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"The Making of Major League," by Jonathan Knight

(Photo courtesy of Charlie Sheen's tweet, as seen below)
"THE INDIANS WIN IT, THE INDIANS WIN IT, OH MY GOD, THE INDIANS WIN IT!!!!"    Harry Doyle
When I first found out that a book was being written discussing the making of the 1989 movie "MAJOR LEAGUE," I was more than concerned. Most Cleveland Indians' fans look at the film as something sacred, and it wouldn't be hyperbole to say that the first viewing for a Tribe fan is something akin to a religious experience.

The movie was written, directed and produced by Oscar Award winning writer David Ward, who also happened to be an Indians' fan.

There's a lot there that you wouldn't normally connect together, so I'll let you mull that over a bit.

Seriously, what are the chances that an Oscar winner not only spent his formative years on the North Coast, but was passionate about making a film involving the Indians finally winning a pennant?  It was that "inside" connection that ultimately made the movie special to the "cult following" that went to see it. Ward understood what it meant to support the "Sons of Geronimo," and that's how the movie was able to touch the entire soul of a fan base.

Likewise, it would be impossible for an "outsider" to write a book describing "Major League," while also taking the care to connect the importance of the movie to the town at its center. It's pretty complicated being a Cleveland fan, and that perplexity had to be intertwined throughout any book about this movie.

When I found out that local Ohio writer and unadulterated Cleveland fan, Jonathan Knight, was the man behind "The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy," my fears drifted away faster than a Ricky Vaughn fastball. The telling of this story was in good hands.

I first became aware of Jonathan's writing a little over ten years ago when I received a book about one of my most glorious and painful years of football in my young NFL life, "KARDIAC KIDS: Story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns." This book perfectly described the joys and pain of my formative NFL season, which ended in the AFC divisional playoffs with 'Red Right 88." Knight has written several books regarding his beloved Cleveland sports, and like Ward, is a  card carrying Cleveland "insider."

He gets it.

Knight has a tried-and-true pedigree as a tortured Cleveland fan. Not only has he written nine books closely connected to the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers, he has also been a long-time columnist at several Cleveland blogs, including The Cleveland Fan, Did the Tribe Win Last Night and Everybody Hates Cleveland. I couldn't think of a better author for this book. He's one of Cleveland's own Band of Brothers and Sisters that could care for this movie in a way that would honor David Ward's decade-long battle to get the film made.

While the movie itself transcends the city of Cleveland as an iconic national baseball movie, there's an intimate connection that home town fans make with the movie itself. While many fans across the country can quote the movie word-for-word, not many understand the chills, and dare I say tears (sorry Tom Hanks, sometimes there is crying in baseball) when Harry Doyle screams to the world that the Indians have actually won the A.L. East over the New York Yankees. What becomes clear early on in Jonathan's book is that he's written it exactly how we would write it, because Jonathan is a "we."

Knight meticulously takes us on a movie-making journey, starting with a rather infamous moment in Cleveland History that profoundly effected an eight year-old David Ward; the 1954 World Series. Ward enjoyed the dominance of that 1954 Indians' team, right up until, as Knight describes it, "Willie Mays dropped an anvil on Cleveland's head."

It's pure, painful poetry that only Cleveland fans can truly understand. Let's face it, we truly are the Wile E. Coyote's of professional sports, chasing a championship the way that frustrated coyote chases Road Runner. While things can often look good early on in the chase, more often than not, an ACME anvil is the ultimate outcome.

What really caught my attention at this early stage of the book was how detailed Knight was in an interview regarding Ward's background with the Tribe. Knight's description of the magical trips to Cleveland Stadium for Ward was exactly my description. 
"Each time he (Ward) neared the stadium and saw the giant metallic sign with grinning Chief Wahoo posted atop the outer wall, Ward's pulse would quicken."
I literally had to read that three times, while trying to figure out how Knight had plucked that out of my very head. I had told that story to friends numerous times over the years, and it's this realization, this connection, that really let me understand why this movie was so special to not only me, but to the rest of Cleveland Indians fans across the country.

