A Look at The Making of Major League by Jonathan Knight

We’ve been honored to have Jonathan Knight as a part of our DTTWLN staff this season. He’s provided a different view of the Tribe, along with a funny wit our site hasn’t had to date. Before joining the DTTWLN staff, Knight completed writing his ninth book, The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy.

The book takes a great look at the writing, site and cast selection and production of the movie, Major League. The movie, especially popular in Cleveland, has a cult following now lasting over 25 years. The book’s foreword is written by Charlie Sheen and includes interviews with writer/director, David S. Ward, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and more. Ward’s writing of Major League was his attempt to bring his boyhood team, the Cleveland Indians, the division title he always dreamed of.

Below is an excerpt from the book, explaining Sheen’s excitement over the role of Rick Vaughn and his pursuit to talk Berenger into the role as Jake Taylor.

There are mixed opinions on whether he could have made it to the big leagues, especially considering what was going on in his life. A little more than a year after he and been kicked out of high school, his girlfriend became pregnant, and he became a father at 19. He was also in trouble with the law at an early age, being arrested at age 15 for using stolen credit cards for a variety of purchases, including hiring a prostitute, and for smoking marijuana in his car. By the time he had reached his 20s, Charlie Sheen was already a magnet for trouble. Considering what was to come, this was perhaps the most innocent period of his life.

Despite his rocky adolescence, Sheen was committed to following in the footsteps of his father and older brother by becoming an actor. He landed his first real role in Red Dawn in 1984, then picked up a few small film and TV parts, showing genuine talent in modes roles in Lucas and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off before Platoon launched his career. A year later, Wall Street expanded his visibility and gave him the chance to work alongside his father, who co-starred with Charlie and Michael Douglas. Then, after Young Guns, Sheen got his first baseball role, albeit a subdued one, as Chicago White Sox outfielder Happy Felsch in the critically acclaimed but box-office-challenged Eight Men Out. It was just a nibble, but it was enough for Sheen to want more.

Knowing his lifelong passion for the game, Joe Roth hoped Sheen would consider doing Major League. From the moment his agent passed him the script, Sheen wasn’t just interested; he was enamored. 

He recalls: “I was going to a film premiere, and because I knew I had this meeting with David Ward the next day, I sat in a limo in my tux and would not get out until I finished this script because it was that good. So I missed the red carpet and pissed off a lot of people. But I showed up to the meeting with David and told him all about my baseball background and that I was born to play this role. And I told him basically to not change a word.”

Ready to jump on board, Sheen called Berenger to get his take.

“Tom, are you doing this?” he asked.

“It looks great to me,” Berenger replied. “It’s a great comedy, too. Why not? It looks like it would be a lot of fun. How about you? You played baseball.”

“Oh yeah,” Sheen Said emphatically. “I just wanted to make sure you were in on this, too.”

“Yeah,” Berenger said. “I’m on board.”

“Ok, Ok,” Sheen replied, his voice betraying his excitement. “Good.”

And with that, all that remained was the i-dotting and t-crossing.

It was an ideal situation for Ward and company. Not only would Berenger and Sheen provide star power and solid acting chops; they also brought the gravitas and subtle reminder of a highly respected war film, which perhaps helped Major League in another way. When production of the film was announced a few months later, Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston found another perspective: “There are those who will say a tour of duty in Vietnam is the proper psychological preparation for being an Indians fan.”

Photo: Gray & Company, Publishers

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