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The Untold Truth Of Major League

As far as baseball movies go, Major League was definitely a grand slam. The 1989 comedy about a sweetheart season for the down-and-out Cleveland Indians brimmed with lovably bonkers characters and friction between players and team executives, and presented a lot of feel-good fun that still resonates with audiences decades after the fact. Two sequels followed the original, and a third has been knocking around the ballpark for ages. Let's take a look at the little-known history of Major League.

The director just wanted to give the Cleveland Indians a win

Writer-director David Ward originally came up with his concept for Major League based on his own personal love for the ballclub it featured. The Cleveland Indians, who again lost out on a chance at the World Series title in 2016, hadn't taken home a trophy since 1948. Ward, a longtime fan, wanted to turn their luck around—even if it was just onscreen.

In Jonathan Knight's The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy, actor Corbin Bernson explained, "The whole movie was born from David Ward growing up in Cleveland and wanting his Indians to make it to the playoffs. That's all the movie is, which is great—it's nothing else. It's from a guy who grew up and said, 'If you can't get there, I'm going to get you there.' It's such a simple thing. It's so human. A little boy's desire to see his team win."

Ward himself elaborated on the history in a chat with Yahoo! Sports, saying, "I started to feel like the only way I would see the Indians win anything is if I made a movie where they did. I realized it would have to be a comedy because nobody would take this seriously."

But it was filmed in Milwaukee

Although the B-roll shots of Cleveland Municipal Stadium were shot in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World, most of the movie was made in another midwestern city: Milwaukee. Yes, although it might seem like a bit of sports sacrilege for a movie about one ball team to be shot on another's turf, much of Major League was filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium, which was home to the Brewers. In fact, Easter egg hunters discovered an accidental nod to Brew City in the movie itself, when the stadium scoreboard advertised the news channel WTMJ TV 4, which is Milwaukee's own NBC affiliate. Whoops.

Ward told ESPN that the reason for the shooting locale shift was that the Cleveland Browns, the town's professional football team, was using the stadium at the time for their pre-season games. "There were football lines on the field all the time, and that didn't look real good," he explained. "There were also some union issues in Cleveland, so we went to Milwaukee."

Charlie Sheen took steroids to prepare for Wild Thing

Given his torpedo-like public profile in recent years, it might not seem out of character for Charlie Sheen to use performance-enhancing drugs to beef up for his part in this movie, but what might be surprising is why. Sheen told Sports Illustrated that he considers the sport "not just a hobby [but] a religion" and that it's the only sport he cares about watching. His favorite team was—gasp—the rival Cincinnati Reds, and he himself played in high school and was teetering on making it to the big time at one point.

The thing that turned him away from that career path, he explained, was when he went to baseball camp and came face to face with a real-life fastball that he could never achieve. "I looked at the talent there and I knew I couldn't do it for a living," he explained. "I think my baseball career would have been spent riding buses, not jets, if you know what I mean." It was then that he settled on acting, but observing the skillsets and sizes of those he watched on the field may have lent to his decision to boost his brawn for the movie.

"I was enhancing my performance a little bit," he told SI. "It was the only time I ever did steroids. It did it for like six or eight weeks ... My fastball went from like 79 to 85 ... It was all ego, vanity."

But there was a downside to being Ricky Vaughn

Wild Thing's geometrically-shaved hairdo was one of the signature marks of Ricky Vaughn's outward attitude, but Sheen suffered for his art in this regard. He told Sports Illustrated that because he was on steroids, his "a**hole-meter went pretty high" during filming, and he became sensitive to the fun-poking that accompanied his unusual mane.

"I didn't like the haircut because it generated so many comments in bars," Sheen said. "I've got enough of that already. Add that to the mix, and it's a recipe for a fistfight. I was already b****y because [of the steroids] ... When you combine the haircut with all of those comments, you've got a recipe for disaster."

Years later, people still consistently call him "Wild Thing," as he wrote in the forward to Knight's book, but that intrinsic association with the sport has had its advantages along the way, like getting backstage access to a Reds game thanks to team affiliates recognizing him as the fictional pitcher. He even revived the character for Game 7 of the 2016 World Series matchup between the Indians and the Chicago Cubs in hopes of bringing a little luck on his onscreen team.

Sheen wasn't the only one with a real-life baseball past time

While a lot of the actors had to attend baseball camp to prepare for their turns around the bases, actors Bernsen, Tom Berenger, Chelcie Ross, and Dennis Haysbert had some ball skills of their own. In fact, Haysbert was such a good hitter than he actually hit the home runs when his character did. "The scene where Cerrano hits the home run, Dennis actually went yard. Everyone stopped and applauded," Ward told Sports Illustrated. Haysbert himself added, " That's my favorite scene, when I said my little bit to Jobu: 'F*** you, Jobu!' I hit it out of Milwaukee County Stadium. It was 315 feet down that line in left. I think it hit the top of the wall. I was stoked." (Fun fact: While Haysbert has indicated he wants nothing to do with little Jobu or any other kind of voodoo in real life, the actual Cleveland Indians erected a similar shrine to his character in their own locker room in 2016.)

