Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Tonight I completed watching the Major League trilogy over the course of some 20 years.

To do this, I have paced myself at roughly one film per decade.

I watched the first film at the local Odeon in 1989, as I was working there as an usher that summer. For some reason it had a late night premiere on Friday 15th September – straight after The Fly II.

Major League fans, here's a screencap that you probably won't find anywhere else on the internet - a scan of the mute 35mm film frame that advertised that momentous opening night: (I saved the fade-in and fade-out trims from the rubbish bin afterwards)

When it opened properly about a week later, Major League just ran and ran, sometimes playing to as many as several audience-members. On one unforgettable occasion, I was the only person in the whole theatre. For contractual reasons, they had to project the entire reel anyway. That's right - they had to pay me to watch it. It was one of those rare opportunities to stand-up right in front of the screen just because one could.

In retrospect, it's a little bit of a surprise that Major League even got a release in the UK. It's about baseball, which is a very American sport. Though I saw this movie in the wrong order about a million times, some of what was going on still had me confused. Again, made in America, for Uncle Sam's many nephews.

The film is about a Minor League baseball team - the Cleveland Indians - who make it into the Major League, despite management's best efforts to ensure that their own side loses.

Great idea, but I never could figure out the motivation for this intention, nor what specifically enables them to win at the end. Maybe it was a longer film in the States, or maybe that's just the sort of crazy executive decision that Americans make all the time. At any rate that first screening looked like a wacky comedy that someone had gone back and rewritten several scenes of.

I do recall that there was stuff that I had seen in the trailer (which I'd also watched about a million times) that then wasn't in the actual film, specifically a joke about Jellystone Park. (misleading advertising, sheesh!)

Then in the 1990s the unthinkable happened - they made a sequel. I assume because the original had been big in the US.

Sequels are always so great, aren't they? Most of the characters reunite to recreate that old magic that made the first film so fondly-remembered.

Unfortunately, these guys were never really united in that first flick, except I guess at the end. They argued all the time, and never really made friends. Now we were being treated to the Cleveland Indians enthusiastically getting back together again and being not quite sure what to do.

I quite liked the end of the film, when Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) remembers that he used to wear glasses in the first one. Apparently, he hadn't been too certain quite how they had won in the original outing either. He pops the lenses back on, and suddenly the 'Wild Thing' is back.

Tonight I sat down to watch the third one - the now numberless Major League: Back To The Minors - and choked on my pizza straight away as I realised that the lead actor was some completely new guy, called 'Scott Bakula'.

Scott... Bakula? Really?

Well, I guess he has portrayed a baseball-player once before in Quantum Leap...

Despite the return of some of the earlier cast, this was definitely the non-synoptic film of the trilogy. Even the team was different, exchanging the Cleveland Indians for the Buzz.

This final entry also brings the series nicely full-circle, with Bakula's character Gus Cantrell enterprisingly choosing to remain in the Minors, because that's where all the fresh talent is.

What's really come across through all three movies, particularly the second, is a love of the game. Despite how I might have jokingly sounded above, I've enjoyed all three of these films, and by leaving so much time between each installment, it's always been a nice series to come back to. Since I've watched them all on my own, they've also become a bit of a private pleasure.

Maybe by 2020 there'll even be another one.


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