“The Making of Major League” by Jonathan Knight
Baseball, Indians, Movies
May 29, 2015
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)
In 1989, there was a film that was released without a lot of fanfare depicting the hapless Cleveland Indians. They were owned by a woman who had a scheme to make sure the team was bad enough so they could break their lease and move to Miami. However, the team overcame a lot so that they became a winning ball club. That movie, “Major League”, has become one of the more beloved baseball movies of a generation.
This book on the making of the movie and some of the inside stories, written by Jonathan Knight, is a terrific read about making the movie and the principle characters and actors. Most of them have stories to share, including Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Rene Russo, Corbin Bernson, Dennis Haysbert, Wesley Snipes and writer/producer David S. Ward. From the stories, it is obvious that these performers, many of whom have had many more successful movies and television shows, still have fond memories of this baseball movie.
There is even some mention of former baseball players who were inspirations for characters. Charlie Sheen’s character of Ricky Vaughn was inspired by another relief pitcher who wore thick black rimmed glasses, Ryne Duran. Former slugger Pedro Guerrero was the idea for Pedro Cerrano. The owner, Rachel Phelps, was described as a cross between George Steinbrenner and Georgia Frontierre (former owner of football’s Los Angeles Rams). These were a nice touch to the book.
Knight’s writing is not like other baseball or sports books in that he certainly wears his fandom of the movie on his sleeve – he admits to have had a “period in my life where I watched Major League every single day” – but that makes reading the book a lot of fun. The only negative about this is that he seems to try to make a connection between some events in baseball and the movie. One example, where he doesn’t come out and say it but wants to plant the idea in the reader’s mind, is that the movie led to the ritual of teams playing a certain song when the closer comes out of the bullpen to start the ninth inning. Did the use of “Wild Thing” for Ricky Vaughn lead to the use of “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman or “Enter Sandman” for Mariano Rivera? He doesn’t state this directly, but I felt he tried to make the reader believe it.
However, when that is the worst thing I can say about this book, that means it has to be very good, which it was. The writing was crisp; the stories were detailed on many items, such as the filming of baseball scenes in Milwaukee. The stories of the actors’ “training camp” held by former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager were terrific. Even when the sequels were described in a later chapter that followed the mood of moviegoers for them – not so enthusiastic – it was entertaining.
This was a terrific book that should both baseball and movie fans will enjoy. It will leave a reader laughing and wanting to fire up the device used to watch movies and see this one again. On that score, this book is a winner.
I wish to thank Gray & Company Publishers for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
Much like Wild Thing’s fastball, this book moves along at a very fast speed as I completed it in only about two hours. Also much like the movie, the entertainment factor was very high as well.
Do I recommend?
Whether the reader has seen the movie only once or twice and enjoyed it (like me) or is one of those fans Knight mentions frequently who have watched it many times and can recite every line, this book is one that must be added to his or her library.
Book Format Read: