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Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Tom Berenger, and Other Movie Insiders Tell Tales from Behind the Scenes of the Film “Major League” in New Book

The Making of Major League, a book by Jonathan Knight: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy

The Making of Major League, a book by Jonathan Knight: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball ComedyThe Cleveland Indians have gone to the playoffs every year since 1989 . . . in the film Major League, that is.

Now a new book, The Making of Major League: A Juuuust Inside Look at the Baseball Comedy Classic, by Ohio sportswriter Jonathan Knight, tells why the movie has had such a lasting impact through stories by the director, producers, cast, crew, and other Hollywood insiders.

The sports comedy about a team owner who attempts to drive down the value of her franchise and the rag-tag group of players who foil her plan didn’t exactly explode at the box office, but found a new life in living rooms around the country on home video. In the ensuing decades the film has spawned two sequels, countless bobblehead nights, assorted catch phrases, and made a cookie-baking nun into a celebrity.

“There was a period of my life when I watched Major League every single day,” author Jonathan Knight said. “I’d come home from junior high school each afternoon, pop the movie into the VCR, and immerse myself in a delicious alternate reality in which baseball was hilarious and the Cleveland Indians were champions.”

Knight conducted in-depth interviews with writer/director David S. Ward and producer Chris Chesser, as well as stars Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and more to get stories about the creation of the film. Knight was also granted unprecedented access to Ward’s archive of set photos, rough draft screenplays, and storyboards.

“Jonathan Knight has done something I never thought possible,” David S. Ward said, “Uncover things about Major League that I didn’t even know.” The book has anecdotes and trivia about the making of the film, including:

  • Rick Vaughn’s zig-zag hairstyle was supposed to only be cut into one side of the back of his head. His hairdresser misunderstood the direction and put the zig zags on both sides. David Ward thought the look was OK, so they just went with it;
  • The bulk of principal photography took place in Milwaukee because Municipal Stadium had a gridiron painted on the field for the 1988 Browns season and the venue’s design blocked much-needed sunlight from reaching the field;
  • During filming of the scene where Pedro Cerrano hits the tying home run in the final playoff game, actor Dennis Haysbert actually hit the ball over the fence;
  • Future Entourage star Jeremy Piven was cast as a sharp-tongued benchwarmer, but his scene ended up on the cutting room floor;
  • Several scenes were cut from the script, including one showing Willie Mays Hayes (played by Wesley Snipes) working at (and then quitting) a fast-food restaurant, where he’d make burgers as fast as he ran the basepaths.

Charlie Sheen wrote the book’s foreword, in which he says: “Before I got into television, I’d done 60-plus films and I’m proud of six of them. Major League is at the top of the list. I’m more proud of Major League than I am of Platoon, and we won Best Picture for that one.”

The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy (Paperback / 255 pages / 45 photos and illustrations / ebook available) is available at Northeast Ohio bookstores and online from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. More information at www.grayco.com.

About the Author:
Jonathan Knight has written nine books on Cleveland sports. A professional writer and editor, he’s written for TheClevelandFan.com, Football.com, ClevelandBrowns.com, and SportsTimeOhio.com and has been a regular commentator on Northeast Ohio radio and television programs. Called “one of the most articulate and devoted sportswriters in Ohio” by the Akron Beacon Journal, Knight has been praised by the Plain Dealer, Cleveland Scene, Cleveland Magazine, and ESPN’s Grantland.com. He’s twice been named Sportswriter of the Year by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and his writing has been honored by the Press Club of Cleveland. A graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, he’s a member of both the Society for American Baseball Research and the Pro Football Researchers Association. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his two sons.

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NY Post cites unusual source on Cleveland’s sports championship drought

damn-right-im-from-cleveland-scOn NYPost.com, columnist Marc Berman quoted from Damn Right I’m From Cleveland by Mike Polk, Jr. when describing Cleveland’s long sports championship drought:

As the book “Damn Right I’m From Cleveland: Your Guide to Makin’ it in America’s 47th Biggest City” points out, there have been nine US presidents since that championship. When the Browns won, gas cost 31 cents per gallon, man had not yet walked on the moon, women were not allowed to run the Boston Marathon, “Star Trek’’ had not made its TV debut and the movie “The Sound of Music’’ had not been released.

