1988 Gatorade Bull Durham

8 07 2016

After buying Archives last month (or was it two months ago?) – I got into the Bull Durham thing a bit.  I watched the movie, I got 2 cards in the box.  And I just bought a 1988 promotional set from the movie.  I don’t know how it got the Gatorade designation, but I’ve seen that enough that I’m going to run with it.  I think these might have been released as a promo item with bottles of Gatorade.

These cards are jumbo – but they’re just big enough you can’t fit all 4 into a 4-card sheet.  The line in the middle makes it just not quite fit.  The 2 pocket sheets do work, if you’re willing to have the cards sliding a bit.  That’s what I went with.

Here’s the full set.  It’s on very thin “card stock”.

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Promotional full set

And here’s each card individually, with the “interview” on the back in case you were wondering.

Crash Davis

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Promotional Crash Kevin Costner

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Crash Davis back

Nuke LaLoosh

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Promotional Nuke Tim Robbins

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Nuke LaLoosh back

Annie Savoy

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Promotional Annie Susan Sarandon

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Annie Savoy back

Millie

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Promotional Millie

1988 Bull Durham Gatorade Millie back

Not a lot more to say about it.  This is a cool set that I was happy I could get for about the cost of my lunch today!





Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #5 – Bull Durham

17 06 2016

This is my 5th one of these.  My wife and I are going to Cooperstown this summer – sans kids – and I’ve convinced her we should watch a few baseball flicks before we go.  She and I had both seen this, but it had been quite a while, so there was a lot I don’t really remember.  A lot of people view this as one of the best, if not the best, baseball movies of all time.  Right up there with Field of Dreams and Major League.

Bull Durham Blu Ray case

Here’s the obligatory statement (that hopefully isn’t necessary for a 1988 movie) – SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio:  “Bull Durham”, Orion Pictures, 1988

Director:  Ron Shelton

  • Kevin Costner – Crash Davis
  • Susan Sarandon – Annie Savoy
  • Tim Robbins – Nuke LaLoosh
  • Trey Wilson – Skip Riggins
  • Robert Wuhl – Larry Hockett
  • William O’Leary – Jimmy
  • Jennie Robertson – Millie
  • Max Patkin – himself
  • Dave Niedorf – Bobby
  • Danny Gans – Deke

Plot:  This movie features a fictional version of the High-A Durham Bulls.  Crash Davis, a veteran minor league catcher, is sent down to the Bulls from the triple-A level to train brash rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh.  LaLoosh has an incredible fastball but can’t control it and is unreliable off the field.  They get off to a bad start on Davis’ first night in Durham – fighting over Annie Savoy.  Annie is a lifelong fan of the “Church of Baseball”, and every year she picks one player as her protegé – in bed and in life.  Crash walks out, and Annie begins a relationship with Ebby Calvin – whom she nicknames “Nuke”.

Instead of sleeping with him, though, Annie reads poetry to Nuke on that first night.  She tries to get him through the mental hurdles that he’s having with pitch control through unique methods like “breathing through his eyes”.  Crash teaches him on-field lessons in a way that is also unique, but more brunt; when Nuke refuses to throw the pitch Crash calls, he tells the hitter what’s coming.

After floundering early on, Nuke and the Bulls go on a winning streak.  Nuke is afraid to jinx it and refuses to sleep with Annie while their winning.  Frustrated, she confronts Crash for putting the crazy superstition in his head, and the two begin to realize they are better suited for each other.  Nuke finally loses a close game, but right as he’s about to reconcile with Annie, he gets a call that he’s being brought up to the Majors.  He says goodbye to Annie, and later to Crash.  Crash, on the other hand, gets released as the club no longer needs him as Nuke’s mentor.  He and Annie hook up, but in the morning Crash sneaks out and leaves for Asheville.  He signs with the Asheville Tourists, quietly hits a homer that sets the all-time minor league record, and promptly retires.  At the end of the movie, he drives back to Durham, and waits for Annie on her porch.

Big League Players in the Movie:

There aren’t any in the movie as far as I know – but Grady Little was the manager of the Bulls in 1988, and helped with the movie as a baseball trainer.  He’d later become infamous when he didn’t take Pedro Martinez out of game 7 in the 2003 ALCS.

