Any player/Any era: Major League (1989 film)

What it was: A friend suggested choosing a baseball film for one of these columns and exploring how it might play out today. I could think of no finer subject than one of my all-time favorites, Major League, the 1989 hit about a lovable loser Cleveland Indians team that starts to win after learning it has been assembled expressly to finish last. The film’s been in the news recently, between Charlie Sheen’s admission he used steroids to portray pitcher Rick Vaughn and his desire to make a fourth movie in the series. After two lackluster sequels, the franchise could use a kick-start.

How it might work today: Part of the appeal in the first film may have been that it featured a bunch of otherwise ordinary men who happened to find themselves on a Major League Baseball team, playing light years beyond expectations (as a bonus, the film also included some hilarious, R-rated comedy.) I watch that kind of movie and think, “Hey, I can do that,” and while I concede it’s a little grandiose and delusional, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person with these thoughts. Good movies have that power.

It wasn’t as easy to relate with the 1994 sequel or the follow-up to that in 1998, which relied more on goofy gimmicks and gave viewers little to care about. In a sense, maybe some things about the original film can’t be replicated. It’s been a long time since the Indians played to empty, decrepit parks or fielded teams bad enough to inspire talk of relocation. I suppose a new film could be set with a current moribund franchise like the Royals, Pirates, or Marlins, though I don’t know if there’s anything fresh or compelling about that. If the series is to be rebooted, I think it’s time to once again take it in a new direction and get it back to its everyman roots.

The premise for the new Major League film, I’ve heard, is to have Vaughn attempting a comeback. Perhaps he could go to the independent leagues where big name ballplayers down on their luck sometimes find themselves. It seems to be a haven in particular for pitchers, with former All Stars like Armando Benitez and Keith Foulke among the many hurlers who’ve gone independent in the past decade. I occasionally wonder why sputtering clubs don’t stock their bullpens with all the recognizable names on the Long Island Ducks or Newark Bears at any given time. Vaughn could be one of these guys, albeit with better odds of returning to the show thanks to the magic of a screenplay.

Beyond this, the independent leagues are  a circuit where Vaughn’s veteran teammates from the majors could be coaches (and have an excuse to be in the movie), equivalent Tommy Johns or Gary Carters. Vaughn’s laid back catcher, Jake Taylor, for one, seems like a bush league manager waiting to happen. It’s worth noting, too, that Vaughn’s 40-something age wouldn’t be an issue in these parts, considering 47-year-old Jose Canseco is holding down a player-manager gig in Yuma, Arizona at the moment. In a perfect world, Canseco gets a part in the film, too, perhaps as the source of Vaughn’s juice.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

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