I’m so excited that baseball’s back!
The 2020 regular season of Major League Baseball is going to start on July 22nd and it’s going to last until September 27th. The teams will play 60 games and the World Series will be held in October. It’s an abbreviated season but there was no way to avoid that. I’m just happy that there will at least be some games played this year.
Of course, as excited and happy as I am, I can’t deny that baseball almost always breaks my heart. Just a few years ago, I was so excited when a Texas team finally won the World Series. Later, we all found out that the Astros won because they cheated, which will forever taint both the legacy of the team and the MLB. It breaks my heart to say it but, as far as I’m concerned, no Texas team has yet to legitimately win the World Series.
And then there’s the Rangers. I’m a Rangers fan. I love the Rangers. I was so excited the two times that they made it to the World Series and I’ve never gotten over their loss to the Cardinals. (Their loss to the Giants I can accept because the Giants were a great team and they earned their wins. The Cardinals, on the other hand…) Ever since 2012, though, the Rangers have always broken my heart. It’s been a while since we’ve had a great Rangers season. At the start of every season, though, I say, “This is our season!” And no matter how badly things end, I always say, “Next season, we’re going all the way!”
I guess that’s why I love Major League.
Major League is the ultimate underdog baseball movie. It’s a film about a fictional version of the Cleveland Indians. Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton), the new owner of the Indians, wants to move the team to Miami but to do that, she’s going to need to have the worst season ever, one where the team plays so badly and breaks so many hearts that even the most loyal fans stop coming to the games. It shouldn’t be too hard since the Indians have’t even won a pennant in over 30 years. But to make sure that it happens and that the team only wins 15 games over the entire season, Phelps recruits the worst players she can find.
The team that she puts together is made up of has-beens and never-weres. Some of them have raw talent but none of them know how to play as a team. Ex-con Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) has a killer fastball but is so near-sighted that he’s a danger whenever he steps on the mound. Catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) is a veteran team leader but his knees are so bad that he can barely walk. Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes) is fast but can’t hit worth a damn. Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) can hit home runs but only if the pitcher throws him a fastball. Just as Rachel expected, the team struggles at first. Even when they start to show signs of improvement, she cut back on their budget and sells their equipment, all to try to make winning impossible. It’s only when their manager, ex-drywall salesman Lou Brown (James Gammon), tells them that Rachel wants them to lose that the team comes together and starts to win.
Everything that’s great about baseball can be found in Major League. I love all the scenes with the fans slowly coming around to believing that maybe the Indians actually could win it all. I’ve been through that so many times with the Rangers that I know exactly how they all felt. I love the interactions between all the players on the team, from the new players eager to win to the veterans who just want to survive another season. I love the scenes with the play-by-play announcer (Bob Uecker) trying to put a good spin on the way the team plays. (All together: “Just a bit outside!”) And mostly, I love that the film treats the game and its players with the respect that they deserve. So many other films would have turned a character like born-again pitcher Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) into a punchline. Instead, in Major League, he gets a standing ovation after he pitches his last game. The best thing about Major League is that it loves baseball, both the games and the players.
Since Major League was a success at the box office, it was eventually followed by a sequel, Major League II.
Major League II picks up the season after the first movie ended and it tells the exact same story as the first film, just not as well. Almost everyone from the first film is back (though Omar Epps takes over the role of Willie Mays Hayes from Wesley Snipes) but the charm and the chemistry from the first movie just aren’t there. The players have to set aside their egos and learn how to play like a team all over again. The main difference between the two movies is that it takes a lot longer for the Indians to start winning in the sequel than in the first film. Plus, the sequel just isn’t as funny.
Even if the sequel is a let down, the first Major League is still one of the best baseball movies ever made. If the Indians could win the pennant in Major League, maybe there’s hope for my Rangers yet!