Max Patkin, the clown prince of baseball who performed as a baseball clown for over 50 years, is in the movie playing himself.

Danny Gans, who played minor league baseball in the late 70’s and then became an actor/comedian, is the team’s third baseman.

Baseball card connection:  There is one minor league baseball cards in the movie – Annie uses the 1987 Durham Bulls card of Alex Smith as a bookmark.

Bull Durham bookmark

 

Smith never made the majors, but was a scout for the Expos  I didn’t recognize them as anything cards I’d ever seen.

1987 Bull Durham Alex Smith

On the other side, there are a ton of cards of the movie.  First, there was a 4-card over-sized set (4″ x 5″) with Crash, Annie, Nuke and Millie.  I’ve read that the set came packaged with Gatorade; it has quotes from the movie on the back.

1988 Gatorade Bull Durham

 

In 1988 and 1989, Star got Costner into their Durham Bulls minor league set.  There are a couple of different border colors.

1989 Star Durham Kevin Costner

Orion came out with a set to promote the movie’s video release in 1989.  Max Patkin is in this set, but it seems to be the toughest to find.

1989 Orion Kevin Costner

At the end of last year, Leaf came out with a few Kevin Costner autographed cards this year that weren’t movie-authorized but were definitely images from Field of Dreams and Bull Durham.

2015 Leaf Trinity Costner Bull Durham

Finally, Topps just came out with a set in 2016 Topps Archives that featured 9 cast members.  Unfortunately the Sarandon and Coster cards are only available as autographs, and there’s no Max Patkin.

2016 Topps Archives Millie Shelton

 

Best quote:  “Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life.” – Crash Davis, when asked if he’d ever made the major leagues.

The more famous one from the start of the movie is listed below.  But I liked this one the best.  First, it’s kind of become a coined term for a short time in the big leagues.  More importantly, it better captures what the movie is about to me.  While a lot of this movie is about life in the Minor Leagues, with some comedy sprinkled in, I think the more endearing quality has to do with Crash, his attitude, and his relationship that evolves with Annie.  Nuke is a rookie who can do it all and has the big leagues ahead of us.  But Crash is easier to relate to.  He’s making the best out of a situation he didn’t want.  He, and to a lesser extent Annie, are making do with a life that probably wasn’t what they originally planned.  At the end, they both turn the page to the next chapter.  That’s what makes the movie a classic to me.

Just so you’ve got it, here’s the honorable mention (and more famous) quote, and one other from Annie that’s really cool:

  • “I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” – Crash to Annie as he rejects playing in a competition for her affections.
  • “Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up.” – Annie as a narrator.

Best song:  “Centerfield” – I thought about picking Love Ain’t no Triple Play, which is the credits song, because it was done for this movie.  But you can’t beat one of the most memorable baseball songs of all time by John Fogerty.

Other Notable facts:

  • Ron Shelton based the movie in part on his experience in the Orioles farm system in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  He named Costner’s character after an infielder for the Philadelphia A’s from the early 1940’s.
  • This film brought the baseball genre back – aside from the Natural in 1984, this was the first successful baseball film in decades.  After Bull Durham, the floodgates sort of opened with Field of Dreams, Major League and a number of others followed.
  • It has won a ton of accolades – most notably, Sports Illustrated ranked it as the #1 sports movie of all time.  It was 97th on AFI’s 100 years … 100 laughs list.
  • In 2003, the Baseball Hall of Fame planned to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the movie but cancelled it due to comments made by Robbins about the war in Iraq.  I think they misread and overreacted to that situation.
  • At the time it was the highest grossing baseball movie of all time eclipsing “The Natural” as the highest grossing baseball movie ever.
  • Annie’s shrine features a lot of cool old gloves and autographed baseball, but the coolest thing is a picture of Thurman Munson, who had been deceased for nearly a decade by the time this movie came out.

My opinion:  This is a lot of people’s pick for the best baseball movie of all-time.  It’s not mine, but it’s up there and I can see why it’s some folks’ favorite.  Making a movie about life in the minors was unique at the time.  As I mentioned, the story has a relatability to it with Crash and Annie; it weaves in comedy throughout a few more serious themes.  The main 3 actors really make the story come to life.  Costner is great as the wily veteran, Robbins is great as the young LaLoosh.  But Sarandon’s portrayal steals the show and really makes the movie work.  If she wasn’t so great, I don’t know how well it would have worked.  She manages to come across as a classy part of that baseball community, as opposed to a slutty spinster.  By having her narrate, Shelton differentiates it from other movies.  It also instantly makes it a movie I can watch with my wife.  All in all – a great movie.





Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #4 – The Babe

8 05 2015

Continuing with the Babe Ruth theme (I’ll have a post on the Babe Friday, Saturday and Sunday)!  Friday Flicks means it’s time to do a movie!  This is my first movie to post about that isn’t part of the Major League series.  I watched this movie about 2 months ago when it was on MLB network.

The Babe DVD case

Here’s the obligatory statement – if you haven’t seen the movie: SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio: “The Babe”, Finnegan-Pinchuck (distributed by Universal), 1992

Director: Arthur Hiller

  • John Goodman – Babe Ruth
  • Kelly McGillis – Claire Hodgson Ruth
  • Trini Alvarado – Helen Woodford Ruth
  • Bruce Boxleitner – Joe Dugan
  • Peter Donat – Harry Frazee
  • Joseph Ragano – Miller Huggins
  • Michael McGrady – Lou Gehrig

Plot:  This Babe Ruth biography is much more about his life than his baseball career – starting in 1902 when his father sent him to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys.  Ruth’s ability to hit a baseball is discovered by the school’s Brother Matthias, and the film flashes forward 12 years to Ruth’s first game with the Boston Red Sox.  Babe gains instant fame for his home run prowess, meets and marries his first wife, Helen Woodford.  But Ruth is immature and unready for the instant stardom; he buys Helen a farm and numerous animals to apologize for his multiple transgressions.

Financial troubles force Red Sox owner Harry Frazee to sell Ruth’s contract to the Yankees for $125,000.  Ruth loves New York and becomes a baseball hero there.  He promises – and then delivers – on hitting 2 home runs for a sick boy named Johnny Sylvester while leading the Yankees to a World Series victory.  But the move puts a strain on his marriage, and Helen divorces him for his constant womanizing.  After attacking manager Miller Huggins, Babe is suspended whilst Lou Gehrig is breaking out as the Yankees’ new star.  When he comes back, Ruth loses control after an incident with an umpire and the Yankee Stadium fans.  His old flame, Claire Hodgson, helps him get back on his feet, and the two get married.  Back in form, he and Gehrig battle for the 1927 home run race, with Ruth smacking a new record 60 long balls.

5 years later, he is aging but still powerful, and he calls his shot in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field.  Ruth’s biggest ambition is to be a manager, but Ruppert only offers him to manage in the minors in Newark.  Babe asks for his release, and he signs on with the Boston Braves.  Old and washed up, he overhears the owner saying he’ll never let Babe manage.  The Bambino hits 3 homers in Pittsburgh, including belting a ball completely out of Forbes Field, before walking off the diamond forever.  In the dugout, a grown-up Johnny Sylvester approaches him to thank him, and gives him the baseball he signed a decade ago.  As the babe walks away, Johnny calls out “You’re the best… you’re the best there’s ever been”.

Big League Players in the Movie:  

There aren’t any former of current players acting in the movie, but there are obviously a number of players portrayed.

  • Starting with Ruth himself (Goodman).
  • I already mentioned Gehrig (McGrady) and Yankee manager Miller Huggins (Ragano) above.
  • Joe Dugan (Boxleitner) is played as Ruth’s teammate in Boston and New York.  This is one of the many inaccuracies in the film; Dugan was only Ruth’s teammate with the Yankees.  He did play a year in Boston, but that was in 1922, after Ruth had been in New York for 2 seasons.
  • Guy Bush (Richard Tyson) is in the movie twice.  He’s shown heckling Ruth from the Cubs dugout when the Babe calls his shot, and he is the Pittsburgh pitcher who gives up Ruth’s 3 homers at the end of the game.  This is mostly accurate – he was on the 1932 Cubs and would have been on the dugout heckling Ruth.  He also gave up the final 2 homers of Ruth’s career when he was with the Pirates, though Red Lucas actually gave up the first homer to Ruth in that game.
  • Bill Carrigan (Danny Goldring) was Ruth’s first manager – and also was the team’s catcher – with the Red Sox.
  • Ping Bodie (Ralph Marrero), who was Ruth’s first roommate when traded to the Yankees.
  • Bill McKechnie (Thom C. Simmons), who was Babe’s manager with the Braves in 1935.  The portrayal here is a little off as well.  By 1935, McKechnie was 48 years old and an established manager with 2 pennants and a World Series title to his credit.  The film implies he’s new; Ruth tells him not to steal on the Pirate catcher to imply Ruth would be a good manager.
  • There are a number of others portrayed, including Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Herb Pennock, Earle Combs, Ernie Shore, and Jack Warhop.

Baseball card connection:  There were no baseball cards shown within the movie (at least not that I noticed) – but there are 2 different cards related to this movie.  The first is a card inserted in a sheet in Topps magazine at the time the movie came out.

1991 Topps Magazine The Babe John Goodman

There also was a very cool card of Goodman released in 2003 by Upper Deck.  Based on a promo photo from the movie (which was in turn based on a very famous Babe Ruth photo) – this card is signed by Goodman.

2003 UD Yankee Signature Pride of NY John Goodman Auto

Best quote:  “But the game doesn’t love you anymore.” – Claire Ruth, pleading with the Babe to walk away at the end of his career when he hopes to hang on to be a manager.  At its core, this film is more about how Ruth dealt with fame than it is about how he impacted baseball.  This quote captures it well.

There are a couple of other good quotes that deal more with Ruth’s mindset for hitting home runs – most notably when he points out that he deserves to make more money than the president – because he had a better year.

Best song:  “Here Come the Bostons” – A barbershop quartet called the Chiefs of Staff portrayed 4 members of the Royal Rooters, an early Boston fan club of the Red Sox.  They filled in as extras in the movie and can be seen singing right after Babe’s first homer in a Boston uniform.  They recorded this song, which was sung by the original Royal Rooters.  Sounds like a good idea for a future “Diamond Ditty” post…

Chiefs of Staff with John Goodman

Other Notable facts:

  • There are quite a few historical inaccuracies.  Most are fairly harmless and were probably done to make the story flow better.  But to me the most egregious is in the 3-homer game at the end of the movie.  When Ruth played for the Braves in 1935, he is shown having a designated runner at first base.  Upon hitting the third homer, Ruth waives him off to circle the bases himself.  Obviously MLB has never had anything resembling a designated runner, and it frankly makes the movie look kind of cheap.
  • Ruth also did not retire immediately after hitting his 3rd homer in Pittsburgh – though I must admit, doing so does create a cool way to end the film and tie everything in with his unfulfilled dream to be a manager.
  • The other inaccuracies primarily deal with timing.  Most notably, Ruth’s love life is all jumbled up.  He did get married early in his tenure with the Red Sox, but he never actually got divorced from Helen Ruth.  Only after Helen died in a house fire – which was in 1929, 5 years earlier than in the movie – did he marry Claire Hodgson.  Additionally, he didn’t meet Claire until his time with the Yankees, whereas the movie has him meet her early in his time in Boston.
  • The film barely even mentions his time and success as a pitcher with the Red Sox.
  • The movie grossed a disappointing $17.5 million domestically at the box office, opening at #5 behind Basic Instinct, Beethoven, Sleepwalkers, and another sports movie – White Men Can’t Jump.  It’s the 24th highest grossing baseball movie of all-time – though it would be 2 or 3 slots higher if you adjusted for inflation.

My opinion:  “The Babe” got mixed reviews and was a borderline flop financially.  Most of the criticism I read focused on the tone of the film being too sad.  I agree for the most part – the sadness present throughout the film reminds me of Dennis Quaid’s “Everybody’s All-American”.  For most of the movie, Ruth comes across as either a jackass or a buffoon.  From everything I’ve read about the Bambino, this is way too negative for a guy who was wholeheartedly a good guy (but a serial philanderer during his first marriage) and intelligent (but uneducated).  I think a good movie about Babe Ruth would show the negative side of his story, but this one was so focused on that negative that it glosses over the many redeeming qualities Ruth had and kind of misses how transcendent the man was.

As a baseball fan who is very familiar with Ruth’s career – I wish they would have gotten some more of the history right.  The timeline differences with his personal life were OK – but the decisions made like ignoring his time as an ace pitcher and moving too quickly over the historic home runs would have made the movie more enjoyable.

That said – it’s a good movie overall and one I enjoyed watching.  I thought Goodman was very good in it, and as an actor he is certainly capable of showing more of Ruth’s lighter side if the script and direction had given him the chance.  McGillis is also good as Claire Ruth – I think they could have done a bit more to show how much she turned his life around.  All in all – I’d recommend watching the movie to any baseball fan.  While it’s more depressing than I would have liked, the story itself is poignant and Goodman is very good.





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.





Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #2 – Major League II

27 03 2015

I figured since I’d recently watched the first Major League movie – I might as well watch the sequel and do a follow-up post as my second “Friday Flicks”.  I downloaded it on Google Play, unfortunately for $9.99 – it really should be a $4 movie.  It was actually on MLB Network about 2 months ago, and I had recorded it.  But somehow the DVR decided not to keep it.  I remember watching Major League II, or at least parts of it, when I was younger, but that had been quite a while.

Major League II DVD

As I did before – in case you haven’t seen the movie yet – SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio: “Major League II”, Morgan Creek Productions (distributed by Warner Bros.), 1994

Director: David S. Ward

  • Charlie Sheen – Ricky Vaughn
  • Tom Berenger – Jake Taylor
  • Corbin Benson – Roger Dorn
  • Omar Epps – Willie Mays Hayes
  • Dennis Haysbert – Pedro Cerrano
  • James Gammon – Lou Brown
  • Eric Bruskotter – Rube Baker
  • David Keith – Jack Parkman
  • Takaaki Ishibaki – Taka Tanaka
  • Bob Uecker – Harry Doyle
  • Michelle Burke – Nikki Reese
  • Alison Doody – Rebecca Flannery
  • Margaret Whitton – Rachel Phelps
  • Randy Quaid – Johnny the Fan

Plot:  After winning their first division title in the original Major League film, the fictional version of the Cleveland Indians come back looking to make the World Series.  Roger Dorn retired and bought the team from unpopular owner Rachel Phelps, but the previous season’s success has changed the players.  Manager Lou Brown cuts Jake to keep free agent catcher Jack Parkman and backup Rube Baker, but, after some resistance, gets him to join the team as a coach.  The Tribe starts off in a funk, with only the Parkman having success.  Unfortunately, Dorn overpaid for the team and trades Parkman to the White Sox to make payroll.

Ricky Vaughn has been unable to regain the speed on his fastball, but his girlfriend/agent Rebecca Flannery wants him to keep the clean-cut look to attract more sponsors.  After a few run-ins with his ex, Nikki Reese, her students question his approach.  As the team’s struggles mount, Dorn is forced to sell back to Phelps, who keeps him on as general manager and adds him to the roster.  Lou suffers a heart attack upon hearing the news and Jake takes over as manager.

After a few emotional speeches, the Indians ride a comeback to win the division on the last day of the season, though Vaughn is still struggling.  They face the White Sox, who’d knocked them out the year before, in a rematch in the ALCS.  They win the first 3 games of the series, but lose the next 3 after a “pep talk” from Phelps.  The Tribe hold a 6-5 lead when Taylor calls Vaughn in from the bullpen.  Back with his old haircut, he demands to walk the bases loaded to get to Parkman.  Taylor allows it and Vaughn strikes him out with 3 fastballs.  As the Indians celebrate their trip to the World Series, Vaughn rebuffs Rebecca to go find Nikki, who agrees to give dating him another try.

Big League Players in the Movie:

Brewers announcer and former Major Leaguer Bob Uecker reprises his role as Indians announcer Harry Doyle.  A year after this movie was made, he called the Indians in their first actual World Series since 1948.

Steve Yeager, former Dodger catcher, reprises his role as Indians’ coach Duke temple.  Kevin Hickey, former White Sox pitcher and coach, plays bench coach “Schoup”.

There are over 50 stand-in players who were current or former minor league ballplayers.  A few of those guys made the major leagues at some point in their career, including 2 pretty notable names – see below.

Indians:  Chuck Ricci pitched in 7 games for the Phillies in 1995, winning his only career decision.  Ricci pitched 11 years in the minors, and coincidentally worked as a scout for the Tribe after he retired.

White Sox:  John Stefero was a catcher who notched 44 hits and 3 homers in 3 MLB seasons with the Orioles and Expos.  He also played 11 years in the minors, from 1979-1990.

Other teams:  Ross Grimsley won 124 games over an 11-year MLB career.  He pitched in the 1972 World Series for the Reds and made the 1978 All-Star game when he won 20 games for the Expos.

Steve Lyons played 9 seasons as a utility player primarily for the White Sox and Red Sox, notching over 500 hits in 2,300 plate appearances.

Brian Kowitz, like Ricci, also had a cup of coffee in 1995, getting 4 hits in 24 at bats for the Braves.  He played in the minors from 1990 to 1996.

Bob Smith was a minor leaguer in the Braves organization at the time of filming.  His professional career spanned from 1992 to 2006, but he made the majors as an infielder for the Tampa Bay Rays from 1998-2002.  He played in the first game in Rays’ history, getting the first pinch hit in the organization’s history.

Baseball card connection:  There aren’t any cards shown in the actual movie – whereas the original had a bunch in Pedro Cerrano’s locker.  There were 2 sets issued for the original – but none for this sequel.

Best quote:  “When the tough get goin’, the goin’ get tough.” – Rube Baker, when Ricky Vaughn comes in at the end and demands to walk the bases loaded to get to slugger Jack Parkman.

The one-liners from this movie definitely aren’t as memorable as the original, but there are still some good ones – and Rube supplies quite a few of them.  This one was the best because to me.  It’s at the end of the movie when Vaughn has finally got his mojo back, and Charlie Sheen’s “huh?” expression after reminds you not to take this movie too seriously.  In a good way.

The other two I considered.  The first: “you have no … you have no … you have no marbles” when Isuru Tanaka is calling out Cerrano.  I also like the one where Doyle wakes up from his Jack Daniels stupor to the Indians brawling each other – “It looks like Willie Hayes is trying to hit Rick Vaughn, and why not, everyone else in the league does.”

Best song:  “The House is a Rockin'” by Stevie Ray Vaughan – It would be easy to select Wild Thing again, but I think the end credits are a good song for this movie.

Other Notable facts:

  • “Major League II” was #1 at the box office in its first weekend of release (April 1st, 1994) – however it only reached #2 if you look at weekly totals. The Mighty Ducks was the #1 movie the weekend before and after ML2 garnered the top slot.
  • The movie grossed $30 million at the box office, which was 45th out of 1994 movies.  It’s the 19th highest grossing baseball movie of all-time – though it was 8th at the time of its release.  It generally had negative reviews and the $30 million is $15 million less than the first movie.

Like the first movie, there were a few nods to actual baseball players in the movie.

  • The retired numbers of Cleveland Stadium a number of times throughout the film.  An example from real life is Mel Harder (18) in the card below.  Other numbers shown include Earl Averill (3), Lou Boudrea (5), and Bob Feller (19).  Larry Doby and Bob Lemon have also had their numbers retired – but the way the angles worked, I didn’t see them in the movie.

1993 Topps best action Alomar

  • Vaughn mentions “The Ryan Express” (Nolan Ryan) when he is telling Jake about his new pitches and what he is nicknaming them.
  • You can see Buddy Bell’s picture in Jake Dorn’s office early in the movie.
  • The baseball scenes in the film was shot primarily at Baltimore’s Camden Yards.  You can see the B&O Warehouse in right field a few times throughout the film..

My opinion:  The premise of the movie works through how the team deals with a sophomore slump – which is ironic because the movie itself faces that issue.  It would have been nice to have Wesley Snipes back in the Willie Mays Hayes role, and Berenger’s role as Jake Taylor is lessened quite a bit.  Rube Baker’s role as the country idiot is funny at times, but in general the movie just seems a little bit cornier than the first one.

Obviously this movie isn’t as good as the original – but sequels rarely are.  I think this film gets a bad rap.  I enjoyed the hour and 45 minutes I spent watching it.  If you are a fan of the first one – I think you should see the second one.  It’s still a funny movie with endearing characters that is worth watching.





Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #1 – Major League

30 01 2015

I’ve been wanting to expand the “Baseball & Culture” posts, and I did a couple of posts about songs with baseball connections.  I called those “Tuesday Tunes” – and the next thing to do would clearly be movies!  I loved the Major League movie set that Topps inserted into Archives last year – so that seemed like a good reason to go back and watch a movie I hadn’t seen in probably a decade.

Major League Blu Ray case

Here’s the obligatory statement (that hopefully isn’t necessary for a 1989 movie) – SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio: “Major League”, Morgan Creek Productions (distributed by Paramount), 1989

Director: David S. Ward

  • Charlie Sheen – Ricky Vaughn
  • Tom Berenger – Jake Taylor
  • Wesley Snipes – Willie Mays Hayes
  • James Gammon – Lou Brown
  • Margaret Whitton – Rachel Phelps
  • Corbin Benson – Roger Dorn
  • Dennis Haysbert – Pedro Cerrano
  • Chelcie Ross – Eddie Harris
  • Rene Russo – Lynn Wells
  • Bob Uecker – Harry Doyle
  • Charlie Cyphers – Charlie Donovan
  • Randy Quaid – Johnny the Fan

Plot:  The movie features a fictional version of the Cleveland Indians, who had been the most futile organization in baseball as of the late 1980’s.  Rachel Phelps inherited the Tribe from her late husband, and plots to move the team to Miami by inviting only has-beens and rookies.  The players include:

  • Ricky Vaughn, a fireballer from the California Penal League,
  • Jake Taylor, a former All-Star catcher now in the Mexican League,
  • Eddie Harris, a washed-up spit-baller,
  • Cuban defector / voodoo practitioner Pedro Cerrano,
  • expensive narcissist Roger Dorn,
  • speedy Willie Mays Hayes, who wasn’t actually invited, and
  • manager Lou Brown who was selling tires in the off-season.

The team starts off poorly as expected.  Taylor runs into his old girlfriend, Lynn Wells, who is engaged to a lawyer; he spends the rest of the movie trying to win her back.  Vaughn starts to pitch better when he gets subscription glasses, and the team gets to .500.  When Brown learns of Phelps’s plan, he lets the team know.  They try to “win the whole damn thing”, and catch the Yankees by the end of the year to force a 1-game playoff for the division title.

Unfortunately, when Dorn’s wife realizes that he’s been cheating on her, she seduces Vaughn, who Brown has benched for the more experienced Harris.  Vaughn is brought in to relieve Harris in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded.  After awkward moment at the mound, Dorn tells him to strike the guy out.  Ricky blows three fastballs by his nemesis, Yankee slugger Clu Haywood.  With 2 outs Taylor beats out a bunt and Hayes scampers home to clinch the division.  Taylor looks up into the stands and sees Lynn, who has called off her engagement.

Big League Players in the Movie:

Brewers announcer and former Major Leaguer Bob Uecker plays Indians announcer Harry Doyle, and provides as much comedy as any player on the field.

Former Brewers reliever Pete Vuckovich plays Yankee slugger Clu Haywood, who Vaughn strikes out in the top of the 9th of the one-game playoff.  Doyle announces Haywood as the triple crown winner from the year before early on in the movie.

Steve Yeager, former Dodger catcher, plays the Indians’ third base coach and also acted as a technical advisor to the movie.

Willie Mueller, another former Brewer pitcher, plays the Yankees’ closer, known as “The Duke”.

Baseball card connection:  There are 3 ties to baseball cards in this movie.  First, there are cards in the actual movie itself.  Cerrano has all kinds of voodoo paraphernalia in his locker to help his bats hit the curveball.  But he also has a few recognizable baseball cards in his locker:

  • 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson
  • 1954 Topps Hank Aaron RC
  • 1968 Topps Game Roberto Clemente
  • 1971 Topps Willie McCovey
  • 1984 Donruss Eddie Murray Diamond King
  • Another card I can’t tell – but looks like either Monte Irvin or Willie Mays

Major League Pedro Cerrano locker

In 1989, an 11-card set issued to promote the movie.  The cards have blue borders and show some of the players on the team.  They are hard to come by – as noted in this Beckett article.

