For nearly half a decade Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn was the most famous Cleveland Indians player anyone outside of Cleveland could name. Slight problem: he doesn’t actually exist. .
See, for nearly three decades the Indians were really bad, like Uwe Boll movie bad. Then Morgan Creek Productions and Paramount Pictures made Major League (1989), a classic sports underdog movie about what would happen if an Indians team designed to fail somehow exceeded all expectations and actually made the playoffs. The actual star of the film is Tom Berenger’s Jake Taylor, an aging catcher making one last stand on the field while chasing the one that got away off the field. However, audiences naturally gravitated toward the more colorful members of the team, particularly Charlie Sheen’s Ricky Vaugh, the motorcycle-driving, flame-throwing relief pitcher with a little skull on his glasses, zig-zag haircut and own personal theme song (i.e., a rock cover of The Trogg’s “Wild Thing”).
Eventually, there was a sequel, 1994’s Major League 2, by which point the real life Indians were finally good again and would soon play (and lose) in the World Series. 1998 brought the oft-forgotten sequel starring Scott Bakula, but Major League 2 marked the end of Charlie Sheen’s time with the franchise.
Or did it?
Yeah, it proably did.
Or did it?
Ok. Here’s the thing: Yesterday, to celebrate the Indians kicking off the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Sheen, and walked away with this surprising nugget:
“David Ward (who wrote and directed Major League) wrote the script for Major League 3, which is as good as the first one,” Sheen says. “ML3 has as much heart, as much comedy as the original.” Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and Wesley Snipes, among others from the first film, are on board, Sheen says.
“We have been trying to get it done for a few years,” Sheen says. “There have been some hang-ups with the rights.”
Wait, what would it be about?
The film will be rated R, like the first, and would “bookend” the series the proper way, Sheen says, before going into the premise: “You find the Vaughn character selling cars and his arm is so shot that if you buy a car from him, he’ll play catch with your kid in the parking lot. And then there is an ex who shows up, who he had a tryst with a couple decades ago, and she has a twentysomething kid, who is now in the Cleveland organization, throwing about 102 mph. So, the story pretty much focuses on that. The kid does not like me. We do not like each other. It bookends our story, but it also passes the torch.”
“I would love to do it with Morgan Creek, who owns the rights, but if they don’t want to do it, then I am sure there is a way that they could be involved and everybody wins,” he says. “The script that we’ve all been sitting on is pure gold and absolutely shootable. It’s David Ward at his best. I mean, this is the guy who won the Oscar for writing The Sting. We could be in pre-production tomorrow.”
This struck me as odd, simply because in the current franchise-obsessed Hollywood a Major League 3 from the same creatives and starring mostly the same actors seems like it would be too tempting to pass up. Heck, in the time since I started writing this article THR revealed a Will & Grace revival is in the works at NBC and The Disney Channel is prepping a That’s So Raven revival (quick thought: call it “That’s Still So Raven”). Of course, making a film sequel to a known franchise and a reviving a TV series are two different things with different masters to please and market forces to consider, but it still underscores the ever-increasing importance of playing to a built-in audience. I’m not saying Major League 3 is necessarily a good idea, creatively speaking, just that Hollywood doesn’t normally care if something is a bad idea as long as it can sell tickets.
Ah, there’s the rub. Major League 3 would be a baseball movie. That’s not good. America has been falling out of love with that particular past time since the World Series was canceled due to the strike of 1994, if not well before that. Correspondingly, whenever Hollywood has cranked out a baseball movie the result at the box office has been closer to a [wait for obligatory baseball pun] strike out than a double or single, let alone a home run.
For example, here’s the box office breakdown of all of the baseball movies to receive a wide theatrical release since the first Major League in 1989. Remember the rule of thumb is for a movie to at least break even it must double its production budget in worldwide gross. Only a third of the following 27 movies managed to do that:
|Million Dollar Arm||$25m||$36.4m||$2.7m||$39.2m|
|Trouble with the Curve||$60m||$35.6m||$13.7m||$48.9m|
|Bad News Bears||$35m||$32.8m||$1.3m||$34.2m|
|For Love of the Game||$80m||$35.1m||$10.9m||$46.1m|
|Major League: Back to the Minors||$18m||$3.5m||—||$3.5m|
|Angels in the Outfield||$24m||$50.2m||—||$50.2m|
|Little Big League||N/A||$12.2m||—||$12.2m|
|Major League 2||$11m||$30.6m||—||$30.6m|
|Rookie of the Year||N/A||$53.6m||$2.8m||$56.5m|
|A League of Their Own||$40m||$107.5m||$24.9m||$132.4m|
|Field of Dreams||$15m||$64.4m||$20m||$84.4m|
The ones that probably broke even: Major League, Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, Major League 2, Angels in the Outfield, The Rookie, Moneyball and 42.
The ones that can be fairly called big hits: Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, The Rookie, and 42.
It’s worth noting that two of the highest-grossing baseball movies of all time, Moneyball and 42, came out in the past decade. However, it’s also worth noting the combined, multi-generational star power of Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake couldn’t make audiences care about Trouble With the Curve just 4 years ago.
Morgan Creek probably has plenty of other reasons to be dragging their feet on Major League 3, such as the question marks over Charlie Sheen’s health (i.e., he was recently diagnosed as being HIV+), quality of the script, etc. However, it might simply come down to the bottom line, which is that baseball movies typically struggle at the domestic box office and are almost non-existent overseas. In truth, this isn’t even a baseball thing; it’s an all sports movies thing. Like rom-coms and inspirational “based on a true story” disaster movies, the market for sports movies has all but disappeared. Know anyone who actually saw Draft Day, Concussion, Race or Eddie the Eagle in theaters? I sure don’t. That’s why a Major League 3 probably won’t happen, possibly saving us all from the inevitable “God, I feel old” thoughts upon seeing Ricky “Old Man” Vaughn fixing up cars in some chop shop while his co-workers sarcastically play “Wild Thing” through the bluetooth speakers in the garage. Those jerks. How dare they treat Ricky that way!
Of course, this is a world in which Crackle made Joe Dirt 2. So, it’s always possible a Major League 3 could find a home on some streaming service desperate for new, marketable content, but until then we’ll always have this: