Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Major League.”
The Movie: “Major League”
Starring: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen
Director: David S. Ward
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The new owner of the Cleveland Indians puts together a purposely horrible team so they’ll lose and she can move the team. But when the plot is uncovered, they start winning just to spite her.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83 percent
Froemming: Last week’s visit to the hellish frozen landscape of Mystery, Alaska nearly ruined my mood for sports month here at the JOE-DOWN. Being reminded of what is to come once the snow hits us in the Midwest and the fact Russell Crowe was once a rom-com actor instead of Fightin’ Around the World filled me with rage.
So this week, it is time to get out in the sun, eat some overpriced hotdogs and take in a baseball game with “Major League,” a movie that explores what happened to Sgt. Barnes and Private Chris Taylor after the events of “Platoon.”
At least, that is how it played out in my head.
Brown, while I plot to get our readership so low I can move this blog to Miami, Fla., why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: Often, I’m asked why we do this to ourselves, as evident with “Mystery, Alaska” last week.
Sometimes on the JOE-DOWN, we like to treat ourselves. And “Major League” was a welcome, enjoyable change of pace. Don’t worry, we’ll go back to harming ourselves next week with pure trash.
“Major League” is a gem. My favorite sports comedy is “Slap Shot,” and at the risk of recency bias, this might be my second favorite, just ahead of “Caddyshack.” What can I say? I was/am into baseball way more than golf.
Full transparency: This was one of those movies where I took very few notes because I was enjoying myself so much.
Froemming, I’ll let you lead us off. But so help me God, if you hit one in the air, you owe me 20 push-ups.
Froemming: This is an enjoyable movie that, through the lens of not being an asshole and 2019, does have some problematic issues. Such as us witnessing a few #MeToo moments once again on screen. And the racism of Chief Wahoo.
But before that, let’s dig into this. Rachel Phelps, the widow of the owner of the Cleveland Indians, has inherited the worst team in professional baseball. We learn this through a montage of news clippings telling us just how awful the Indians have been over the decades.
Brown: Don’t forget that this montage is played over a Randy Newman song. AND, before that, we get a three-and-a-half-minute sequence showing the “landmarks” of Cleveland. Between this and “30 Rock,” Hollywood is doing it’s damndest to make Cleveland look good.
Froemming: Don’t forget:
Brown: And yeah, Cleveland has been a hard-luck town for not just baseball, but for practically all their sports aside from LeBron James returning and winning the city’s first title in 52 years back in 2015-16.
Miss Phelps despises Cleveland (because she’s the anti Liz Lemon) and decides the best way to leave is to break the Indians’ stadium lease with the team by having the season attendance dip below 800,000 for the year so she can move the team to Miami.
This is a good time to mention that as of July 14, 2019, the Miami Marlins are dead last in Major League Baseball in average attendance with 9,533 fans/game. The second lowest? Tampa Bay with 15,483. Florida couldn’t give a (REDACTED) about baseball.
Anyways, in order to fulfill her futility plan, Miss Phelps organizes a team of no-names and has-beens much the same way Mr. Burns wanted to field a team of ringers for the power plant’s softball team.
Froemming: And what a team! They start by getting their manager, Lou Brown, who has an auto parts job and doesn’t seem interested. They call up Jake Taylor (Berenger) from a Mexican league where he has been for the past few years, boozing away with his bum knees.
Brown: Do you think he was a teammate of Kenny Powers in the Mexican League? Did he have a hand in Kenny’s epic intro to Mexican baseball?
Froemming: I’d like to imagine Jake and Ricky hitting the ocean in their jetskis, high on life and cheap cocaine.
They put a call to Ricky Vaughn, while he is in jail. They get a faded star in Roger Dorn. And we get WWE character Papa Shango in Pedro Cerrano, a Cuban exile who practices voodoo. Oh, and there is pre-tax evasion Wesley Snipes (not this Wesley Snipes from “30 Rock”) who plays Willie Mays Hayes, a guy who was not even invited to try out for the team.
Looking at this rogues gallery of has-beens and nobodies, it would seem like Rachel’s plan is taking the perfect shape.
