Major League (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is a film that probably succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of those who dreamt it. It's a baseball comedy which grossed $49 million despite having nothing on its mind but fun - no poetic looks at baseball's deeper meaning like The Natural, nor sentimentalized overviews of generational continuity and forgiveness like Field of Dreams. Just a bunch of slobs triumphing over snobs, and underdogs winnin' ballgames.

The plot of Major League is very similar to that of The Producers, except in a sports context. Both movies center around trying to build the worst show ever. In this case, a widow takes over the Cleveland Indians upon her husband's demise, and she promptly becomes aware that there are certain circumstances in which a losing team is much better than a winning one. The team is mired in financial and on-the-field mediocrity in Cleveland, but the owner has a very powerful offer to move the team to another city, complete with plenty of tax breaks, and a brand-new stadium with very favorable leasing terms. The move would be a financial bonanza. There's only one hitch - the team has an iron-clad contract with Cleveland, and the commissioner of baseball would never permit them to move ...

... except in one circumstance. (Ah, isn't it always so?)

The special loophole in their contract allows them to leave Cleveland if the attendance drops below 800,000 per year. The organization has been pulling in more than 800,000 fans with teams which have been far below average, so the only way to assure that the attendance will sink low enough is to build the worst team ever assembled - a team that isn't even capable of winning 15 games in a 162 game season. The owner makes up a list of the players who will be invited to camp, and it is a collection of has-beens and never-weres. The executives are shocked.

Executive: "Hey, this guy - he's dead."

Owner: "OK, scratch him off the list."

To take the helm of this club, the owner enlists a manager who has been in the minors for thirty years and also runs an auto repair shop. When the GM calls him to ask him to manage the Cleveland Indians, he responds, "I don't think so. Hey, I can't talk right now. Guy on the other line might need new set of whitewalls."

The manager is finally hired, but is not let in on the scam. He thinks he's supposed to win ballgames, but soon sees that it isn't going to be easy. Spring training turns out to be quite similar to the open auditions in The Producers. There are old guys, lifetime minor leaguers, one guy from the California Penal League, and even one guy who wasn't invited at all. The team's strongest hitter practices voodoo and worships a rum-drinking, cigar-smoking god named JoBu.

Somehow, against all odds, the rag-tag group starts off winning nearly half of their games, despite the owner's constantly intensifying campaign to make their lives miserable. One day, the soft hearted general manager just can't keep the ugly secret from his boys any longer, so he tells the manager and the team that they were hired because they were the biggest bunch of losers available. This motivates the club, and they ... could ... go ... all ... the ...way.


Sure it's corny, and yes, Major League was on the receiving end of a lot of scorn from contemporary critics when it hit the theaters. Even the ones who kinda-sorta liked it felt that it was too similar to Bull Durham. On the other hand, average moviegoers ignored the critics and generally enjoyed it. Looking back on it from 2005, today's internet critics generally like it, and it is rated an astronomical 94% at Rotten Tomatoes! The film has even attained a bit of cult status over the years. It's rated 6.7 at IMDB, which is quite high for a lowbrow comedy.

I like it, too. The film has kind of an abrupt ending, but - what the hell - it's a feel-good comedy, so I guess everything ends on the appropriate high note. It isn't split-your-gut hilarious, but it is pleasant, unchallenging fun that is quite a relaxing watch when you want to chill a while. The funniest lines belong to baseball legend Bob Uecker, who plays the team's announcer and really is a baseball announcer (Milwaukee Brewers). Uke was a second string catcher who had the very good sense to pretend he was a much worse player than he actually was, and to turn his most inept playing exploits into a lucrative post-playing career as a deadpan comedian, author, raconteur - and film star!

Major League was so successful that it inspired two sequels, but the producers never could get that same financial or entertainment lighting back in the bottle, and the series produced a consistent deterioration in both the quality of the films and their financial performance. The third installment bombed so miserably (only $2m on the opening weekend, despite being in 2300 theaters!) that future theatrical releases are highly unlikely.

  Box Office IMDB score
Major League (1989) $49m 6.7
Major League II (1994) $30m 4.7
Major League III (1998) $3m 4.1


  • No significant features
  • the widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced (16x9)



Female- none.

Male - various guys in jockstraps. Two guys seen from the rear without their jockstraps: Corbin Bernsen and an unidentified extra.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $49 million
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C, a pleasant underdog comedy in a conveniently chewable sports movie format.

Return to the Movie House home page