Sure, he’s quoting from a humor book, but as Homer Simpson said, “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

Those of us who publish books about Cleveland know there are actually more stories in sports failure than sports championships. So, for out-of-town media looking for more sources on The Drought, we’d like to suggest a few more juicy reads:

Curses! Why Cleveland Sports Fans Deserve to Be Miserable, by Tim Long. (The title pretty much says it all.)

The Curse of Rocky Colavito, by Terry Pluto. (Subtitle: “A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump”.)

The Top 20 Moments in Cleveland Sports, by Bob Dyer. (How many Top 20 lists contain as many low points as high points?)

False Start: How the New Browns Were Set Up to Fail, by Terry Pluto. (One of our best sellers—and it’s all bad news!)

Berman’s column asks whether LeBron James can end the drought. We’re definitely rooting for LeBron and the Cavs. But whatever the outcome, there will probably be a great story in it.

Comedian and Cleveland sports authority Mike Polk, Jr. (with Macduff)
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Hackers holding Dan Coughlin’s next book for ransom

Coughlin, DanDan Coughlin has been working on a new collection of stories to followup Crazy, With the Papers to Prove It and Pass the Nuts. Recently his computer was hacked and rendered unusable. To get it back the hackers were asking for a ransom.

“I was outraged! They only value my work at $700? I would think if they want a ransom it should have been a million, neither of which I’m going to pay.”

Michael K. McIntyre has the whole story on Cleveland.com: Dan Coughlin’s next book is held for ransom as computer hackers take over his chapters

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Now available in paperback…

The Franchise by Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst

The Franchise

LeBron James and the Remaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers

by Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst

$15.95

An in-depth look at how a team and a city were rebuilt around LeBron James. Two award-winning sports journalists tell the converging stories of a struggling franchise and a hometown teenage phenom. Will fascinate basketball fans who want the inside story of a young superstar shouldering the weight of an entire NBA franchise.

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Thirteen Seconds by Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts

Thirteen Seconds

Confrontation at Kent State

by Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts

$15.95

The dramatic original account of events that shook the nation. On May 4, 1970, National Guard bullets killed four students, wounded nine, and transformed Kent State University into a national nightmare. Two prize-winning reporters interviewed all the participants in the tragedy and established for the first time what actually took place that day.

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Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart by John H. Tidyman

Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart

Tales From the Last Glory Days of Cleveland Newspapers— Told By The Men and Women Who Reported the News

by John H. Tidyman

$15.95

Listen in as dozens of veteran newspaper reporters, editors, and photographers swap favorite tales about life on the job at Cleveland’s newspapers in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s—when fierce competition made daily newspapers the most exciting business in town. Funny, tragic, sometimes outrageous, it’s a boisterous look at “the first draft of history.”

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Truth and Justice for Fun and Profit by Michael Heaton

Truth and Justice for Fun and Profit

Collected Reporting

by Michael Heaton

$15.95

This collection of Michael Heaton’s best newspaper and magazine stories shows Cleveland to be a crazy quilt of bold schemes, failed dreams, and colorful characters. To get the story he has put on boxing gloves and entered the ring, and gone undercover with the FBI and mob informants. He has interviewed chefs and coroners, gypsies and priests.

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Win, Place, or Die by Les Roberts and Dan S. Kennedy

Win, Place, or Die

A Milan Jacovich / K.O. O’Bannion Mystery (#17)

by Les Roberts and Dan S. Kennedy

$15.95

#17 in the Milan Jacovich mystery series. The sudden death of a client leads Milan and new associate Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion behind the scenes at a harness racing track, where they find no shortage of odd characters, suspicious activities . . . and danger. Racing rivals, shady workers, even a possible mob connection complicate the suspect list.

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Q & A with Terry Pluto and Tom Hamilton: “Glory Days in Tribe Town”

Pluto, Terry and Hamilton, Tom
Tom Hamilton (left) and Terry Pluto (right), authors of the book “Glory Days in Tribe Town,” in the press box of Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo (c) Dan Mendlik; Cleveland Indians.

Q&A with Tom Hamilton and Terry Pluto, authors of “Glory Days in Tribe Town”

 

Q: Many Indians fans are nostalgic for the early 1990s. Is there more nostalgia for that period than for any other time in Tribe history?

TP: The only other time would have been in the ’60s, the decade following their win at the 1948 World Series. But I think right now there is more for this era because you have a small group of fans who grew up with the Indians between ’94 and 2001 and they thought the Indians were going to be good at everything.

 

Q: Other than obviously going to the World Series, what are some of your most memorable moments from that era?

TP: Game 6, 1995, in Seattle: Dennis Martinez is facing Randy Johnson. Kenny Lofton was on second base and Johnson uncorked a fastball, which banged off the catcher’s glove. The catcher sort of trots back, expecting Lofton to go to third, but Lofton keeps going and scores from second base on a fast ball, which I think I’ve never seen before.

 

TH: That first ballgame at Jacobs Field in 1994 for the season opener with President Clinton on-hand to throw out the first pitch. I don’t think we’ve had a president since that time who has come to Cleveland to throw out the first pitch of a ballgame. And also, the fact that we were opening this ballpark that I don’t think any of us dreamed would become a reality.

 

Q: Albert Belle was one of the most volatile players mentioned in the book. Would MLB tolerate some of his behavior in 2014?

TH: I think you see in sports now that a bad attitude is accepted if a guy is performing. No matter what the sport is, we’ve seen it throughout the NFL this season. Certain guys are given more leeway because of their productivity, so I don’t think you’re ever going to have guys who are angels. But with social media everything is scrutinized more now than it ever was, which makes it more difficult.

 

Q: A Jim Thome statue was unveiled this year outside of Progressive Field. Have most fans forgiven him for leaving the team in 2002, or are many of them still bitter?

TH: I guess there are some that are still a little upset that he left, but I think that’s the nature of being a fan. They almost feel like its a personal affront to them, and that’s not really the case. It’s a business, and I think most people realize that. I think sometimes we forget how long Jim performed here in Cleveland, and the majority of his career was right here in Cleveland.

 

Q: What part did the brand new Jacobs Field play in the team’s success?

TP: First of all, no Jacobs Field, no Indians in Cleveland. That’s just a given. My guess is Dick Jacobs would have would have sold to someone else in Cleveland, and they would have sold the team to someone who was from out of town. Jacobs didn’t want to be the guy to move them out.

 

Q: Did the Indians and fans tried to hang on to the ballplayers of the early ’90s too long?

TP: The fact that fans and even the team would cling to these players is not a surprise at all because it represented the most unique and probably the most fun era of Cleveland baseball ever, period.

 

TH: I don’t think fans wanted any of those guys to leave, and rightfully so. Those were the guys who created this incredible turnaround and gave us so many great memories. They bought their jerseys; you could name the lineup, 1-9. That group of players gave this city something that they hadn’t seen since back in the ’50s.

 

Q: Why did you end your book with 1997, even though the team continued to have success in the following seasons?

TP: Tom Hamilton and I felt that after 1997 the whole thought process of the franchise had changed. Especially, there was this desperation to get back to the World Series and finally win a title. Tom called it “Feeding the beast.” They were able to perpetuate it for a few more years, but then you saw the bottom drop out and there were no young players. All these young players had been traded to try to perpetuate what they were doing to feed the beast. We do talk some about what happened after ’97, but we really didn’t want to dwell on it.

 

Q: Could the Indians ever build up as much fan energy in the future, even with a successful season?

TP: No, I don’t think they could because I think it was critical that the Browns weren’t there. The new ballpark itself created energy. The best thing you could say about the old ballpark was, “It was a dump, but it was my dump.” But after a while, you want to get out of the dump.

 

Q: Are there stories that came from the broadcasting booth that might not have been part of print media coverage, and vice versa?

TP: The book is an interesting combination of Tom Hamilton’s thoughts, interviews with twenty-some players and front office people and interviews I did with people in the late ’70s and ’80s. I predated Tom in a lot of ways, and I have this big trunk full of newspapers and stories that I kept, and I dug them out.

 

TH: I’ve been very blessed to get a major league job. I got to work with Herb Score for several years, so not only have I been blessed, I won the lottery. It was almost like I had gotten an undergrad degree, and working with Herb was like getting a master’s and a doctorate. I talk about Herb quite a bit in the book, how he influenced my career and how we announced the games of the 1990s together.

