10 Wild Facts About Major League

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If you were to ask one thousand Cleveland Indians fans to name their all-time favorite player, a decent percentage might say Willie Mays Hayes or Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. Such is the enduring appeal of Major League. Although there have been hundreds of baseball movies over the years, few have resonated so strongly with fans and players alike, or had such an impact on the game itself. As the real-life Tribe suits up for the 2016 World Series, let’s take a moment to revisit the greatest fictional team in Indians history.

1. IT WAS MOSTLY SHOT IN MILWAUKEE.

“I’ve been a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan since I was five years old,” said< /a>Major League writer-director David S. Ward. When Major League premiered in 1989, the Indians hadn’t finished a season within 11 games of first place since 1960, which is what inspired the film. “I felt at that point, if the Indians were ever going to win anything during my lifetime, I would have to write a movie where they did,” he recalled in 2016. “And obviously, given their futility at that time, it had to be a comedy.”

Although Major League is something of a love letter to Ohio’s second largest city, very few scenes were filmed there. Early on, the producers realized that it wouldn’t be easy to shoot a movie at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium while working around the Indians’ and the Browns’ schedules. “We were shooting late in the summer and the Browns were already playing pre-season games and there were football lines on the field all the time and that didn’t look real good,” Ward told ESPN. “There were also some union issues in Cleveland … So we went to Milwaukee.”

Most of Major League’s principal photography was filmed in Milwaukee, although Ward did manage to shoot the opening credits sequence in Cleveland, along with some establishing shots of Municipal Stadium. In Arizona, Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field—which was used by the Cleveland Indians from 1946 to 1992—provided the backdrop for some of the spring training scenes.

2. BOB UECKER DID A LOT OF IMPROVISING.

Juuust a bit outside!” Colorful MLB player-turned-announcer (then actor) Bob Uecker was always Ward’s first choice for the role of Harry Doyle. “There was never anybody else up for this job,” Ward said. “I said, ‘Get me Uecker, I don’t care what it takes. We’ve got to have him.’ He contributed ad libs that were sensational.”

Ward actively encouraged Uecker to make up his lines on the spot. “David let me go,” Uecker once said. “He said, ‘I want you to be Harry Doyle. Say whatever comes into your head.’” Before the cameras started rolling, Uecker would be given “general directions” about whatever topic Doyle was supposed to be prattling on about. Then he’d improvise the actual dialogue. “Most of it was stuff I heard guys say in dugouts and clubhouses,” Uecker explained. “Like the line about the Pete Vuckovich character leading the American League in home runs and nose hair. Ball players rag on each other like that all the time.”

3. THE ACTORS ATTENDED A BASEBALL BOOT CAMP.

A few of Major League’s stars had at least some baseball experience under their belts. Tom Berenger (Jake Taylor) had played the game in high school, as had Corbin Bernsen (Roger Dorn). Meanwhile, Chelcie Ross (Eddie Harris) suited up for Southwest Texas State’s team during his college years. Then there was Charlie Sheen (Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn), who pitched so well as a teenager that he once received an athletic scholarship offer from the University of Kansas. “He could’ve played pro ball,” Uecker said of Sheen (who had starred in John Sayles’s Eight Men Out, about the Black Sox scandal, a year before Major League’s release).

Still, athletically gifted as some of his performers were, Ward decided that everyone could benefit from some professional assistance. So he brought on longtime Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager to organize a training camp for the actors. Under his guidance, Sheen and company fine-tuned their pitching, fielding, and hitting over the span of a few weeks.

4. WESLEY SNIPES TURNED DOWN A ROLE IN DO THE RIGHT THING TO PLAY WILLIE MAYS HAYES.

Wesley Snipes was still a relative unknown in 1989; at that point, one of his career highlights had been starring in the iconic, Martin Scorsese-directed music video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” Impressed by Snipes’s performance, Spike Lee offered the actor a minor part in Do the Right Thing. The actor declined so that he could take on a much bigger role: Willie Mays Hayes in Major League. However, Lee would later cast Snipes in Mo’ Better Blues (1990) and Jungle Fever (1991). In 2010, Snipes said that he considers himself “indebted to Spike for considering me and opening me up to that world.”

5. THE GRUMPY GROUNDSKEEPERS WERE PLAYED BY A FATHER AND SON DUO.

Being a 1980s comedy, Major League comes with plenty of montages. These allow the film to showcase some running gags; for example, the sequences repeatedly cut to two groundskeepers who disparage the Indians at Municipal Stadium. The two were portrayed by actor Kurt Uchima and his son, Keith.

Speaking of bit players: Jeremy Piven was cast as an irritable Cleveland bench jockey—but don’t bother looking for him in the film. To shorten the run time, his scenes were deleted. “I have the claim to fame of cutting a future star,” Ward jokes on the DVD commentary.

