Friday, July 1, 2011

Top 10 revelations from SI’s oral history of ‘Major League’

Top 10 revelations from SI’s oral history of ‘Major League’
The 1989 baseball comedy "Major League" is consistently near the top of moviegoers' favorite sports films despite the ridiculous concept of the Cleveland Indians beating the New York Yankees for a pennant. Crazy, right? Sports Illustrated writer Chris Nashawaty recently interviewed the director, David Ward, and most of the cast for his latest feature, an oral history of the movie that digs deep and reveals some things we didn't know.
Here are the top 10 revelations from Nashawaty's exhaustive interview feature in the July 4 "Where Are They Now?" issue of Sports Illustrated. Hopefully, he'll avoid doing a followup for the cast and crew of that dud "Major League III: Back to the Minors."
1. Charlie Sheen was doing steroids during filming!: Or so he claims. Sheen, who played fireballing reliever Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, played some baseball in high school but got kicked off the team because of poor grades. To prepare for his role in the film, Sheen says he improved his fastball from the high 70s to the mid 80s with the help of steroids. That's dedication to the craft. Or something.
2. Jeremy Piven was left on the cutting room floor: Director David Ward admits that Piven, then a prematurely balding 23-year-old actor with just "Lucas" and "One Crazy Summer" under his belt, played a supporting role as a bench player who pelted opposing teams with insults. All of Piven's scenes were (mercifully) cut.
3. Dennis Haysbert can hit a baseball pretty far: All of the actors in the film had enough athletic ability to fill the roles of ballplayers, but Haysbert, who played voodoo-worshipping slugger Pedro Cerrano, actually hit a ball out of the park during filming. Sure, it was only 315 feet but there are enough Yuniesky Betancourts in the majors now who could use that kind of power.
Top 10 revelations from SI’s oral history of ‘Major League’4. Bob Uecker was hired for his work in commercials:Ward claims that when he asked Uecker to play the role of Indians radio announcer Harry Doyle, he did it because of Uecker's hilarious work in Miller Lite ads. Ward had no idea Uecker was already the real life radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers.
5. Bob Feller didn't like all the swearing: Legendary Indians hurler Bob Feller saw a screening of "Major League" in Cleveland soon after the film's release and told director Ward that he was upset at the foul language used by ballplayers in the locker-room scenes, claiming that they "didn't talk like that." I guess in Feller's day, teammates spoke to one another with flowery prose and bend-over-backwards politeness!
6. The original ending was terrible: Spoiler alert! Ward originally put a twist in the end of the movie where evil owner Rachel Phelps, who spends the entire season trying to sabotage the team in an effort to move them to Florida, turns out to be the team's savior, working behind the scenes to make them better. Test audiences hated that ending, preferring to live in a world where good people are good and evil people own baseball teams in Miami.
7. Wesley Snipes is actually slow as molasses: Snipes played Willie Mays Hayes, a character who was supposed to have both the baseball skills and the self-aggrandizing attitude of Rickey Henderson. Turns out he had the latter but not the former. Scenes where Snipes runs the basepaths were shot in slow motion because he was "not very fast."
8. Corbin Bernsen is as arrogant as the characters he plays: All the actors playing ballplayers auditioned for their part by participating in actual baseball tryouts except Bernsen, who was shooting another film at the time and assured the producers, "Trust me, I can play." Playing washed-up third baseman Roger Dorn, however, didn't require much skill anyway except to be cuckolded by Ricky Vaughn.
9. "Major League" was Joe Morgan's "Citizen Kane": According to Charlie Sheen, the film became a quick favorite among the MLB community and that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan claimed that "Major League" was the only movie he brought with him on airplanes. Bringing your own VCR tapes on airplanes? Fancy!
10. Nearly all the cast members want to do another sequel: David Ward has written a third sequel (or second sequel, for those of us who pretend "Major League III" never happened) in which 20 years have passed and Ricky Vaughn is mounting a big league comeback. In these interviews, Bob Uecker, Dennis Haysbert, Tom Berenger (catcher Jake Taylor), Corbin Bernsen and, of course, Charlie Sheen are all open to come back and let Hollywood unleash foist another sequel upon the popcorn-addled masses.

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