locker room in 2016 — the year they made it to the World Series for the first time since 1997. “He’s been working,” Jason Kipnis told Cleveland.com at the time. “He didn’t like the first airport vodka we left him. So we tried Bacardi (rum), and that seems to be working.”
Snipes’ Impressive Fence Jump Was Real
“There is the shot in the movie where Wesley jumps high over the fence and catches a ball, and he actually did that,” Ward revealed. “It wasn’t a batted ball; the balls were being thrown by Yeager — he was trying to throw them at a height where Wesley could jump and get them. We had to do a little visual effects to enlarge the ball. You almost didn’t see the ball go into his glove; his hands were so fast.”
Sheen Was Not a Fan of That Hair
It turns out that Sheen wasn’t as wild about his hair as his “Wild Thing” character. “I didn’t like the haircut because it generated so many comments in bars,” he said. “I’ve got enough of that already. Add that to the mix, and it’s a recipe for a fistfight.” He was, however, pretty stoked when Derek Holland sported the same haircut for the Texas Rangers in 2015.
Jeremy Piven Was in the Movie Before His Scenes Got Cut
It Was Rene Russo’s First Movie
The actress was a model before she started acting — Ward once called her “the Cindy Crawford of her time” — and Major League was her debut feature. “I’d been modeling for a thousand years, and I was bored from the moment I stepped into that business,” Russo recalls. “David took a chance on me. Acting looks easier than it is.”
Corbin Bernsen Didn’t Think the Movie Would Have Legs
The actor, who was doing LA Law at the time, wasn’t sure whether he should do the movie or not and didn’t think it would amount to much, either. “I wasn’t sure the world would survive 30 years ago,” the actor who played Roger Dorn told Forbes once. “I honestly didn’t think about whether people would be talking about this movie. I did LA Law, and I thought that would have long legs; people were talking about it. Major League was, and is, a great comedy, and, from a business end, you hoped it would come around again each baseball season. Major League made some money, but it’s not one of these multi-billion-dollar blockbusters. It did well, but the value and popularity of the movie have always been far greater than its financial success.”
Dennis Haysbert Had No Problem Hitting a Curveball
According to the director, Haysbert (who played Pedro Cerrano) had incredible power and some killer baseball skills to boot. “Dennis could hit the ball really well,” Ward remembers. “We were shooting in Milwaukee County Stadium, and he hit a legitimate home run. He hit the ball over the fence. Those were the kind of things I was looking for.”