A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own

“There’s no crying in baseball!”

The sacrifices of women during WWII don’t always get the attention they deserve. In many ways, they were the unsung heroes of the era, raising children while working tirelessly in the factories. It turns out, they even kept the national pastime going, while the men fought on the other side of the globe. In 1992, director Penny Marshall decided to share the story of this little-known (and real-life) All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the hit 1992 comedy, A League of Their Own. With an all star cast featuring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna and a show stealing cameo by Jon Lovitz, the result was both charming and funny, and overall, a rather poignant look at the brave women who sacrificed much to save the game of baseball.

With America’s professional baseball players busy fighting the axis forces, baseball is in danger of becoming a mere memory, something that doesn’t sit too well with candy manufacturer, Walter Harvey. With few money-making options available to him, he decides to send a baseball scout, Ernie Capadino (Lovitz) to find enough talented, and beautiful women ballplayers to create a league of their own.

Ernie’s travels take him to an Oregon farm, where he finds exactly what he is looking for in Dotty Hinson, who hits, catches, and has the pretty looks to keep any fan interested. Problem is, Dotty is married and has no interest in this venture. Her sister Kit sure does though, even if she isn’t as talented as her big sister. Unfortunately, Ernie isn’t interested in Kit, but he tells her that if she gets her big sis to join the league, she can come along as well. Soon, both women are traveling with the scout, and along the way they find a female Babe Ruth named Marla, who might not be the prettiest, but can hit a ball as far as any man. Still, without the looks, Ernie takes a pass, until Dottie and Kit threaten to quit. Realizing this is a losing battle, Ernie hires them all and it is off to Chicago for tryouts.

The women end up on the Rockford Peaches, one of four teams, along with two tough talking New York girls, Doris Murphy (O’Donnell) and Mae Mordabito (Madonna.) It looks to be a very strong team except there is a small hitch. The man chosen to manage them is a drunken has-been baseball hero named Jimmy Dugan (Hanks) and he has no interest in giving any of them the time of day. And so, on most days, Dottie takes the role of manager and Jimmy sleeps off his stupor. When the team stars proving their mettle though, Jimmy finally pulls himself together, realizing that these women play hard and deserve respect – perhaps more than the league or the fans are willing to give them.

All of the players get enrolled in etiquette classes to ensure they remain ladylike, are given ultra-short uniforms and followed around constantly by a chaperone. And the fans? Well, they generally consider the women athletes a joke, causing attendance numbers to remain underwhelming. As a result, it looks like the league’s days are numbered, until a visit from a Life magazine reporter prompts Dottie to show off a little for the camera, doing a seductive split while making a perfect catch. Her mug is soon plastered on the cover of the magazine, and now the ballplayers have the attention from the sports-starved populace.

Things are looking up for the women’s league, and it’s time for a little celebrating. So, after poisoning their chaperone, the girls all head out to a nightclub for a little swing dancing, where a very inebriated Marla meets the man of her dreams. Soon after, she is off tying the knot but Kit and Dottie aren’t quite as happy. Their sibling rivalry has become an epic battle which reaches a climax when the overly jealous Kit is removed from a game after her pitching loses its luster. A battle between the two ensues and Dottie decides she has had enough of baseball and wants to go back to her normal life. Nervous at the prospect of losing a player with such drawing power, the owner of the team trades Dottie to another team, the Racine Belles. Kit is now out for revenge as she is convinced Dottie had her traded. Their rivalry reaches epic proportions as the two teams eventually face each other in the championships.

With a cast of colorful characters and an endearing, often tear-jerking story, A League of Their Own served up a grand slam at the box office, and with critics alike. The film rose to #1 in its second week of release and eventually earned over $100 million. It served as a reminder of an oft-forgotten era and helped to inspire young girls to follow their dreams, even if those dreams don’t fit a traditional gender role and even if they are met with disapproval. It was a message that Penny Marshall managed to capture perfectly, while keeping audiences thoroughly entertained along the way. A television series was produced in 1993, which reunited a number of members of the original cast, including Lovitz and Marshall’s brother Gary, who played Walter Harvey. Unfortunately, it didn’t last nearly as long as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – which itself didn’t last very long. Still, the film endures, both for its wit and its endearing and important message.

If you were a fan of this charming 90s movie, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts in our comments section below, as we tip the cap to Penny Marshall and the wonderful cast of A League of Their Own. here at Retroland.

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