as: Jake Taylor
Major League is probably the best baseball movie ever. (Feel free to debate that one in the comments, gang.) Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), and the rest of the ragtag Cleveland Indians of the film are the most beloved cinematic baseball team this side of the Rockford Peaches. One player, however, should’ve been subbed out for a free agent signing.
Take a seat on the bench, Tom Berenger. We’re sending in Tom Wopat as veteran catcher and team leader Jake Taylor.
Truthfully, there wouldn’t be many changes needed to the script or any other aspects of the film with Wopat in the Jake Taylor role. Wopat is two years younger than Berenger, but at 38 (at the time Major League was filmed) he still would’ve been old for a professional athlete. At 6’1”, Wopat is two inches taller than Berenger, and slightly taller than the average catcher (they tend to be shorter because all the squatting they do game in and game out can take a toll on the knees), but that’s not of much significance in a movie version of baseball.
Of the two Toms, Berenger was arguably the bigger star in 1989, having won a Golden Globe and been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Platoon just three years prior. However, Wopat was just four years removed from massive television success in The Dukes of Hazzard, which ended its run in 1985.
Nevertheless, as the film’s premise was based on the Cleveland Indians team being made up of unknown players and former stars, casting Wopat would’ve actually made more sense. There were multiple actors in the cast who went on to greater success shortly thereafter, just as their characters did (Snipes being the most notable example). Ergo, casting an actor who may have been seen as a few years past his prime* to play a ballplayer in the same situation would’ve been quite fitting.
Ultimately, we just want to watch Tom Wopat run around in a baseball uniform. To answer our question in the header above: Why the heck not Wopat?
* IRL, Tom Wopat is, and never will be, past his prime. “In his prime” is the only level he has or ever will operate on.