Knight had aptly described my exact thoughts on that journey to Municipal Stadium, and that initial connection between David Ward, Jonathan Knight and myself (and to all of us really) let me know that the rest of this book was going to have the care, detail and groundwork that the movie deserved.

The author spent time with every major player in the movie, from Ward to Tom Berenger (Jake Taylor) to Corbin Bernsen (Roger Dorn) to Wesley Snipes (Willie Mays Hayes) to Bob Uecker (Harry Doyle) and of course, Charlie Sheen (Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn), just to name a few. While many would stop there, knowing that the major players had been touched upon, Knight took the extra effort to connect all the movie dots via conversations with Rene Russo (Lynn Wells), Margaret Whitton (Rachel Phelps), Chelcie Ross (Eddie Harris) and while James Gammon (Lou Brown) unfortunately passed away five years ago, he was able to talk to his wife, Nancy Gammon.

The fact that this movie was the career launching point for almost every name in the cast wasn't lost upon the author, or each cast member that he interviewed. For a simple sports comedy, this movie meant an awful lot to a lot of important Hollywood people.

And that's just the start.

He even locates Jobu, but you'll have to read Jonathan's book to find out where he is. I'd hate to piss off those movie/voodoo deities, right Harris?

The brilliance of the book is that it will give all of the films "insiders" a never-before-shared goldmine of information. While many of us consider ourselves aficionados on this movie, Knight's care in digging up tidbits that the most ardent fans don't already know is what makes this book stand out.

Each character in the movie is brought into the book the same way they were brought into the movie, along with several unbelievable connections that made the foundation of this movie unique. Knight shows us how this movie truly was a set of dominoes, in which one kept falling into another. If ONE domino wasn't in the right place, Ward likely would be wondering today why he was never able to make the film in the first place. This is the type of background that will enrich the next time you view the film, and for the first time in years, let you see this flick in a new light.

Don't believe me? Here's just a taste of what you'll find between the covers.

Was there a connection with regards to bringing in both Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen, after they both appeared in Oliver Stone's "Platoon?"

Why did Ward decide to can his original ending (while the original ending has been included on a few different DVD editions, the intimate details surrounding the change is explicitly described as it's never been seen before)?

Why did Ward and the production team really decide on a different stadium to film it's baseball scenes, and how did they get these stadiums to look as full as they did (boy, can we get them to film scenes at today's games)?

Was there a "true story" behind this movie?

What was producer Chris Chesser's (a Yankees fan) connection to the Cleveland Indians, and how did Chesser and Ward pass this profanity-laden script past Major League Baseball?

How hard was it to put together a pretty amazing soundtrack, and how did Randy Newman hold them a bit hostage?

How did the REAL on-the-field Indians almost derail the movie version of the club?

Did this movie truly prognosticate what was to come in future years (Knight spells out those connections beautifully)?

Will there be a final Major League movie, written by Ward, that can erase the lackluster follow-ups?

I could go on-and-on with the significant history provided, including several insights regarding Charlie Sheen's impressive support of the movie over the years, some interesting prop issues involving duct tape, Sister Mary Assumpta's role throughout the film (and over the years), and several script changes and scenes that were cut or changed that have never before been talked about.

If you think you know this movie like the back of your hand, trust me, you don't know it as well as you think. This book will fill in all the cracks, and is a must read for Cleveland Indians and "Major League" fans alike.

On a personal level, this book was a fantastic read from the very start, and worthy of your time. This book not only does the movie justice, but I've watched it twice since reading it last Friday. It really does add to the movie experience, especially if you've seen it hundreds of times, like I have. 

And c'mon, if it's good enough for the Wild Thing, don't you think you oughta give it a read?

For more information regarding Jonathan Knight, you can follow him on twitter @jknightwriter, or at his website, www.jknightbooks.com.

For more information regarding the book "The Making of Major League," including how and where you can buy it, CLICK HERE.

For more fantastic books from Gray and Company, Publishers, CLICK HERE.

Now you'll have to excuse me, I have some rum to steal...and a "nice big shitburger to eat."
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