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A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own is the best kind of Hollywood feel-good movie. You know what they’re trying to do to you, playing all the right emotional cords and the Oscar-bait performances, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who penned City Slickers and Splash, and director Penny Marshall (Big) are responsible for this script should make sense. The movie is feel-good, enjoyable, and, as cliché as it is to say, has a nice message. The drama is never too dramatic and the comedy never too silly; the tone strikes the perfect balance for a light evening of cinematic pleasure, and the historical context sheds light on a previously overlooked part of Americana.

It’s 1943 and most of baseball is off fighting the war, so the MLB owners start a women’s baseball league to try and stay afloat. Chicago candy tycoon Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall) hires scouts to search for women who can play ball. On a dairy farm in Oregon, Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) finds two sisters, Dottie and Kit (Geena Davis and Lori Petty), a catcher and fast ball pitcher. Dottie makes the Rockford Peaches and only agrees to come on if they take Kit as well. The team is rounded out by a cast of characters including “All-the-Way” May (Madonna), former bouncer Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell), and shy heavy-hitter Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh). Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), a reluctant, alcoholic, washed-up player, is hired to coach. The film follows the ladies through their training, bonding, and personal and professional trials and tribulations.

The ensemble film is perfectly cast, every actress/actor fitting their role effortlessly, and even the smaller parts are stand-out performances. Some of the supporting characters come off as one-dimensional, but the leads (Davis, Petty, and Hanks) are nicely rounded. The sisterly relationship is the true core of the film, and both Davis and Petty are relatable and believable; Dottie as the too good and too cool older sister and Kit as the frustrated younger sibling seeking independence. For Davis, this was the perfect follow-up to Thelma and Louise (1991); she moved from feminist parable to unknown, historical feminist trailblazer.

In a world where Hollywood still refuses to distribute films about and for women that are not about men, League is a refreshing look back to a very brief time in the ’90s where women were given a few different stories to go see in the multiplex. League is still a great film for young girls to see, especially those interested in sports. Although this is lighthearted fare, it does teach a bit about women’s changing roles in the 1940s. The All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League was baseball’s version of Rosie the Riveter, another movement of women into roles previously occupied by men. Again, while comedic, the film plays out the different responses to this new position among women at the time. Dottie doesn’t recognize this as anything revolutionary, she is just passing the time until her husband comes home. While May sees baseball as an escape from a life devoid of real professional and life choices. Kit is merely trying to prove that she is separate from and equal to her sister. The women on the team who lack confidence or purpose find it through sports.

“There’s no crying in baseball” is the ultimate mantra and metaphor for life.


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