The Cleveland Indians will play Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday and while the team and Major League Baseball have already identified "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch in the games played at Progressive Field, a fictitious former great waits in the wings, hoping for one more chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues.
David S. Ward, who wrote and directed "Major League," is still holding out hope that on Tuesday or Wednesday he can see Charlie Sheen, wearing a No. 99 Ricky Vaughn jersey, come out of the bullpen in Cleveland as a sold out crowd sings, "Wild Thing."
"I can just see it happening," Ward said Friday. "The crowd would go crazy if it did. That would be very cool. I hope it happens. I'll be there to see it if it does."
Major League- Charlie Sheen (@charliesheen) October 20, 2016
continues to be the gift
that keeps on giving!
if called upon,
I'd be honored. pic.twitter.com/ijjAU0Qvbw
Ward, who grew up in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid, Ohio, wrote "Major League" nearly 30 years ago while the Indians were in a World Series drought that lasted 41 years. The team has still not won a World Series since 1948.
"I figured I would never see the Indians win anything unless I wrote a movie where they did," Ward said. "That was the real genesis behind the movie."
ESPN.com caught up with Ward, who also wrote "The Sting" and "Sleepless in Seattle," to talk to him about the Indians returning to the World Series, Cleveland becoming the city of champions and if there's another "Major League" film in the works.
ESPN.com: How would you describe what's happening in Cleveland sports right now? First, the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA championship, the city's first major professional sports title since 1964, and now the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series.
David Ward: When I was growing up in Cleveland the Cavaliers weren't there but I've become a Cavs fan, but I don't have the same depth of history with them that I do with the Indians and Browns. I've suffered longer with the Browns and Indians than I have with the Cavaliers. For years, we've been like Cubs fans. It's only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down. When you see it happen time after time you just think it's always going to happen. It's just an incredible thing to think that it could be possible for Cleveland to have two professional sports champions in the same year where it was incomprehensible to think that they would have any ever.
ESPN.com: Does this Indians team feel different than the teams in 1995 and 1997 that went to the World Series but lost?
Ward: It does. I think it's largely because this team has had to overcome so much to get here. Losing two top-line pitchers out of the rotation was huge. Carlos Carrasco could be considered their ace, given the way he has pitched. So to get to the playoffs, let alone get to the World Series, without two of your top pitchers would have seemed impossible but this team has real grit and real poise. They play their game and they don't let other teams dictate the game to them. They seem to be able to maintain who they are and what they do and they just have a real resilience to them. This team feels like they have a certain kind of destiny that you don't generally feel with Cleveland teams. You tend to wonder how this is going to go south but I don't feel that with this team. They seem to be a confident and pretty unflappable bunch.
ESPN.com: Where did the idea for "Major League" come from?
Ward: I wanted to see the Indians win, to be honest. They not only had not won in so long but they weren't even close to winning. They hadn't finished within 10 games of first place in 20 years or something. So it had to be a comedy and that pretty much dictated the direction. I invented a group of misfit players who found a way to come together and get it done. That felt like the only way it would ever happen. We were a small market team. When we did have good players we would lose them to the New York Yankees of the world who could pay them what we couldn't. That's been the story of the Indians over the years.
ESPN.com: In the movie, Indians owner Rachel Phelps, played by Margaret Whitton, wants to move the team to Miami. Of course, this was before there was a major league team in Miami. What did you think a few years later when Miami's expansion team, the Marlins, beat the Indians in the 1997 World Series?
Ward: The Indians have been around since the beginning of baseball and we lose to the Florida Marlins? The Florida Marlins?! They were barely in existence. In terms of being a real baseball franchise they were only around for a few years. Who are these guys? We're used to worrying about teams like the Yankees, but the Florida Marlins? It was like when the Browns moved to Baltimore and then won a Super Bowl. This is the kind of thing that happens in Cleveland sports that just makes you shake your head.
ESPN.com: Did you have any trouble getting approval from the Cleveland Indians or Major League Baseball in using real team names and uniforms?
Ward: Back then the league wasn't quite as image conscious as they are now. The bigger problem I thought was getting the Yankees to agree to be the bad guys. I think what happened was George Steinbrenner is from Cleveland. I think he thought it's a comedy so there was no harm but it took him awhile. We didn't get approval right away but when he thought about it he thought having his team in the movie would be good.
ESPN.com: We don't actually see the Indians play in or win the World Series in "Major League" or "Major League II." Is there a reason for that?
Ward: Yeah, because we were building toward the third movie, "Major League III." It has already been written and we've been trying to get Morgan Creek Productions to make it for the last few years without much success. I didn't have a trilogy in mind when I made the first one. When I did the first one I just wanted it to be successful and I wanted people to embrace the movie, and once they did, I said, "Well, in the movie we only win the division." We don't even win the American League Championship. In the second one we find out they lost to the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS. I felt in the first one it might be a stretch, even in a comedy, to have the Indians win the World Series. Also you have to go through so many playoff games to get to the World Series that it makes the end of the movie a long montage of winning playoff games. I didn't feel the movie was about that. I figured out how to do it for the third movie. The World Series is a natural place for them to go after doing everything but win the World Series.
