Actor Charlie Sheen wanted to reprise his role as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to throw out the first pitch before a World Series game. The Cleveland Indians made the right call in not allowing it to happen.
There have been some iconic movies made about the game of baseball, from Pride of the Yankees to The Bad News Bears, Bull Durham to Field of Dreams. But from the perspective of a Cleveland Indians fan, is there any question that the greatest baseball movie of all-time is Major League?
In the wake of the Indians reaching the World Series for the first time since 1997, actor Charlie Sheen, whose brash, ex-con character Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn was the star, had an idea for reprising that iconic role: throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a World Series game at Progressive Field.
The reaction to Sheen’s tweet was mixed, ranging from unbridled joy at the possibility to absolute disgust. The 51-year old has a checkered past, but the motorcycle-riding, bad haircut-having, skull and crossbones glasses-wearing misfit he brought to life in Major League is an indelible part of Cleveland’s cinematic history.
Reports on Friday threw water on the idea, though. According to ESPN, Major League Baseball has been working with the Indians’ organization to find former franchise greats to participate in the long-standing tradition. There was never any word that the club had considered Sheen in the first place, but even if it had, it’s not going to happen.
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I’m just one person, but I believe this to be the correct decision.
Major League was released when I was just reaching that age where the misery of being a Cleveland sports fan was beginning to set in and impact my overall personality. I had watched the The Drive and The Fumble and spent countless days at old Municipal Stadium experiencing an Indians team that seemed to invent ways to lose ballgames (and The Shot was a mere one month away from being seared into my memory).
So I understand what the movie and Sheen’s character means to people. To this day, I will argue until I’m blue in the face that Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and Eight Men Out are excellent films, but Major League is the pinnacle of cinematic baseball achievement.
The Cleveland franchise in the film, much like the real-life version we have here in 2016, defied all odds to become successful. The fictional parallels cannot be denied.
That said, I don’t want to see Sheen anywhere near this Indians team or this World Series.
We live in a time when the intersection of sports and societal issues is at a tipping point as concerns domestic violence and violence against women, and allowing someone with a history of it to take center stage before the game’s biggest event would not only be terrible optics and marketing, it would run counter to everything Major League Baseball says it stands for.
Domestic violence issues in baseball have grabbed tons of headlines this year between suspensions served by Aroldis Chapman and Jose Reyes. Over in football, the NFL is now facing a situation with New York Giants’ kicker Josh Brown and his domestic violence history, and has issued suspensions to others in the past, most notably Greg Hardy. Both MLB and the NFL have made strong statements condemning such behavior, and have policies in place to punish those who engage in such behavior.
Sheen has his own history, as laid out by John Tayler of Sports Illustrated:
"In 2009, he was arrested in Aspen, Colo., on charges of assaulting his third wife, Brooke Mueller; he pled guilty to misdemeanor assault. In 2016, Sheen was reportedly under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department for threatening to kill Scottine Ross, a former fiancee. There’s also the time back in 1990 when he accidentally shot fiancee Kelly Preston in the arm, and the multiple accusations of violence from Mueller and second wife Denise Richards."
There is simply no place for Sheen anywhere near the World Series. For MLB to speak so strongly against DV and VAW on the one hand, only to celebrate an actor with a history of it, regardless of how awesome the movie or his character was, would have been disingenuous at best and deplorable at worst.
The Tribe doesn’t need Sheen, anyways. There are countless people associated with the city and the team that have no such history. There are franchise alumni from the great runs in the 1990s, the last living member of the 1948 World Championship club, and a title-winning, drought-destroying Cavaliers team full of players that have showed up at Progressive Field throughout the season to support the team that would all help whip the crowd into a frenzy (not going to take much anyways), and not leave the Indians’ organization and MLB scrambling to handle a public relations fiasco.
Cleveland had a choice to make, and it was one certain to elicit an emotional response regardless of the ultimate decision. Major League and the Wild Thing have become a part of the city’s and the Tribe’s identity. But Ricky Vaughn is a just character, and in the real world of 2016, the Indians don’t need Sheen to generate excitement.