1989 Major League Cards - Chelcie Ross

Finally, Topps came out with a set in 2014 Topps Archives last year that honored the 25th anniversary of the movie.  It’s done in the design of the 1989 Topps set, coinciding with the year the movie came out.

2014 Archives box 2 Major League 2014 Archives box 1 Major League Taylor Vaughn

2014 Topps Archives Major League 5x7 Rachel Phelps

Best quote:  “Juuuust a bit outside.  He tried the corner and missed.” – Harry Doyle, when Ricky Vaughn blazes a fastball to the backstop.

This is one of the 3 best quotes in baseball movie history.  The others I’d consider are “There’s no crying in baseball” and “If you build it, they will come”.  I’d probably go with Field of Dreams for my top spot, but it’s close.  There are quite a few other great lines, but no other quote is anywhere close to being as memorable, or as copied, as Uecker’s quote during Vaughn’s first appearance in the big leagues.

Those honorable mentions include:

  • “You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit,” – manager Brown to Hayes.
  • “You saying Jesus Christ can’t hit the curveball?” – Harris to Cerrano.
  • “Let me get back to you, will ya, Charlie? I got a guy on the other line asking about some white walls.” – Brown when the GM calls to offer him the manager’s job.

Best song:  “Wild Thing” – Easily the most memorable song from the movie.  The song was written by Chip Taylor and is most famous for the performance by the band The Troggs.  For the movie, a cover by punk rock band “X” is played when Ricky Vaughn comes out of the bullpen in the last game against the Yankees.

Other Notable facts:

  • This is one of the cases where life came to imitate art.  When Mitch Williams garnered the nickname “Wild Thing”, playing the song when he came into the game just made sense.  This really gave traction to the idea of the entrance song for relief pitchers, particularly rock and metal songs.
  • “Major League” was #1 at the box office for 2 weeks upon release (April 7th and April 14th, 1989).  Pet Sematary knocked it off the #1 perch.
  • The movie grossed $49 million at the box office, which was 26th out of 1989 movies.  It’s the 10th highest grossing baseball movie of all-time – though at the time of its release it was actually #1, having eclipsed “The Natural” as the highest grossing baseball movie ever.
  • The movie is credited for launching the success of Russo and Snipes.
  • Uecker’s portrayal of announcer Harry Doyle is legendary.  Apparently David S. Ward just let him go with little direction and he came up with some of the funniest lines in sports movie history.

Aside from baseball cards, there were quite a few other historic baseball players featured in the movie.

  • A picture of Jackie Robinson is also seen in Cerrano’s locker.
  • A picture of Sandy Koufax is seen in Lou Brown’s office – though the manager actually refers to him as “Ryan”.
  • A picture of the 1948 World Champion Indians team is depicted in a bar at the starts of the movie.
  • There are a number of newspaper articles in that introductory sequence, including one for the 1954 World Series sweep at the hands of the Giants,
  • Sam McDowell and the 93rd loss for 1969 team (which didn’t really happen),
  • In 1975, Buddy Bell is shown on he last day of the season when they clinched their 7th straight losing season,
  • Joe Carter is shown in 1984, when the Tribe’s postseason futility reached 35 seasons.
  • The outside of Municipal Stadium in Cleveland is shown a few times throughout the movie.  However, Milwaukee’s County Stadium is the site for most of the filming.
  • Yankee Stadium is shown in the middle of the movie as well.
  • Hi Corbett field, which was a legitimate Spring Training site for the Indians, was used for filming some of the Spring Training scenes.

My opinion:  This is one of the best baseball movies out there.  As a comedy, it’s easily the best and is probably the best comedic sports movie ever made.  Even today, it’s a classic.  I’m from Cincinnati, and generally despise the city of Cleveland – but this movie has a way of endearing me to the Indians’ franchise.

Bob Uecker is iconic in the film, and he’s hardly even a “supporting actor”, and the movie is one that has stood the test of time for the most part.  It’s also a movie you could watch with just about anyone – my wife finds it pretty funny as well.  All in all – I can’t recommend it strongly enough!