ESPN.com: What could we expect in "Major League III"?
Ward: Well, part of the setup in the third movie is that they did make it to the World Series but lost when "Wild Thing" gave up a walk-off homer in the seventh game and he just retires from baseball. Even though he's older, he's coming back to mentor this young fire-balling reliever they have. They also need a set-up man and Eddie Harris (played by Chelcie Ross) teaches "Wild Thing" to throw junk because he doesn't have the heater anymore. He does set-up work while he's mentoring the fire-baller. They're not a hopeless team, they are in contention, but they can't seem to get over the top. I don't think we could go back to having them be a hopeless team. You have to do something different. So the big thing in the movie is that he finds out that this young fire-baller that went to Harvard doesn't want to be mentored. He has a degree in biomechanics and he feels he knows everything there is to know about pitching. It turns out that it's Ricky Vaughn's illegitimate son from one of his many romantic assignations while he was a young man about town in Cleveland and the kid hates him. Charlie Sheen is already on board. We have a lot of people who would love to make the movie but unfortunately the people who own it, Morgan Creek, are not one of them. We have several investors who would make it in a heartbeat, but Morgan Creek owns it and isn't giving up the rights to it. They're trying to do a television series called "Major League" but they're just using the title. They don't have any characters from the movie. I don't know what's happening with that but I'm not part of it and neither is Charlie. If the television show doesn't happen hopefully they'll take a look at doing the movie or allow someone else to do the movie.
ESPN.com: Would the Indians winning the World Series change anything in terms of doing the movie?
Ward: In a way it could be double-edged sword. I want the Indians to win the World Series, but I wonder if it would steal the thunder from a movie where they won the World Series. I don't know what the answer to that is but I have to say I still want them to win the World Series.
ESPN.com: There was actually a "Major League III" centered on a minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. You weren't a part of that film. Is that why you're referring to your script as the real "Major League III"?
Ward: Yeah. It was difficult. In fact, I didn't see that movie for the longest time. I couldn't bring myself to watch it until I was on an airplane. They were showing it on my flight and I said, "Oh God, I can't get away from this thing" so I watched it. I guess what was strange to me is they called it "Major League" even though it was about a minor league team affiliated with the Twins. It really had nothing to do with the Indians and I'm sort of glad it didn't because to me it's not part of the "Major League" franchise at all.
ESPN.com: You filmed the first "Major League" in Milwaukee and the second one in Baltimore. Was there a reason you couldn't film it in Cleveland?
Ward: The first one we were shooting late in the summer and the Browns were already playing preseason games and there were football lines on the field all the time and that didn't look real good. There were also some union issues in Cleveland, and Cleveland is a big union town. So we went to Milwaukee. The second one we shot in Baltimore because Jim Robinson, the founder and CEO of Morgan Creek, is from Baltimore and he got us some good deals there for shooting the movie. But I'd want to shoot the third movie in Cleveland. Ohio has great tax breaks for movies now and would be perfect.
ESPN.com: When you go to Indians games now it's not uncommon to see jerseys of Ricky Vaughn, Jake Taylor, Pedro Cerrano and Willie Mays Hayes in the crowd. What do you think when you see that and how the film has been remembered more than 25 years later?
Ward: For any filmmaker that's really a wonderful thing to see that your film has become part of popular culture. It's very gratifying to know that you made a movie that has a special place in people's hearts. That's why you do it. I went to an Indians-Giants game in San Francisco a couple of years ago and there were a lot of Indians fans there wearing Vaughn jerseys, Cerrano jerseys and even Roger Dorn jerseys. I was stunned to see that. They're not even living in Cleveland. I've seen that at other ballparks as well over the years. I get a real kick out of that.
ESPN.com: How did you come to pick "Wild Thing" as Ricky Vaughn's song?
Ward: I always associated that song with the Ricky Vaughn character and then Mitch Williams started to use it after that. He was the first guy to actually use it in Major League Baseball, I think. I'm not trying to toot my own horn but back then pitchers didn't come out to music and now all of them do. So we sort of started something there so it's fun. The Indians do have sort of a "Wild Thing" in Andrew Miller. Just the way he plays and the way he pitches it's kind of Wild Thing-esque and there's kind of an identification thing there, and if Charlie goes back for the first pitch of the World Series, I think it would be perfect.
ESPN.com: Outside of getting together for another "Major League" are there any plans for a reunion in the future?
Ward: We've always talked about getting together for a reunion and if Charlie does end up throwing out the first pitch, I don't see why we couldn't all get together for that. Maybe if they won the World Series we could all pack into a car and bring up the rear at the parade.