Wild Thing, I Think I Love You: Re-Casting 'Major League' With MLB Stars
If you're a real baseball fan, you've seen Major League. If you're a real Indians fan, you own the DVD, quote it excessively, and own a pair of Rick Vaughn-esque glasses.
It's an absolute classic full of whacky characters, great one-liners, and some of the best baseball action sequences Hollywood has ever staged. But one of the coolest things about it (and one of the reasons why it holds up so well more than 20 years later) is that life truly has imitated art.
It's not just that Cubs closer Mitch Williams changed his number to 99 and gained the nickname "Wild Thing" midway through the 1989 season, or that the Indians had become one of the best teams in the game within five years of the film's release.
Exaggerated and caricatured though they may be, the oddball protagonists in Major League are a lot like some of today's players.
In this slideshow are 12 current and recent baseball players and personalities who match up well with characters in the movie. The names on this list aren't all Indians, but some players from Cleveland won out over otherwise more deserving people from other franchises because of their team affiliations.
If you've never seen Major League, don't read any further—not just because there are spoilers, but because you are missing out. Run out to Blockbuster or download it from iTunes or something—just watch it, immediately. Seriously. Now.
Rick Vaughn: Chris Perez
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Who he was: Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) might not have been the actual star of the movie, but he was certainly the most iconic character. While playing in the California Penal League, he developed a fastball that topped out at 102 mph but lacked the ability to control where it went.
Why he fits: For starters, Perez is the Indians' closer. Vaughn's role fluctuated as the season progressed, but he began the season out of the bullpen for the Tribe and ended up finishing the last game.
Both hurlers have flashes of dominance and can be intimidating on the mound (Perez' fastball has been clocked at 98 mph), but their greatest shared attribute is their inconsistency and poor control—Perez might not miss the target as badly, but when you blow a save on a wild pitch, that doesn't come as much comfort.
Willie Mays Hayes: Kenny Lofton
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Who he was: "Play like Mays," the scrappy center fielder (Wesley Snipes) introduced himself, "run like Hayes." He was known for his blazing speed and defensive flair, though he didn't open many eyes with his bat.
Why he fits: First and foremost is the physical resemblance. If you've seen Major League more recently than you've seen Lofton anywhere, you might have mistaken the subject of this picture for Snipes. The resemblance between the Indians' fictional 1989 leadoff man and the real one they acquired three years later is uncanny—especially when they're chasing down fly balls.
They differed greatly in terms of offensive talent, but Lofton was something of a speed demon (he lead the league in steals five years in a row from 1992-6, collecting 325 over that span). And that fantastic leaping catch Hayes made in the last game? Lofton made plays like that all the time.
Jake Taylor: Miguel Olivo
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Who he was: Taylor (Tom Berenger) was the veteran catcher and leader of the team. When he's not nursing his sore knees or stalking his ex-girlfriend, he takes Vaughn and Hayes under his wing in the clubhouse.
Why he fits: Olivo wasn't anyone's first choice to lead the Rockies this year, but, like Taylor, he's more than come through for his new team.
The most noteworthy connection, though, is their willingness to stay behind the plate in the face of tremendous pain; Taylor played all season through chronic knee problems, while Olivo managed to stay in a game in April despite passing a kidney stone.
Roger Dorn: Travis Hafner
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Who he was: "I thought you didn't have any high-priced talent," the manager says as he sees the third baseman (Corbin Bensen) walking into Spring Training. "I forgot about Dorn," the GM says, "because he's only high-priced."
Why he fits: "Still hits the ball pretty good, doesn't he?" the manager asks. Hafner, too, is still a decent hitter (.817 OPS this year), but his production is underwhelming for a DH making $13 million a year through 2012.
"Yeah," the GM replies, "he just can't field." Same goes for Pronk, who hasn't played an inning of defense since 2007.
Pedro Cerrano: Carl Everett
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Who he was: Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert—yes, the future President Palmer) is the team's powerful hitter but has one tiny problem: he can't hit breaking balls. Also, his voodoo rituals in the clubhouse don't sit well with the rest of the cast.
Why he fits: In his prime, Everett was a powerful hitter—he slugged 34 homers with a .571 SLG with the Red Sox in 2000. He fared better against fastballs than trickier pitchers, but players like that are a dime a dozen.
