Twenty-seven years ago, a rag-tag group of ballplayers came together to bring the Cleveland Indians an unexpected division title, revitalizing the franchise and preventing them from relocating to Miami. In 2016, the hit movie “Major League” is playing itself out in real life.
This year’s Indians finished 28th in attendance and lost two starters and their catcher due to injury, but still pulled together to win a division title, then cruised through the playoffs and grabbed their first American League pennant in 19 years in front of raucous sell-out crowds at Progressive Field.
While Terry Francona’s a proven commodity as manager, unlike Lou Brown, the 2016 Indians echo their fictional brethren in many other ways. In 2015 the Indians finished 81-80, making this year’s run even more unlikely; both groups started their seasons slow, with this year’s team finishing April under .500; and spare parts on the roster were filled in by several veterans on cheap deals who proved they still had something left in the tank. Although not every player on the current roster has a fictional doppelganger, many of them do, and we tried to find them ahead of the Tribe’s return to the World Series. Here’s a look at which members of the 2016 Indians would play the “Major League” crew.
Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn – Andrew Miller
The left-handed Miller may not wear glasses, but both he and Charlie Sheen’s iconic character took bizarre, winding routes to stardom in Cleveland. Vaughn, who threw an Aroldis Chapman-esque fastball with zero control, was discovered after he left jail while the Indians were searching for cheap pitching; he eventually became the team’s beloved ace and famously shut down the Yankees in the ninth inning of a one-game playoff en route to the division title.
Miller once had control issues himself – he threw 10 wild pitches in 2009 and once had a single-season WHIP above 2.00 – and bounced around before developing his fastball and slider combo to emerge as a dominant reliever several years ago. Since joining the Indians at the trade deadline, the ALCS MVP has channeled Vaughn and been literally untouchable out of the bullpen.
Willie Mays Hayes – Rajai Davis
Hayes showed up to spring training in 1989 as a hot-shot rookie with big speed and an even bigger mouth. Eventually, he shut up and improved, and his speed proved crucial in that playoff against New York. Davis, an 11-year veteran, is a lot quieter than Hayes and has less flash but he’s just as fast – his 43 stolen bases led the AL – and his steal in Game 2 of the ALCS ended up coming around as the winning run in that pivotal contest.
Jake Taylor – Mike Napoli
Napoli’s catching days are long gone, but the wily veteran knows how to win, is trusted by his manager, and is a leader in the clubhouse. Taylor, one of the “Major League” Indians’ lone vets, was trusted by Brown from the start and mentored that team’s young core as they blossomed from unknowns into champions. It was Taylor, the slow-footed catcher on his last legs, who surprised the Yankees with a ninth-inning bunt that scored Hayes and clinched the division, so the NL pennant winner should watch out if Napoli’s up with Davis on second in the ninth inning of Game 7 later this month.
Roger Dorn – Carlos Santana
Sure, Santana’s about the furthest thing from the prima donna Dorn in personality – we can only assume the Dominican native does his calisthenics every day – but, like Dorn in 1989, Santana’s one of the Indians’ lone holdovers from the team’s old mediocre days of 2010. They both came up big for their teams, too: Dorn’s single in the playoff game was huge, while Santana’s homer in Game 5 of the ALCS clinched the pennant. The only difference is attitudes – but then again, nobody’s as hostile toward their own teammates and organization as Roger Dorn.
Eddie Harris – Trevor Bauer
Bauer’s not an aging pitcher like Harris, but the drone-loving right-hander did get in some trouble when blood on his finger forced him to leave his ALCS start thanks to the “foreign substances” rules. Those foreign substances are a subject Harris knows about, as the outspoken junk-baller was famous for putting just about everything he could find on the baseball to try and extend his career. Hey, at least Bauer didn’t resort to rubbing it in snot.
Pedro Cerrano – Jason Kipnis
Kipnis may not be as hulking of a slugger as the great Cerrano, but the diminutive second baseman hits both curveball and straight ball very well. He also was one of the creators of the 2016 Indians’ shrine to Jobu, and even turned to Cerrano’s preferred God when catcher Yan Gomes was in a slump. The superstitions continued when Kipnis had Francona kiss his bat before Game 1 of the ALCS for luck, which seemed to work out for the Indians. No cigars or rum were required, either.
Clu Haywood – David Ortiz
Once upon a time, the feared Haywood treated Cleveland as his personal punching bag, homering twice off Vaughn and becoming a major thorn in the Indians’ side – until Wild Thing struck him out in the playoff game and got the last laugh. That’s exactly what happened to Big Papi this year against the Indians. The retiring slugger posted a .458/.519/1.125 line with four homers in six regular-season games versus the Tribe, but went just 1-for-9 in the ALDS and couldn’t come up big against the Cleveland pitching he used to tee off on – a major reason why his Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs.
(Video courtesy: MLB.com)