Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #3 – Major League: Back to the Minors

10 04 2015

I started my “Friday Flicks” with the first two Major League movies, both of which I had seen when I was younger.  I had never watched the third movie in the series, which goes by “Major League: Back to the Minors”.  With the first two fresh in my mind, I figured I might as well watch the third one.  Unlike the second movie, this one had very few members of the original cast (only 3 actors were in all 3 movies), and it did horribly at the box office – so I wasn’t expecting much.

Major League Back to Minors DVD

As always; in case you haven’t seen the movie yet – SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio:  “Major League: Back to the Minors”, Morgan Creek Productions (distributed by Warner Bros.), 1998

Director:  John Warren

  • Scott Bakula – Gus Cantrell
  • Corbin Benson – Roger Dorn
  • Walton Goggins – Billy “Downtown” Anderson
  • Thom Barry – Frank “Pops” Morgan
  • Judson Mills – Hog Ellis
  • Eric Bruskotter – Rube Baker
  • Dennis Haysbert – Pedro Cerrano
  • Takaaki Ishibaki – Taka Tanaka
  • Kenny Johnson – Lance “the Dance” Pere
  • Peter Mackenzie – Carlton “Doc” Windgate
  • Tim/Tom/Ted DiFilippo – Juan Lopez #1/#2
  • Jensen Daggett – Maggie Reynolds
  • Bob Uecker – Harry Doyle
  • Ted McGinley – Leonard Huff
  • Lobo Sebastian – Carlos Liston

Plot:  In his second try at owning a Major League team, Roger Dorn is now the owner of the Minnesota Twins.  He convinces Gus Cantrell, a pitcher on his last legs in Class A ball, to manage the franchise’s struggling AAA affiliate, the South Carolina Buzz.  He hopes Gus can cultivate prospect Billy “Downtown” Anderson to get him ready for the Majors.

The team’s roster includes:

  • former Indian Rube Baker, whose issues throwing back to the pitcher have returned.
  • Frank “Pops” Morgan is a veteran lifelong minor leaguer who never got a chance in the big leagues.
  • Hog Ellis is the team’s ace – he has a blazing fastball but no other pitch.
  • Doc Windgate is the opposite – he doesn’t even have a fastball in his repertoire!
  • Lance “The Dance” Pere is a former ballet dancer turned ballplayer.
  • Former Indian Pedro Cerrano, tracked down by Dorn after being out of baseball for a few years.
  • Taka Tanaka, who they find running a putt-putt course.
  • Harry Doyle is the Buzz play-by-play man; he’s given up drinking.

The film follows the team’s difficult season, but Gus gets the team back on track by playing team baseball.  When Gus and Leonard Huff, the Twins’ manager, get into fisticuffs, Dorn sets up an exhibition between the two teams that ends in a tie when Huff orders a “short circuit” of the stadium’s lights.  Back to their minor league schedule, the Buzz end up winning their division and Gus challenges Huff to a rematch.  The bet is his salary for the year if he loses, but Gus gets Huff’s job if the Twins lose.  This time, the Twins take a 4-0 lead, but the Buzz come from behind to win, 5-4, when Downtown smashes a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th.  As the movie ends, Gus tells Dorn he wants to stay with the Buzz to teach young ballplayers, and he and Maggie head off to their honeymoon.

Big League Players in the Movie:

Brewers announcer and former Major Leaguer Bob Uecker again reprises his role as Indians announcer Harry Doyle.

Steve Yeager, former Dodger catcher, reprises his role as Indians’ coach Duke temple.  Uecker, Yeager, Benson and Haysbert are the only actors to appear in all 3 films.

Aside from that – I don’t think there were any other major league players in the film.

Baseball card connection:  Unlike the original, there isn’t a baseball card set about this movie.  However, I did find a reference about baseball cards in this one.  When Dorn takes Gus to a Buzz game to recruit him to be their manager, he introduces him to “Downtown” Anderson.  Those of you fellow baseball card collectors can appreciate this exchange:

Anderson: Wait a sec, Gus Cantrell, 6’1″, 185 pounds, throws right, bats right.  I had triples of your rookie card when I was in grade school.

Cantrell: Do you still have them?

Anderson: No, I traded them all for one player to be named later.

Best quote:  “You’re too old, you’re too fat, you’re too slow.  Straight enough?” – Gus Cantrell, when Pops Morgan asks him to give it to him straight when Cantrell asks him to move from the outfield to first base.

Major League BTTM morgan cantrell

No movie can compete with the one-liners from the original movie, but I thought this film has quite a few good ones.  This was the best to me – I generally liked Pops Morgan’s character.

Best song:  “The Cheap Seats” by Alabama – A lot of people may think this is the best thing associated with this movie.  I wouldn’t disagree – this is a great song.  The movie starts and ends to this song about loving your minor league town.

Other Notable facts:

  • The Buzz are based in South Carolina in the movie, however the Twins’ actual Triple-A affiliate (who were in fact named the Buzz) was based in Salt Lake City.  The team is now called the Salt Lake City Bees and has since switched affiliation to the Angels.
  • The Minneapolis Metrodome was actually used in filming for the scenes set there (unlike the first 2 movies where Milwaukee and Camden Yards were used).
  • College Park in Charleston, South Carolina was the site for the filming of “Buzz Field”.  The historic park was built in 1938 and is the former home of the Charleston RiverDogs and the Citadel baseball team.  It’s still standing and is used as the practice field for the Citadel team.
  • Cantrell is playing with the Fort Myers Miracle when Dorn goes down to see him.  That was (and still is) the Twins’ affiliate at the time this movie was made.
  • “Major League: BTTM” was pretty much a flop.  It opened #10 at the box office in its first weekend of release (April 17, 1998) and only ran a week nationally.  It’s the 5th worst openings all-time for a movie that was released in over 2,000 theaters.  City of Angels was the #1 movie the weekend it opened.
  • The movie grossed $3.6 million total at the box office, which was 165th out of all 1998 movies.  It’s the 31st highest grossing baseball movie of all-time.

My opinion:  Honestly, I didn’t think this movie was bad at all.  I think Major League just didn’t have any momentum at this point, and that’s why it flopped.  I don’t particularly like seeing Jefferson Darcy as the bad guy manager, but I think Scott Bakula does a nice job as the lead character.  It has some good qualities and some funny one-liners.  Uecker is again very good as Harry Doyle, and the duo of Tanaka and Cerrano offer good comic relief along with a connection to the first two movies.

It’s a little cheesy, but so was the second one.  Frankly, so was the first one – but the original did a better job of walking the line.  The first two movies never worked in minor league aspects, so this was a good idea for a third film.  Overall, I wasn’t expecting much, so maybe that’s why it exceeded my expectations.

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