Following months of requests relayed by publicists and friends, Charlie Sheen finally returned SI's call on the eve of deadline. And once you get the former Two and a Half Men star's attention, he's happy to chitchat as long as you desire -- especially if the subject is baseball.
SI: It seems like you're a guy who takes this sport seriously.
Sheen: I do, man. It's not just a hobby, it's a religion. All I watch is MLB. I don't care what's going on in the friggin' world. This is what's going on in the world. Baseball is all that matters. Matt Joyce destroyed a ball in Tampa! Who the f--- is Matt Joyce? There is an incoming wave of talent that is just unbelievable. This kid Brennan Boesch, he's f------ gnarly. And who's this K.C. first baseman? Eric Hosmer? He's a monster. And the Nats? They hit like a hundred home runs in half an inning! It's insane.
SI: What team do you follow?
Sheen: I'm a Reds fan from way back. My dad [actor Martin Sheen] is from Dayton. I followed them in '75 and '76 [when they won back-to-back World Series]. I'm also a Yankees fan. So '76 was a bit of a dichotomy for me. That year was a sweep. How 'bout that? [Cincinnati] took Philly in three and the Yanks in four.
SI: The Big Red Machine?
Sheen: Yeah, but that was a Reggie Jackson-less Yankees team, so I was a Reds fan. Then I became such a Reggie Jackson fan that I taught myself how to hit lefthanded as a kid. He became a friend of mine later on.
SI: What kind of ball did you play as a kid?
Sheen: I played at Santa Monica High -- pitcher and shortstop -- but because of academic s---, they pulled me off the team. I used to go to this place in Missouri, called the Mickey Owen Baseball School. I saw an ad in The Sporting News or Baseball Digest when I was in high school. I went to get scouted. But I looked at the talent there and knew I couldn't do it for a living. I think my baseball career would have been spent riding buses, not jets, if you know what I mean. So I figured, Hey, I'll pursue a real idiot's job instead. Acting!
SI: How close were you to getting scouted?
Sheen: There was a coach there who had a cup of coffee with Baltimore, and he made some calls and some guys came out. I got a half ride to a junior college, and if my grades improved I might have gone on to the University of Kansas. That would have been cool. In high school the talent is good, but you don't get a chance to look at the overall spectrum. That's what a baseball camp did. Suddenly I'm facing this kid who had just signed with the Phillies, and he's throwing 98 with lefthanded zip. He strikes his first two guys out on six pitches. Four of them curveballs that just come out of the parking lot. I got to see guys who were going to do it for a living. And knew I couldn't do it for a living.
SI: So when you got the script for Major League it must have been catnip.
Sheen: When I saw the script it wasn't like catnip, it was like crack. I was going to a premiere, and I had a meeting with David Ward in the morning, so I had the script in the limo, and I was late because I couldn't put it down. Then I sat in the driveway for an hour to finish it. It was probably as good a script as Platoon, seriously. There are films you look at and say, That was a perfect movie because every element found itself. A film like The Professional and maybe something like Risky Business -- it may be a little cheesy but it follows up on every loose end in the script. Anyway, this felt like that kind of movie.
SI: Tell me about training with former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager before the start of filming.
Sheen: We flew into Beaufort, S.C., where Tom lived. I had been throwing pretty good out here in L.A. And you know, Steve is Berenger in the movie half the time.
SI: Under the catcher's mask, I heard that.
Sheen: Yeah, anytime a throw looks good, that's Steve Yeager. We were practicing on some high school field, and I'd been a shortstop and I was like, "All right, Yeags, let's see what you got." So I have him throw one down to second base. I go over to cover, and he throws a downhill 90 mile-an-hour strike that if the pitcher doesn't duck he's dead. And it's two inches off the ground, an inch in front of the corner of the bag. A dart! It's insane.
SI: That must have been a rush.
Sheen: I just love this game. I study it, and it lives within me.
SI: What did Yeager help you with?
Sheen: Attitude, mound presence, confidence. It wasn't like we had to get to a place where I have to hit spots on the black at three in the morning.
SI: Was your arm just hanging off by the end?
Sheen: Oh, yeah. Unlike having a four- or five-man rotation, there was no pitch count, which is ruining baseball. I had to throw 150 pitches in a night and turn it around the next day. I was like, "Guys, do you know why they have a five-man rotation? So you can heal!" They said, "Look, we've only got the stadium for four nights with the fans." I would stop at the doctor's on the way to work for cortisone shots and anti-inflammatories.
SI: What was it like coming out of the bullpen with 28,000 people chanting "Wild Thing?"
Sheen: At the risk of being arrogant or grandiose, you have to admit that when Wild Thing comes in to get that final out, it's one of the great sports entrances of all time. It was four in the morning, and I had been in the bullpen nodding off. This is pre-opiates-just good old-fashioned fatigue. It was so late that a lot of the extras had gone home. If you really slow the movie down and look, you can see cutouts of people in the stands.
SI: I've seen the movie 20 times and never noticed it.
Sheen: Yeah. Did you know about the digital enhancement on the warning track ball that Wesley [Snipes] grabs? This is before all the CGI stuff. Wesley caught it, but you couldn't see it on film. So they literally had to paint a ball on 160 frames so you could see it.
SI: Who else could play in the cast of Major League?
Sheen: Cerrano. Dennis Haysbert could hit it a country mile. Big strong guy.