Brown: There’s the scene where Willie Mays Hayes is getting booted from camp with four guards just unhooking his bunk bed and putting him outside the gates I thought “Oh, this is where Wesley gets arrested for tax evasion.”
We also see a B-plot of the movie between Cerrano and junkballer Eddie Harris trying to push Jesus on our Cuban slugger. The joke that Jesus can’t help with a curveball will always be funny to me.
It’s weird that when his baseball career didn’t pan out that Cerrano started selling Allstate Insurance.
Spring training isn’t… going well. Vaughn is on pace to kill someone with an errant fastball.
Froemming: Well, he is high on #TigerBlood and #Winning, Brown!
Brown: Willie can run like Hayes but he hits like (REDACTED), according to Coach Lou. Jake’s knees are shot. And there’s the overpaid third baseman Roger Dorn, who is more concerned about his stock portfolio than giving his all for a bunch of schlubs.
Predictably, all the featured players we’ve seen make it through spring training. I personally think Cerrano, who has the character depth of Soda Popinski from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out,” didn’t get cut because no one dare open his locker and disturb Jobu by putting a red tag in there.
Froemming: Well, we do learn that the red tag is merely a gag from Dorn to scare the newbies.
Brown: It’s a real thing for the team. Dorn only does it to Vaughn as a joke that doesn’t go over well with a teammate who JUST GOT OUT OF JAIL!
Froemming: Well, it was a gag that nearly got his ass handed to him by a hopped-up Charlie Sheen, who might have been acting here or might have been the cocaine. Or, it would be two things.
Throughout the practice part, we see some potential among these guys, not much, but some. Hayes is fast, Vaughn can throw a 90+ mph fastball and Jake is — well, he is there I guess. And once the team is set, but before we get to the first game of the season, we get a troubling B-plot love story between Jake and his ex-wife Lynn, whom he sees in a fancy French restaurant he brought Hayes and Vaughn to. We begin to see his toxic behavior as he fakes a phone call to her to talk while she is on a date with her fiance. This will morph into outright stalking on Jake’s part, following her to not only a dinner party at her fiance’s home, but her own apartment later on in the movie.
Brown: This should be the music any time we see Jake lurching around whenever Lynn is in the vicinity.
Froemming: I was thinking more like this.
Brown: I mean, hell, he may as well find a yellow paint can and attach it to Lynn’s car like Homer trying to find where the Stonecutters meet. It’s an extremely unhealthy relationship since Jake can’t just move on. I mean, he had no problem meeting random women when they were together, to the point where Jake claims he was defending Lynn’s honor by seeing another woman naked.
So, yeah, Jake is a product of a decade that gave us this chud.
Froemming: Well, it is the first game of the season. The fans and Cleveland residents, already down in the dumps because they managed to find a place that is somehow worse than Detroit, are unsure of the new roster. Again, hasbeens and nobodies does not fill them with confidence.
We also have Bob Uecker playing the game’s announcer, Harry Doyle.
Brown: I’m going to stop you right here, Froemming. From this point forward, you refer to him as National Treasure Bob Uecker. Because that man is a (REDACTED) National Treasure on par with the Bill of Rights!
Froemming: Nobody who starred in “Mr. Belvedere” is a National Treasure, Brown. That show normalized British people living in America. We won a war about that, I think.
Brown: National. (REDACTED). Treasure. Hell, the man got choked by Andre the Giant!
Anyway, Harry Doyle is our boozed-up announcer, slamming Miller Lites and Jack Daniels to get him through another season of Cleveland Indians’ baseball. And we don’t blame him since their first game is against — checks notes — the New York Yankees. Ooof. This is pretty much how the fans are at the end of the game.
Brown: OK, one thing that bugged me about this game. No matter how bad your team is, you’re always going to sell out the season opener. This movie has us think the stadium has just a few fans scattered about, and if we were in late April and you sucked, OK, sure. But opening day, if you’re not sold out, you’re going to be awfully close.
And while I’m at it, throughout the movie, the Indians are hovering around the .500 mark, which is hardly tanking and shouldn’t be too hard to hit that 800,000 fan mark. Disregarding that this movie was actually shot at Milwaukee County Stadium in Wisconsin, let’s use the Indians’ ballpark at the time, Cleveland Stadium. Seating capacity was between 74,000-78,000. You mean to tell me that over the course of 81 home games that you can’t get 800,000 fans in a stadium that large? Hell, they’d probably be like the Metrodome and have $6 tickets in the upper deck so broke college kids like I was would go all the time on Dollar Dome Dog night and watch a bunch of drunk people get into fights.
I miss being young.
Froemming: The beginning of the season sure is rough. To make things worse, Rachel thinks the team is being coddled with their fancy planes and buses and machines that help them recover from the games. Basically, making their lives a living hell.
And before we get into corrective lenses, let’s get into Exhibit A of Jake’s creepiness. Hayes suggests to find out where Lynn lives (she rightfully gave him a wrong number to escape this madman) he simply follow her home from her job.
You know, stalking. Jake stalks his ex from her job. Jake is a walking, talking Red Flag in this movie.
But he doesn’t follow her home. No, he follows her right to a cocktail party at her boyfriend’s house, where Jake barges in and accepts a friendly (and let’s be honest, a fake) invitation to a drink since he is there.
Brown: The doorman for this apartment building is getting fired, right? Jake got into the building twice and this is a building where the elevator goes right into a resident’s home. Hell, the elevator should have some code that Jake wouldn’t know, but nope, not the case. Robbery would be comically easy here.
Froemming: They need a real doorman like this guy!
Brown: This dinner party is tension filled but does have one of my favorite lines in the movie. When talking about baseball, one of the partygoers was surprised Cleveland still had a team. Berenger, who plays a great straight man in this flick, responds with “Yep, we got uniforms and everything. It’s really great.”
For a serial stalker, Jake does have a great sense of humor. I mean Patrick Bateman was the same way but I figure it should be mentioned.
Froemming: He also lets them know that while some players make bank, he makes the league minimum, which I am sure is an ungodly amount of money. I mean, he can afford that “Miami Vice” looking white jacket.
Brown: Quick Google search shows it was $68,000. Still twice as much as the average household income at the time.
Froemming: He isn’t struggling, as George W. Bush once said, to put food on his family.
Now, we see Vaughn might be getting cut. His pitches are wild and are costing the team games. But Lou Brown (not sure if he is related to Brown here) realizes the issue is Ricky can’t see. The man needs glasses. They get him a pair quick, which are comically dorky, but we see his game improve a lot. To the point the team is now winning games. I wonder what would happen if they gave him prescription shoes, hair ointment and whatnot like when Bart Simpson had to have all of those things done, which made Milhouse realize he is a nerd?
Brown: Quick question for you: Is Rick Vaughn a cousin or some sort of relative of the MacDonald family? Dude hates sleeves as much as our friend from Philly (who does love baseball, namely Chase Utley) or our deceased friend Country Mac.
Froemming: He was a duster and some sick karate moves away from being a cousin to Ronald McDonald.
With the team now rallying, Rachel makes things worse because she really wants out of Cleveland. Which, I mean, she could own the team and live in Florida, right? I dunno why she is so hell-bent on moving the entire team to the grossest state in the Union when she could just move there herself and have handlers take care of the team and whatnot.
Brown: Or, sell the team. Then she can go to south Florida and watch as her skin turns into that weird hot dog shade of brown that Hulk Hogan is.
Anywho, the team has shown signs of improvement and Coach Lou (no relation, sadly) is pretty excited. But, the general manager Charlie tells Lou about Rachel’s plan to move the team.
Lou feels it necessary to tell the team the next day about how they’ll be replaced and there’s pretty much no tomorrow for this squad.
And that gives this group that already has nothing to lose all the F-you energy it needs to try and make a run at the division title.
Froemming: They basically become Randal from “Clerks” here.
Brown: One way the team is motivated is by a cardboard cutout of Rachel that they take a piece of her clothes off after every win.