 

Q: One of the chapters is called “Tom Hamilton, An Old-Fashioned Radio Man.” What makes you “old-fashioned”?

TP: Joe Tait, the legendary broadcaster, is the one who called Tom an old-fashioned radio guy, and that is a big compliment from Joe. Hamilton kept in mind that people couldn’t see the game. He never had a big desire to do television.

 

TH: The fact that I’m old, probably! In this day and age of technology, television is still ubiquitous, as far as our lives are concerned, but I’m still a radio play-by-play guy at heart. The true medium for play-by-play is radio. When you’re doing the play-by-play on radio you truly are the eyes of the listener, and what you describe is what you are able to visualize, whereas on television, they’re just watching TV.

Price and Availability

Glory Days in Tribe Town ($15.95 / softcover / 336 pages) is available at Northeast Ohio bookstores and online at Amazon.com.

 

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Barnaby and the Boy Who Dropped the N-Bomb . . . And Other Stories Behind the Biggest Names in Cleveland TV History

cleveland-tv-tales-scStories about some of the biggest names in Cleveland television history are retold in the new book Cleveland TV Tales by Mike and Janice Olszewski. The book profiles dozens of colorful men and women who helped invent local television programming from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The book will debut at Ghoulardifest, the annual convention dedicated to Northeast Ohio TV nostalgia and pop culture, which will be held at the LaVilla Conference Center, 11500 Brookpark Rd., Cleveland, on Fri. Oct. 31 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sat. Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sun. Nov. 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The authors will autograph books throughout the convention.

Two of the best known personalities featured in “Cleveland TV Tales” are Ernie Anderson, who as “Ghoulardi,” the late-night movie host, got top ratings by trying to shock his audience, and Ron Penfound, who thought his job as genial cartoon-show host “Captain Penny” would last only a few weeks–and then stayed on the air for 16 years. Less-well-known innovators are included, too, such as confrontational talk show host Alan Douglas, who frequently baited his guests–sometimes to the brink of violence.

“These were some pretty colorful people,” Mike Olszewski said. “Maybe eccentric would be a better word. Okay, downright odd in some cases. But they were very creative.”

They had to be.

“When television broadcasting began in Cleveland, there was no formula,” Mike Olszewski said. “There wasn’t a model for regional hosts to follow. They had to use their creativity. And back then almost all TV was live, so they had to be on their toes; whatever could go wrong usually did.”

Anecdotes in the book include:

  • Linn Sheldon, as children’s host “Barnaby,” an elf, handling a young fan who casually used a racial epithet–several times–on live TV
  • Early game show host Paul Hodges, whose “Dress and Guess,” had contestants trying to figure out what famous person he was portraying before he got all his clothes on
  • Late night host “Big” Wilson purchasing a wild wallaby to live on his yacht and serve as KYW TV’s mascot (because he couldn’t get a kangaroo)
  • Tough-as-nails news commentator Dorothy Fuldheim irritating various celebrities, including NFL star Joe Namath (she didn’t recognize him), political activist Jerry Rubin (she threw him off her set, on-air), and comedian Richard Pryor (they argued about poverty on “The Tonight Show”).

Dan O’Shannon, the writer/producer of “Cheers” and “Modern Family” and a Cleveland native, wrote the book’s foreword. In it, he refers to Cleveland’s early TV professionals as, “pioneers, a community of inspired, dedicated, artistic, lucky and just plain insane human beings.”

“Cleveland TV Tales: Stories from the Golden Age of Local Television” (Gray & Co.; $15.95; softcover; 187 pages; 60 photos) is available at Northeast Ohio bookstores and online from Amazon.com. More information at www.grayco.com.

About the Authors:
Mike and Janice Olszewski are a husband-and-wife team. Mike is a veteran Cleveland radio and television personality and the curator and archivist for the Ohio Broadcast Archive and Museum. He teaches media and communications at Kent State University, the University of Akron and Notre Dame College and is the author of two books about radio: “Radio Days” and “WIXY 1260.” Janice has more than three decades’ experience in the travel and tourism industry. Her photography has been published in “Filmfax,” “Outre,” and other national magazines.