SI: After the movie came out the whole notion of a closer entering to a theme song became a thing?
Sheen: David invented that. I'm very proud of that. I wasn't the brains behind it. Mitch Williams, that f---ing guy never gave me credit. Come on, dude; you're coming out to the Wild Thing song? You changed your number? Can I get a little nod?
SI: David Ward, the director, said you didn't like Wild Thing's lightning bolt haircut.
Sheen: Because we were going out to bars and hanging out and having a great time on the movie. Speaking of which, what are we going to do about James Gammon, man? That f---ing ass---- goes and dies on us. James Gammon? You want to talk about a Viking? An absolute f---ing warlock? This guy shows up one morning, and he's so hung over that he has the bar still attached to his head. I've never seen a man in this much pain trying to make a cup of coffee. I said, "Bro, I'm a veteran of these wars. Anything I can do to help you?" He said, "If you could just bring me 6 p.m., everything would be good." He just wanted the day to end. He was an awesome dude.
SI: Your costars say that you had a revolving door of women flying in to the set.
Sheen: Well, it wasn't as bad as on Young Guns [a year earlier]. We made that one in Santa Fe, and you would fly into Albuquerque and drive to Santa Fe on this two-lane highway. Literally, the girls that were leaving would pass the ones coming in. Major League was so physically demanding that you didn't have a lot of time for that. I couldn't even open doors at one point. You're lying in bed at four in the morning, and everything hurts, and you're thinking, I have to pitch tomorrow? I may have to go Dock Ellis on the whole thing! But there were certain days that we'd look at the schedule for the next day and be like, "Gentlemen, tonight we ride." Then my room got burglarized, and they stole my gun. God, I forgot about that.
SI: You never told me why you didn't like the haircut.
Sheen: I didn't like the haircut because it generated so many comments in bars. I've got enough of that already. Add that to the mix, and it's a recipe for a fistfight. I was already bitchy because -- let's just say that I was enhancing my performance a little bit. It was the only time I ever did steroids. I did it for like six or eight weeks. You can print this, I don't give a f---. My fastball went from 79 to like 85.
Sheen: But my ass---- meter went pretty high also.
SI: 'Roid rage?
Sheen: Well, I wasn't doing enough to be completely insane -- just a little bitchier than normal. When you combine the haircut with all of those comments, you've got a recipe for disaster.
SI: What made you want to take steroids for the film?
Sheen: It was all ego, vanity. I think it led to my arm problems because it doesn't enhance the strength of the tendons and ligaments, it just makes the muscles bigger.
SI: Do you think guys are still taking them?
Sheen: I'm a purist so I don't mind a pitcher's duel. I'll get into that. But a lot of people go to the park to see a ball hit 600 feet. You can't do that without a little help. I think they should do it like how they handled the spitball in the 1920s -- every team could have one spitballer. You should be able to have one guy on your team that's a total f---ing- steroid maniac. Just to make it even.
SI: An interesting proposal.
Sheen: It's all entertainment, man. It didn't use to be. But now, with all of the corporate influence, God forbid, they name a stadium after a team and not a bank. The game's changed, but it hasn't. The elements are still the same. It's leather, grass, dirt and a wooden bat.
SI: Would you do another sequel?
Sheen: I'm in. F---, yeah. Why not? I think enough time has gone by. People don't remember that third one. I don't think they embrace that as part of the franchise.
SI: If they even know it exists.
Sheen: Thank you!
SI: Everyone in the cast I spoke to says they'd do it.
Sheen: Right on. Let me tell you a story. We had this party at my place a few months ago to watch Major League. It was awesome. The beard was there -- Brian Wilson, from the Giants. We had Eddie Murray and Kenny Lofton. And I got David Ward to introduce the film. Colin Farrell showed up. And when my big strikeout at the end comes on, the place goes nuts like we've never even seen the movie before. I'm in between my two girlfriends, and I look over and there's Colin Farrell giving me a thumbs-up. I reach behind me for a fist bump from Brian Wilson, who goes, "Winning!" I'm telling you, David Ward created a baseball classic, and baseball is all that matters in the world. You know, I always wonder what I'm going to be in the middle of when I die. And I just hope it's not in the middle of the greatest f---ing pennant race ever.
SI: Are you training now?
Sheen: I'm training. Check this out: Todd Zeile's a buddy of mine. Sixteen years, 11 teams. He has a real Forrest Gump relationship with the game. He's connected to everything. I'll just come up with a random name, like, Remember Benny Ayala? And he'll go, "Funny story about me and Benny." He's got a cosmic linkup with everyone. Anyhow, I was throwing with Todd Zeile, and he's got such late acceleration -- his s--- gets on you so fast. It's like zzzip, and it's up in your grill. So I try to match him, and there's this twang in my elbow. The ulnar tendon. So hopefully I've got enough time to fix that before we start. There's a little pain, but pain's a part of life. Hey, did you see the ball Nelson Cruz hit?
SI: When? I wish I could watch as much baseball as you.
Sheen: Sorry, I don't have a lot to do right now. They took my day job. Four nights ago, Nelson Cruz hit this bomb in Minnesota. It was bananas. Do you have enough for your story?
SI: I had enough 20 minutes ago. Now I'm just listening to you tell stories.
Sheen: All right then. Now we have to go catch a game together sometime. Stay in touch.