This (REDACTED) isn’t very woke. That’s the ‘80s for ya. But apparently a woman’s breasts is enough to push this team into a one-game playoff with the Yankees for the division crown.
While the team celebrates, Dorn is seen on TV sneaking away with a random woman, leading Dorn’s wife to revenge via sex with Rick Vaughn.
Fast-forward to 2019 and that’s a terrible idea in hindsight.
Froemming: I hope they used protection.
She tells Vaughn her name after they do you-know-what, and he realizes…
To make the situation worse, she tells her husband, who we forgot to mention, Jake threatened to beat the snot out of if he made bad errors in games again. I’m chalking that up to some PTSD he is dealing with from his Vietnam War days. So now things are all sorts of uncomfortable. And to make matters even worse, Jake follows Lynn to her actual home, making it twice now he has stalked her.
Between the stalking and the cardboard cutout of Rachel, this isn’t the mythical “locker room talk,” this is gross behavior.
Brown: One of these players has a head in a jar somewhere. My money’s on Harris, the man who gets the start against the Yankees in the biggest game of the year.
Froemming: The man who has Crisco hidden on his body, along with other chemicals that help him cheat?
Brown: Don’t forget the Vagisil he also loads the ball with!
The stadium is packed for this one, though it was alarming to see all the Chief Wahoo heads. It only took until 2018 to do away with that logo. Progress? No. That should have been done a long time ago.
Harris is doing OK until he gives up a two-run homer that gives the Yankees the lead. In the bottom half, Cerrano has the chance to play hero but he’s been struggling all game with hitting breaking balls. And much like Conan saying to hell with Crom, Cerrano has a chat with Jobu, which I still really love. Cerrano plays hero with a two-run homer of his own to tie the game late.
Harris is running on fumes and loads the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth. Lou makes a call to the pen for what is one of the standout moments of any sports movie.
So (REDACTED) awesome.
Froemming: Oh yeah, this is one of those perfect scenes. Everything works.
And Ricky does the impossible, he strikes out the baddie of the Yankees, Clu Haywood, who also has a mustache that doesn’t quit. Three straight pitches, three strikes. It is an amazing moment for Ricky.
And now we come to the bottom of the ninth inning, and we have Hayes get on first. Hayes evades the ball like Wesley Snipes evades tax collectors, and he is able to steal second. Jake is up to bat, and pulls the old Babe Ruth stunt of pointing with his bat where he is going to hit his home run. I would like to know all the embarrassing times players have attempted this, only to strike out or pop one straight up and have it caught by the catcher.
Brown: Pros have better sense than that. People like me who would play pickup games with their friends… yeah, I’m sure that happened to me.
Even with his geriatric knees, Jake lays down a bunt and sprints to first for the infield hit. And amidst the chaos of the play, Hayes shows his world-class speed by rounding third and going for the game-winning run. Hayes goes for the slide, beat the tag and clinches the division title for Cleveland.
Naturally, it’s pandemonium. They didn’t win the World Series or anything, but hey, it’s an awesome moment. Hell, even Vaughn and Dorn have a bonding moment (after Dorn rightfully punches Vaughn in the face for, you know, sexing his wife). Even the press box is rocking, which is a serious no-no for sports reporters. From personal experience, I think that moment is one of those where it’s unavoidable since you’re caught up in the moment.
Finally, Jake’s stalking has finally worn down Lynn, who is in the stands without her engagement ring, choosing a guy who screwed anything with a pulse when they were together over her stable boyfriend.
And I only assume that years later, Jake Taylor and Rene Russo gave birth to the God of Thunder.
Froemming: Or, more likely, they end up at Gilley’s every night like Bud and Sissy from “Urban Cowboy,” in a toxic relationship fueled by codependency, alcoholism and one man’s love for a mechanical bull.
Brown: All reasonable outcomes considering the crazy involved.
I got some gloves to nail to my wall, so why don’t we go to recommendations?
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Absolutely. This is the gold standard for baseball comedies,or sports movies in general.
Brown: Yep. One of the best sports movies ever.