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A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN
CHRIS NASHAWATY
July 04, 2011
IT'S BEEN 22 YEARS SINCE WILD THING WALTZED INTO OUR LIVES, AND MAJOR LEAGUE STILL MAKES OUR HEARTS SING. THE FILM'S CAST AND CREW TRY TO EXPLAIN HOW IT BECAME ONE OF THE MOST BELOVED—AND MOST QUOTED—SPORTS MOVIES EVER
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July 04, 2011

A League Of Its Own

IT'S BEEN 22 YEARS SINCE WILD THING WALTZED INTO OUR LIVES, AND MAJOR LEAGUE STILL MAKES OUR HEARTS SING. THE FILM'S CAST AND CREW TRY TO EXPLAIN HOW IT BECAME ONE OF THE MOST BELOVED—AND MOST QUOTED—SPORTS MOVIES EVER

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Steve Yeager (technical adviser, former big league catcher): I didn't have to do much for Charlie. We had him on a radar gun, and he was throwing in the mid-80s. With Tom we started with the basics as if we were teaching a young kid how to play. He was blocking balls. I felt sorry for him because I was beating him up pretty good.

Berenger: I played Little League growing up, but I was probably a better football player. Charlie was great, though. The first day he started throwing to me, nine of his first 10 pitches were on the edge of the strike zone—that's how much control he had.

Sheen: I had a great arm. I was just born with it. I played at Santa Monica High, but because of academic s---, they pulled me off the team. I used to go to this place in Missouri called the Mickey Owen Baseball School. I went to get scouted. But I looked at the talent there and knew I couldn't do it for a living. I think my baseball career would have been spent riding buses, not jets, if you know what I mean. So I figured, Hey, I'll pursue a real idiot's job instead. Acting!

Ward: One of the things I did with all the actors before I cast them was play catch to see how well they could play. I had actors coming in and saying that they had played Triple A with the Cardinals. Then I'd take them outside, and they couldn't throw it 15 feet. They just lied.

Chelcie Ross (veteran pitcher Eddie Harris): I was 45, and it had been 20 years since I had thrown a ball. But I had pitched a little at Southwest Texas State, and I thought, I can do this. After I auditioned, Chris Chesser said, "Let's throw a bit." I knew that would have to happen somewhere along the line. He asked if I could throw anything besides a fastball, and I said, "Sure, I can put a wrinkle in one." I threw a couple of big lollipop curves. They were pretty lame, but I was cast.

Ward: The characters were combinations of real players. Willie Mays Hayes, who Wesley Snipes played, was a little Willie Mays with the basket catch and Rickey Henderson on the base paths. Dennis Haysbert's Cerrano character was based on the Alou brothers and some of the Latin ballplayers who were known to be a little superstitious. Wild Thing was Ryne Duren, who I knew as a Yankees reliever, a big guy who wore these Coke-bottle glasses and threw the ball really hard. There might have been a little Al Hrabosky in there too.

Corbin Bernsen (vain third baseman Roger Dorn): All the actors had to do these tryouts, but I was shooting another film so I said, "Trust me, I can play." I always thought Dorn was a good ballplayer but had started thinking too much about fame and notoriety, which wasn't all that far off from [my character] Arnie Becker, on L.A. Law.

Ward: Wesley had never really played baseball, but the shot of him going over the outfield wall to make that grab in the movie, he actually made that catch. The funny thing is Wesley, who plays a speed demon, is not very fast in real life. That's why we always shot him in slow motion. In regular motion he doesn't look that fast. As for James Gammon, who played the manager, I'd seen several movies that he'd done, and he just seemed like the perfect manager type. He had the gravitas and that great voice. He was the kind of person who players would live in fear of.

Dennis Haysbert (superstitious slugger Pedro Cerrano): Jim was the quintessential manager. There was something very sage about him, something very wise, and he held the group together. We all deferred to Jimmy. He was the manager on-screen and off.

Ward: Rene Russo, people forget that she was the Cindy Crawford of her time—she was a supermodel before there were supermodels. Major League was her first movie.

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