Here’s the thing about baseball movies: as a whole, they are supposed to somehow inspire you, yet provide some levity and not take itself so seriously the whole way through. The hallmarks are easy to rattle off – Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, The Natural, League of Their Own and even the original Bad News Bears provided baseball fans a sense of authenticity and redemption. They tugged at our heartstrings and maybe reminded us why we’re fans of the game.
Yet, my favorite baseball flick of all time did just about none of that. In fact, mention the film to a baseball nerd and he’ll have something just short of an epileptic seizure. It offended people because it took a fungo bat to the clever comedy of its predecessor. It enraged many because it veered away from the underdog story of the Cleveland Indians and made this team... well, kind of a real life team.
There are far too many reasons for why Major League II – which was closer to a Razzie Award than an Academy Award when it was released in 1994 – is my favorite baseball film of all time, but here are a few of them.
Omar Epps as Willie Mays Hayes
Of all the characters of the original, Willie Mays Hayes really epitomized the “spoiled by success” script the sequel went for. And yet, one could say that Wesley Snipes was himself living the script a bit as he was becoming a star in his own right. Since the idea of returning to the franchise five years after Major League didn’t work out in his plans, we were blessed by the unexpected comedy stylings of one Omar Epps.
(Note: David S. Ward, who directed the original Major League, directed Epps in the 1993 film, The Program.)
Holy hell, Epps was hilarious.
Just watch this spectacular scene where Hayes shows Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) the greatest ad for a fictional movie in sports movie history.
“Black Hammer” shoots the Uzi like he’s playing an arcade game on VERY EASY, Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s entrance as "White Lightning", not even untying the hostages, a bad guy with a bullet in his ass, and giving themselves dap with the clips of their guns!
Of course, pretty much everything Epps did was absent-minded and self-centered, but the same went for Snipes in the first film. Continuity can be a beautiful thing.
Parkman is what the public imagines what every athlete is: an arrogant, selfish prick who truly believes he is God’s gift to sports. And David Keith played it perfectly. From the shimmy that drove the ladies wild to… the shimmy that makes the ladies puke, Parkman was a bigger villain that the teams the Indians actually played. He was larger than the White Sox team he was traded to, making it an easy way to replicate the tension of the film’s playoff game as in the original.
Come on, the man did a home run trot and handed his bat to the bat boy… in batting practice!
He also provided this piece of poignancy.
Come on. It’s Bob Uecker! Just watch.
Randy Quaid as… well, basically himself.
Again, just watch.
Last, but not least, our friend Isuro Tanaka
It was an insanely stereotyped role in many ways, but when Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) traded Parkman for Tanaka (Takaaki Ishibashi), it was as if the movie was made just for him to be the foil to Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert).
Now, it’s not confirmed if the future David Palmer learned diplomatic relations in the film, but we know that Sam Cassell (and later Kobe Bryant) brought The Big Balls Dance to the NBA thanks to this infamous scene:
It is completely understandable that most who loved Major League hated its sequel. The light hearted comedy of the original was left back in 1989. Considering the newer wave of spoof films like Hot Shots! and Hot Shots! Part Deux (both starring Charlie Sheen), Robin Hood: Men in Tights and the truly iconic CB4, the early 90s just had a different, less subtle and more absurd edge.
In trying to suspend reality and make fans believe that this is nearly the same loveable underdog Cleveland Indians team, Major League II stunned those who loved the hokey nature of the original. Yet, baseball in real life is a lot more like the sequel than we care to admit. We’ve all seen the over-the-top fandom a la Randy Quaid after a couple of brews, imagine that announcers probably break out the Maker’s Mark during a 10-game losing streak, and always believe that money changes every athlete with a scintilla of success.
In reading this, most of you won’t ever share the same appreciation of Major League II as I do, which is perfectly fine. You’re probably saying “the movie was just DUMB!”
Exactly! It was dumb… and great!
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school's 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.