The most important thing they have in common is the controversy that ensues whenever either of them opens his mouth about his religion.
One of Cerrano's attempts to please Jubu ends with the smoke alarm being set off; on another occasion, he sets out to sacrifice a live chicken in the locker room.
Everett, meanwhile, has seen much ink spilled over his denial of the existence of dinosaurs ("No one ever saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex") and strong views on homosexuality ("I don't believe in being gay").
Eddie Harris: Andy Pettitte
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Who he was: Harris (Rene Russo) was the most experienced pitcher on the staff. He got the start in the most important game of the year, and he uses various fluids to doctor his pitches.
Why he fits: Pettitte may be getting on in his years, and let's be honest—he was never the best pitcher to begin with. But he still has a reputation as a big-game pitcher, and he owns the postseason pitching record books.
Plus, Pettitte has admitted to getting a little outside help too. He might not throw a "KY ball," but he's acknowledged that he used PEDs.
Clu Haywood: Jason Giambi
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Who he was: This mustachioed slugger (Pete Vuckovich—aka the 1982 AL Cy Young winner) is the Yankees' most intimidating player. His final at-bat against Vaughn is one of the most suspenseful parts of the story.
Why he fits: He's a hulking power hitter with excessive facial hair playing first base for the Yankees. Last time I watched the movie, I surmised that Haywood might have been based on Giambi—completely forgetting that Giambino had barely graduated from high school when Major League was released.
Lou Brown: Manny Acta
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Who he was: A tire salesman whose only managing experience was in the minors, Brown (James Gammon) was a good leader to his club, but he had no tolerance for nonsense.
Why he fits: Acta and Brown don't just share a job title—they're faced with the same situation. The Tribe's current roster is filled with unproven prospects and no-name scrubs, even if Larry Dolan isn't purposely trying to sabotage the team.
Rachel Phelps: Jeffrey Loria
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Who she was: The ex-showgirl widower of the Indians' owner, Phelps' goal is to make attendance drop low enough for the franchise to break its contract with the city of Cleveland and move the team to Miami.
Why he fits: Loria can't move his Marlins to Miami because they're already in Miami. But that hasn't stopped him from pinching pennies with the roster.
As if having the lowest payroll in baseball three of the last five years isn't enough, this past offseason, Loria was exposed and publicly reprimanded by the MLBPA for pocketing money received from revenue sharing rather than spending it to improve his team.
Rachel Phelps (Alternate Ending): Billy Beane
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Who she was: In the original script, Phelps did a complete 180º in a conversation with Brown before the team's final game; she revealed that the whole premise of wanting to move the team was just an act meant to motivate her undervalued (not worthless) players to exceed expectations.
Why he fits: "I personally scouted every member of this team," she says, "they all had flaws that concealed their real talent, or I wouldn't have been able to afford them."
If I didn't know better, I'd say the second part of that quote sounds like it was lifted directly out of Moneyball.
Harry Doyle: Bob Uecker
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Who he was: The Indians' color commentator was known for his sarcastic and irreverent on-air remarks.
Why he fits: Observant Milwaukee fans may notice that Harry Doyle bears a strong resemblance to Brewers play-by-play announcer Bob Uecker. That's because Harry Doyle is Brewers play-by-play announcer Bob Uecker.
Charlie Donovan: Brian Cashman
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Who he was: The Indians' GM (Charles Cyphers) also seved as Phelps' whipping boy.
Why he fits: George Steinbrenner was a difficult man to work for, there's no doubt about that.
Having endless amounts of money to throw at players made his job a lot easier than Donovan's, but the vast majority of Cashman's tenure has been spent under The Boss's thumb.
Crazy Fans: John Adams
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Who they were: Young guys with no lives who came to every game dressed in Indian war paint and cheered loudly for their tema.
Why he fits: Adams, better known as the "Drummer Guy," is at every Tribe game—win or lose, rain or shine. His rhythms echo through the stadium and he does wonders to pump up the crowd.
The musical connection here is particularly strong. At one point, one of the fans in the movie plays a drum in the stands (though it's a bongo, not a bass drum). And, of course, those kids were the first ones to start singing: "Wild Thing, you walk everything!"