Wesley Snipes, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite of his fast-running counterpart WIllie Mays Hayes: he's said to have been terrible at throwing, and couldn't run very fast.

An alternative ending got booed off the screen

In Major League, the baddie du jour was Rachel Phelps, the blithe new owner who purposefully assembled the ragtag team in hopes of having them fail so she could move the program to another site. In the end, the joke was on her; the team came together to win their division, sending attendance skyrocketing along the way, to secure their standing in Cleveland despite her best efforts.

An alternative ending to the movie was shot, though, that showed Phelps as the real mastermind of their success and revealed her bad-guy routine was just an act meant to encourage the players to prove themselves. She explained that when the team passed to her after the death of her husband, financing was scarce; she had to hire players that weren't exactly superstars, and she hoped that by acting like she meant to move them, it'd put a fire under their clay-stained britches. However, test screenings of the film with the original ending proved that audiences didn't want such a drastic shift in character. As detailed by the Los Angeles Times, those who screened the movie complained that they'd gotten used to seeing her as the bad guy and didn't favor the about-face. The alternate ending was thus cut from the theatrical version and later made available on the Major League: Wild Thing Edition DVD set.

Jeremy Piven's scenes were also nixed

Long before he'd become a household name for playing anxiety-addled agent Ari Gold in HBO's Entourage, Jeremy Piven was chopped completely out of Major League. As detailed by Yahoo! Sports, Piven shot several scenes has an insult-hurtling bench warmer for the team, but the then-23-year-old's shots were all left on the cutting room floor. We can only wonder if any of those dings rivaled his infamous "Lloyd!" screaming routines. Ward explained to Sports Illustrated, "He was a bench jockey, and all his bits were him yelling insults at opposing teams. But it didn't really work, and I cut the whole thing. He's done O.K. for himself, although I'm sure he was disappointed at the time."

The sequels are a source of scorn

Although Ward did return to helm the 1994 follow-up film Major League II, he told Sports Illustrated that he doesn't consider it one of his finest achievements. "I didn't write Major League II," he explained. "I decided to direct it at the last minute because I couldn't see someone else taking my characters. But it's not as good as the first one. It tried too hard to be funny."

The third installment, Major League: Back to the Minors, is even worse for him. Ward said the 1998 movie, which he did not write or direct, was "a complete mystery" to him and that he doesn't "even consider that a Major League movie."

Sheen, who didn't appear in Back to the Minors, agreed, telling Sports Illustrated in another interview, "People don't remember that third one. I don't think they embrace that as part of the franchise." He's not alone among the Major League screen alums who have disdain for the third, either. Bob Uecker, who played the team's witty broadcaster Harry Doyle, said "Major League II was good. I was in it more. The third Major League was bad. I should have never done that. It was terrible."

But a fourth (er, third) Major League might still happen

In 2011, Ward revealed to Sports Illustrated that he'd already written a new sequel to Major League, describing it as "more than 20 years later, and Wild Thing is out of baseball. It's about him coming back." The cast members showed an interest in returning to the franchise, too—as Sheen put it, "I'm in, f*** yeah. Why not? I think enough time has gone by."

In fact, Ward intends to call the would-be project Major League 3 in an effort to officially forget the third installment happened. As detailed by Yahoo! Sports, the new Major League movie would pick up after Major League II with Jake Taylor still managing the team as they try for a World Series title. The return of Wild Thing would come in a coaching role for a new 19-year-old closer who comes dangerously close to 100MPH with his fastball—the twist being that he's Ricky Vaughn's own son. Ward said, "It's him having to deal with a son who can't stand him. When he sees him and sees the mother of his son again, he realizes she's the one who got away."

While Sheen's costumed attendance at the Cleveland Indians' final showdown with the Cubs in the 2016 World Series might have been aimed at nabbing the celebrity pitch of the night, it certainly echoed his recent suggestion that Ward's long-awaited follow-up is still in the works. He told The Hollywood Reporter in October 2016, "David Ward wrote the script for Major League 3, which is as good as the first one. ML3 has as much heart, as much comedy as the original." He indicated that his former co-stars Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes were also on board to start on the project, which they've "been trying to get done for a few years."

Sheen explained that the delay is due to disagreements with the production company Morgan Creek, but that they were working on finding a way to get around that issue. "The script that we've all been sitting on is pure gold and absolutely shootable. It's David Ward at his best. I mean, this is the guy who won the Oscar for writing The Sting. We could be in pre-production tomorrow."