6. ACTOR DENNIS HAYSBERT REALLY DID HIT A HOMER IN THAT FINAL SCENE.   

Best known today as 24’s President David Palmer and Allstate’s resident celebrity spokesman, Dennis Haysbert exudes an air of mystery in Major League as the Cuban-born slugger Pedro Cerrano. The character was loosely based on some real-life MLB stars—brothers Matty, Jesus, and Felipe Alou—who briefly became teammates as members of the San Francisco Giants. It was rumored (though never confirmed) that the three were deeply superstitious and would talk to their bats, just as Cerrano does onscreen.

During the shoot, Haysbert proved to be a talented ballplayer, as well as a great actor. Whenever the script called for his character to hit a homer, he actually did. “Every home run I was supposed to hit out, I hit out,” Haysbert said in the DVD documentary My Kinda Team: Making Major League. He kept this streak going through the climactic sequence, which sees Cerrano knock one out of the park at the bottom of the seventh. During the take, Haysbert sent the ball flying over the left field fence at Milwaukee County Stadium. His co-stars were awestruck. “Everyone stopped and applauded,” Ward told Sports Illustrated.

7. AN ALTERNATE ENDING CAST THE VILLAIN IN A MORE SYMPATHETIC LIGHT.

Question: If Rachel Phelps, the Indians’s ex-showgirl owner (played by Margaret Whitton) wanted the team to stink, why didn’t she just fire her manager? Or send her best players down to the minors? Or cut the club’s rising stars? The theatrical version of Major League never explains this glaring plot hole, but there’s a deleted scene that does. In the original script, the Indians manager confronts Phelps right before the huge playoff game against the Yankees. Calmly, she reveals that she secretly cares about the club and hoped they’d win all along. Moreover, Phelps claims to have personally scouted all of the players (except Hayes, whom she calls “a surprise”). “They all had flaws which concealed their real talent, or I wouldn’t have been able to get them,” Phelps tells the manager. “But I knew if anyone could straighten them out, you could. And if you tell them any of this, I will fire you.”

The scene was shot and incorporated into the first cut of the film. Once test audiences saw it, they didn’t react well to Major League’s third act twist. By the movie’s end, viewers had come to love hating Phelps. So in accordance with their wishes, Ward and producer Chris Chesser deleted the owner’s redemption scene. This forced them to re-shoot parts of the final Yankees sequence. Footage of Phelps cheering on the Indians was hastily replaced with new clips that showed her sneering, cussing, and—most memorably—criticizing Vaughn’s entry music.

8. SHEEN CLAIMS THAT HE USED STEROIDS TO GET INTO CHARACTER.

“Let’s just say I was enhancing my performance a little bit,” Sheen revealed in a 2011 interview. The actor claims that he took PEDs for roughly “six or eight weeks” while Major League was being made. “It was the only time I ever did steroids … My fastball went from 79 to like 85.”

9. MAJOR LEAGUE IS CREDITED WITH KICKING OFF A MUSICAL TREND IN PRO BASEBALL.

Since its release in the spring of 1989, Major League has given rise to the modern trend of MLB closers choosing their own entrance songs as they strut out onto the field.

Relief pitcher Mitch Williams drew Sheen’s ire when he adopted the nickname “Wild Thing” and changed his jersey number from 28 to 99—which happened to be Ricky Vaughn’s number. On top of all that, he chose the hit Troggs song “Wild Thing” as his personal theme, just like a certain Major League character did. Instead of seeing Williams’s antics as a tribute, Sheen felt that they stole his thunder. “I was pissed for years at Mitch Williams and said he never gave me credit,” the actor once fumed.

10. IN 2016, THE (REAL) CLEVELAND INDIANS SET UP A JOBU SHRINE.

Maybe the Indians should thank Pedro Cerrano for their recent winning ways. This past summer, second baseman Jason Kipnis and first baseman Mike Napoli converted an empty locker in the team clubhouse into a shrine to Jobu, the fictional deity Cerrano worships. Their ensemble includes a tiny figurine of the religious figure, along with a sweater that quotes Pedro’s famous line, “It’s very bad to steal Jobu’s rum.” Evidently, this shrine is having the desired effect. “We’ve had Jobu there for a little bit,” Kipnis said after a win in late June, “He’s been working. He didn’t like the airport vodka we left him. So we tried Bacardi and that seems to be working.”

6 Times the Olympics Have Been Postponed or Canceled

Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
Sander van Ginkel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan agreed to push the start date back to 2021 after Canada, Australia, and other countries announced they would not send athletes to the Summer Games this July.

The Summer Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world, typically bringing more than 10,000 athletes from dozens of countries together every four years, The New York Times reports.

