Major League (1989)
The new owner of the Cleveland Indians puts together a purposely horrible team so they'll lose and she can move the team. But when the plot is uncovered, they start winning just to spite her.
Rachel Phelps is the new owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. However, her plans for the team are rather nefarious. She wants to move the team to Miami for the warmer climate and a new stadium. To justify the move, the team has to lose, and lose badly. So she assembles the worst possible team she can. Among these are a past-his-prime catcher with bad knees, a shrewd but past-his-prime pitcher, a young tearaway pitcher (and felon) with a 100 mph fastball but absolutely no control, a third baseman who is too wealthy and precious to dive, a voodoo-loving slugger who can't hit a curve ball and an energetic-but-naive lead off hitter and base-stealer who can't keep the ball on the ground. Against the odds, and after the inevitable initial failures, they iron out some of their faults and start to win, much to Ms Phelps' consternation.
An exotic dancer marries the owner of a baseball club. He does not survive the honeymoon and she is in control of his ball club. she wants to move to warmer climes where some new stadiums have been built, but her lease has only one escape clause, poor attendance. She fields the worst team she can find. The attitude of the owner gives the misfits and losers something to rally around and they fight back.
The Cleveland Indians have gone 34 years without a division title. Team owner Donald Phelps has died, and his snobby wife Rachel Phelps, a former showgirl, has taken over as the new owner. Some in the media think Rachel shouldn't be the owner of a baseball team. Rachel hates Cleveland, so she makes plans to move the Indians to the warmer climate of Miami, Florida, but she can't break the team's lease with Cleveland unless the team's attendance for the season is below 800,000. Rachel's plan is to put together a team so awful that the season attendance will be lower than 800,000. Rachel and general manager Charlie Donovan hire a manager for the Indians Lou Brown, who has been the manager of the minor league Toledo Mud Hens for the past 30 years. Charlie then recruits some misfit players catcher Jake Taylor, who is a major league standout with knee problems, Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, who is a pitcher who throws wildly, third baseman Roger Dorn, who is a product endorser and former major league star who will do anything to avoid injury, outfielder Willie Mays Hayes, who runs fast enough to steal a lot of bases but can't hit very well, and Pedro Cerrano, who is an outfielder who practices voodoo. As expected, the Indians get off to a slow start, but when they discover that Rachel wants the team to lose so she can move the team, the Indians get their act together and start winning games and raising their attendance, as Jake tries to win back his ex-girlfriend Lynn Wells, and the Indians do what they can to win the division title.
The new owner of the Cleveland Indians threatens to move the team unless they deliver immediate results. She then fills the roster with has-beens and never-will-bes to guarantee their failure. But the team miraculously rallies together and starts to win.
- Rachel Phelps, a former Las Vegas showgirl, has inherited the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her deceased husband. She wants to move the team to Miami, which has promised her a sweetheart deal including a new stadium. In order to do this, she must reduce the season's attendance at Cleveland Stadium to under 800,000 tickets sold, which will trigger an escape clause in the team's lease with the city of Cleveland. Believing that finishing dead last will knock attendance down low enough for her to move, she instructs her new General Manager Charlie Donovan to hire the worst team possible from a list she has already prepared. The list includes veteran catcher Jake Taylor, who has problems with his knees and was last playing in Mexico; incarcerated pitcher Ricky Vaughn, who's due to be paroled soon; power-hitting outfielder Pedro Cerrano, who practices voodoo to improve his game; veteran pitcher Eddie Harris, who no longer has a strong throwing arm and is forced to doctor his pitches; and third baseman Roger Dorn, a one-time star who is under contract but has become a high-priced prima donna. As manager, Phelps hires Lou Brown, a career minor league manager of the Toledo Mud Hens who works in the off-season as a tire salesman.
At spring training in Tucson, Arizona, the brash but speedy center fielder Willie "Mays" Hayes crashes camp uninvited, but is invited to join the team after displaying his running speed. Spring training reveals several problems with the new players: Vaughn has an incredible fastball but lacks control. Hayes is able to run the bases quickly and steal them effectively, but hits only pop flies, and Cerrano, despite his tremendous power, cannot hit a curveball. The veterans have their own problems: Dorn refuses to aggressively field ground balls, afraid that potential injuries will damage his upcoming contract negotiations, and it becomes clear that Taylor's bad knees will be a season-long concern. Every time a player displays one of their bad habits, Brown forces them to do push-ups or sit-ups on the spot -- when Dorn objects and shows Lou his contract, Lou urinates on it. On the final day, when Brown begins cutting the team down to 25 players, Dorn plays a practical joke on Vaughn, making him believe he was cut, resulting in a locker-room brawl. Taylor intervenes, telling Vaughn not to fight with Dorn (who always badgers the rookies) and to save it for the field.
After the team returns to Cleveland before the season begins, Taylor takes Vaughn and Hayes out to dinner but comes across his ex-girlfriend Lynn, who is dining with her current beau. Taylor believes he can try to win her back by proclaiming that he has a major league job again, but is disappointed to hear that she is already engaged.
The Indians' new season starts off poorly: Vaughn's initial pitching appearances end in disaster, with his wild pitches earning him the derogatory title "Wild Thing." On a rare occasion when Vaughn does get a ball over the plate, it is powered well over 400 feet by the New York Yankees' best hitter, Clu Haywood. Brown discovers that Vaughn's control is off because his eyesight is poor; once Vaughn gets glasses his control greatly improves, and he becomes one of the team's aces and his moniker of "Wild Thing" becomes a rallying cry for fans. Despite their flaws, the team begins to improve, so Phelps decides to demoralize them further by removing luxuries, such as replacing their team jet with a dilapidated prop plane, then with an old bus. She also refuses to fix the teams locker room whirlpool and provide a masseuse for injuries. However, these changes do not affect the Indians' performance and the team continues to win.
One night after an Indians loss where the team showed great promise, Brown mentions to Donovan that the team could do much better, perhaps even providing a few All-Stars for the league, if there was one thing to pull them all together. Donovan reveals Phelps' plan to Brown, who then relays the same news to the players. Brown also tells them that if the team plays too well for Phelps to void the lease, she will release them all regardless. With nothing to lose, the team agrees to get back at Phelps by winning the pennant. Brown motivates the team further by providing a double-layered cardboard cutout of Phelps from her showgirl days; after every victory, a piece of the outer layer is removed, eventually presenting a (mostly) nude picture of Phelps.
The team plays very well down the stretch of the season, and clinch a tie for first in the American League East by beating the Chicago White Sox on the last day of the season. They force a one-game playoff with the division's co-leaders, the Yankees. Prior to the playoff, Taylor continues to try to woo Lynn back and they share a night together. Vaughn learns that he will not be the starting pitcher for the big game and goes to a bar to mope, where he encounters Suzanne Dorn, whom he doesn't know. Feeling spited after seeing her husband Roger on television with another woman, she retaliates by seducing Vaughn. Vaughn is unaware of who she is until she tells him before leaving the apartment.
Taylor advises Vaughn to keep his distance from Dorn for most of the game by staying in the bullpen. The game remains scoreless until the seventh inning when Harris gives up two runs. Cerrano comes to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and misses badly on two curveballs. He angrily threatens his voodoo god Jo-bu, then hits the next pitch -- another curve -- for a two-run homer. In the top of the ninth, the Yankees are able to load the bases for the power-hitting Clu Haywood, and Lou decides to bring Vaughn in to pitch to him. Taylor is reluctant but Brown has a strong hunch that Vaughn is due. While Taylor taunts Haywood from behind home plate, Vaughn strikes out his nemesis on three straight fastballs to end the inning, the fastest is clocked at 101 mph.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Hayes manages an infield single. The Yankees respond by bringing in their headhunting closer, Duke Simpson, to pitch to Taylor. After Hayes steals second, Taylor and Lou trade signs in the dugout, and Taylor points to center field, calling his shot. The Duke responds by throwing a fastball straight at Taylor's head, but the catcher is undeterred and gets back up and points again. However, with Hayes running, Taylor bunts instead, catching the Yankees infield off-guard. Despite his weak knees, Taylor manages to beat out the throw to first as Hayes rounds third and heads for home plate. Hayes slides safely into home, giving the Indians the win on a walk-off single. As the team celebrates, Dorn punches Vaughn in the face but then helps him up to continue the celebration. Jake finds Lynn in the stands, who raises her left hand to show that she is no longer wearing an engagement ring, and they reunite as the film closes.