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.”

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

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This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

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2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

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3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

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5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

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6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

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7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

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8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

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9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

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10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

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11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

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Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

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12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

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If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

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13. SNES Classic; $275

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The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

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14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

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Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.