Viking Night: Major League
By Bruce Hall
November 24, 2015
Sports movies tend to follow a limited series of templates. They tend to either be gritty stories of determination that end in bittersweet allegory (Brian's Song, The Natural), or whimsical, uplifting yarns about hardscrabble misfits who succeed against all odds, with a little romance sprinkled in for good measure. Major League is the latter, and although it strictly adheres to a well-established pattern, it does so almost flawlessly. And it does so in a way that almost makes you forget that it's a slightly raunchy, R-rated romp. It's that rare combination of Guy Movie and rom-com that manages to have something for everyone. And as such, it just might be one of the best date movies ever made.
But before we get into all that, let's establish that this is the story of the Cleveland Indians baseball club. It's the perfect scenario, because any movie that takes place in Cleveland has GOT to be a hard luck story. And in this case, the Indians have gone 34 years without a championship. The fan base is unhappy, the players are dejected, and the owner was so done with things that he up and dropped dead. The Indians have fallen on hard times in an unprecedented way, and there seems to be little hope for the future. Maybe it's that racist logo.
Anyway, the team is taken over by the owner's widow. She's a gold digging former showgirl who knows nothing about baseball, but is wily enough to have worked out a sweetheart deal with the city of Miami to relocate the team to a new stadium. And, there might be some pretty sweet personal perks in it for her, too. But to get out of the team's lease in Cleveland, they need attendance to drop to junior high pep rally levels. She decides that the only way to do this is to tank the season. So, the Indians invite a bunch of lowlifes to training camp and hire a nobody to manage the club.
Her game is to make the team so bad she can take the team to South Beach and work on her tan.
The new team arrives at camp, within minutes of each other. There's Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), a washed up former all-star catcher with bad knees and an even worse drinking problem. Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), is a Cuban player who practices voodoo, more or less confining him to the role of walking stereotype for the duration of the film. Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), is a self-absorbed prima donna who couldn't catch a cold but can hit the ball into low orbit. Then there's Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), a fast talking speedster who is pretty much Wesley Snipes.
And of course, there's Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), a sullen iconoclast who is 100 percent tiger blood and Adonis DNA on the pitcher's mound. The only problem is, he only throws fastballs. All of these guys have some major (but loveable) flaws either in their game or their character that have prevented them from accessing the hidden talent we all know they have inside. But can anything bring them together in time to make a title run and save the team? After a miserable camp, all these chuckleheads make the team. But while they think they're living the dream, little do they know, they've only been signed because they're expected to fail.