It's extremely rare for the Summer or Winter Olympics to be postponed or canceled. Since 1896, when the modern Olympic Games began, it has happened only six times—and it usually requires a war.

The Olympic Games were canceled during World War I and World War II. The 1940 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, were postponed due to war and moved to Helsinki, Finland, where they were later canceled altogether. The current coronavirus pandemic marks the first time the competition has ever been temporarily postponed for a reason other than war. Here's the full list.

  1. 1916 Summer Olympics // Berlin, Germany
  1. 1940 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan and Helsinki, Finland
  1. 1940 Winter Olympics // Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  1. 1944 Summer Olympics // London, United Kingdom
  1. 1944 Winter Olympics // Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
  1. 2020 Summer Olympics // Tokyo, Japan

6 Surprising Ways Baseball Actually Favors Lefties

Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series in 2019.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you grew up playing baseball, tee-ball, softball, or any other derivative of America’s favorite pastime, you might be familiar with certain positions left-handed people are unofficially prohibited from playing—you’ll hardly ever see a left-handed shortstop or third baseman, for example, because they’d be facing the wrong direction for any throws to the right side of the field. However, there are plenty of other parts of the game that are equally important as efficiently making outs at first or second base, and some of them can even favor lefties. Read on to find out how left-handed batters, pitchers, and more have an edge against their right-handed competitors below.

1. Left-handed pitchers have a better view of first base.

Since a left-handed pitcher faces first base when he’s gearing up to pitch, he can easily see if a first base runner is leading off (i.e. taking a few steps off the bag, with the intention to steal second base). This makes for some pretty spectacular fake-outs where a pitcher will feign throwing a pitch and instead flip it to the first baseman, who can tag the runner out before he can get a foot (or finger) back on the bag.

2. Left-handed batters are closer to first base.

Left-handed batters are simply standing a little closer to first base than right-handed batters. As former MLB player Doug Bernier explained for Pro Baseball Insider, an extra step or so can be the difference between getting thrown out at first base or making it safely there, especially if it’s an infield hit. That said, not everyone agrees the slightly shorter distance to first base is enough to give left-handed batters an advantage on infield hits in general. In a 2007 article for The Hardball Times, John Walsh argued that since lefties hit more ground balls into the right half of the infield—giving first and second basemen a shorter distance to cover to make the out at first—their one-step head start isn’t statistically significant overall.

3. Left-handed batters’ momentum is already carrying them in the direction of first base.

Even if a shorter distance to first base isn’t enough to give a left-handed batter the edge on every occasion, he also has the laws of physics on his side. When a lefty swings, the momentum of the bat is moving to the right—i.e. toward first base—so he gets to run in the same direction he’s already moving. Righties, on the other hand, swing toward third base and have to break the momentum to sprint in the opposite direction. Dr. David A. Peters, a professor of engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (and baseball aficionado), calculated that lefties’ momentum means they’re able to travel to first base about one-sixth of a second faster than righties.

4. Left-handed first basemen are facing the right direction to throw the ball to another infielder.

If the ball is hit to a left-handed first baseman, he’s already in the ideal position—with his right foot closest to his target—to throw it just about anywhere else in the infield. This is especially helpful when there’s an opportunity to make an out at second or third base, which he’d usually prioritize over the first base out. A right-handed first baseman, on the other hand, might have to pivot as much as 180 degrees to get his left foot where it needs to be to throw it to another infielder.

5. Left-handed batters perform better against right-handed pitchers, which are more abundant.

In baseball, it’s generally agreed that batters fare better when hitting against opposite-handed (OH) pitchers, so much so that coaches sometimes stack their batting lineups with lefties when they know a righty will be pitching, and vice versa. “With the dominance of right-handed pitchers in the game,” Dan Peterson writes for gameSense Sports, “the left-handed hitter comes to the plate with a built-in advantage.” The advantage itself has to do with the direction of the pitches.

“With a right-handed release to a right-handed batter, the ball seems to be coming right at him,” Peterson explains. “The same pitch coming from the opposite side provides a better view across the body.”

6. Right field is shorter than left field in some parks.

detroit tigers comerica park aerial view
An aerial view of the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When professional baseball stadiums first started cropping up in the late 19th century, there wasn’t a league-wide set of dimensions to standardize their size and shape (in fact, for the most part, there still isn’t). Since the majority of batters were right-handed—and, as such, more likely to hit the ball into left field—some stadiums featured left fields that were significantly deeper than their right fields. Take Philadelphia’s Columbia Park II, which opened in 1901 with a 340-foot left field and a 280-foot right field. Those short right fields meant left-handed batters would have an easier time hitting home runs. While most modern stadiums have quite literally evened the playing field with more symmetrical dimensions, some of them still have discrepancies; the right field foul pole at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park, for example, is a whole 15 feet closer to home plate than its left field foul pole.

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