A League of Their Own

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1992, an elderly, widowed Dottie Hinson reluctantly attends the opening of the new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. She sees many of her former teammates and friends, prompting a flashback to 1943.

When World War II threatens to shut down Major League Baseball, candy magnate and Chicago Cubs owner Walter Harvey creates a women’s league to make money. Ira Lowenstein is put in charge and Ernie Capadino is sent out to recruit players.

Capadino goes to an industrial-league softball game in rural Oregon and likes what he sees in the catcher, Dottie. She is a terrific hitter and very attractive. He offers her a tryout, but she is content working in a dairy and on the family farm while her husband, Bob, fights in the war. He is less impressed with her younger sister, pitcher Kit Keller, who is desperate to go. He lets her come along when she persuades Dottie to change her mind. He also checks out Marla Hooch, a great switch-hitting slugger in Fort Collins, Colorado. Because Marla is unattractive, he rejects her, but relents when Dottie and Kit refuse to go on without her and her father makes an impassioned plea.

When the trio arrive at the tryouts in Chicago, they meet taxi dancer “All the Way” Mae Mordabito and her best friend, Doris Murphy, both tough-talking New Yorkers; soft-spoken right fielder Evelyn Gardner; illiterate and shy left fielder Shirley Baker; and pitcher and former Miss Georgia Ellen Sue Gotlander. They and eight others are selected to form the Rockford Peaches, while 48 others are split among the Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.

The Peaches are managed by Jimmy Dugan, a former marquee Cubs slugger who lost his career due to alcohol. Drunk and self-pitying, he neglects managerial chores. Dottie acts as captain-manager until Jimmy wakes from his stupor and begins to give and earn her respect, the team’s, and his own.

The league attracts little interest at first. Lowenstein tells the Peaches that the owners are having second thoughts. With a Life magazine photographer attending a game, Lowenstein begs them to do something spectacular. Dottie obliges when a ball is popped up behind home plate, catching it while doing a split. The resulting photograph makes the cover of the magazine. A publicity campaign draws more people to the ballgames, but the owners remain unconvinced.

As the Peaches establish themselves as the class of the league, the sibling rivalry between sisters Dottie and Kit intensifies: Kit resents being overshadowed by Dottie. Things come to a head when Jimmy pulls Kit for a relief pitcher on Dottie’s advice. After a heated argument between Dottie and Kit, Dottie tells Lowenstein she is thinking about quitting. Horrified at the prospect of losing his star, Lowenstein promises to arrange a trade and sends Kit to Racine, much to her dismay. She blames Dottie for the trade and has another argument with her before departing.

Prior to a game, the Peaches’ utility player, Betty “Spaghetti” Horn, is informed that her husband has been killed in action in the Pacific Theatre; the same evening, Dottie’s husband Bob appears, having been honorably discharged after being wounded in Italy. The following morning, Jimmy discovers that Dottie is returning to Oregon with Bob. He tells her she will regret her decision.

The team continues without Dottie, and makes it to the World Series against Kit’s Racine Belles. The Belles initially take a 3-1 lead in the series before the Peaches win twice in a row to force a deciding seventh game. Dottie unexpectedly rejoins the team for the game. Racine leads 1-0 going into the ninth inning when Dottie hits Kit’s pitch over her head, driving in two runs. Kit comes up to bat with her team trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two out. Dottie tells Ellen Sue about Kit’s weakness for chasing high fastballs. After swinging at and missing the first two pitches, Kit hits a line drive into left-center field and rounds the bases, ignoring a stop signal from the third base coach. Dottie fields the throw to the plate, but Kit slams into her, knocking the ball out of her hand to score the winning run. The sellout crowd convinces Harvey to give Lowenstein the owners’ support. After the game, the sisters reconcile before Dottie leaves to raise a family.

In the present day, Mae and Doris spot Dottie and confirm her identity with a throw that she catches barehanded as on her first arrival at the 1943 tryouts. She is reunited with several other players, including Kit, whom she hasn’t seen in several years. The fates of several of the characters are revealed: Jimmy, Bob and Evelyn have died, while Marla has been married to Nelson, one of the team’s groupies, for over 40 years. The Peaches sing their team song composed by one of them and pose for a group photo.

REVIEW:

Baseball season just started, so I figured it was time to watch a baseball movie. I’ve been meaning to go back and watch one of my favorite baseball films, A League of Their Own, for quite some time and since it just came back on instant streaming, the timing couldn’t be better. I have fond memories of this film, but do those memories stand the test of time, as it has been a few years since I last watched this picture.

What is this about?

Two small-town sisters join an all-female baseball league formed when World War II brings professional baseball to a standstill. As their team hits the road with its drunken coach, the siblings find troubles and triumphs on and off the field.

What did I like?

Spotlight. Everybody knows about the major and minor leagues and most have at least heard of the Negro leagues, especially after watching 42, but during WWII, there was almost a complete shutdown of baseball. In an effort to keep the game going while our boys (now our grandfathers and great-grandfathers) were away fighting the good fight, an idea was tossed out there to have a women’s baseball league, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. To my knowledge, this film is the only time the league has received any kind of spotlight, and for that this film is remarkable and historically significant.

Cast. The cast that was assembled for this film is outstanding. They play their roles perfectly, all without seeming as if they need something more. Geena Davis is the star, no doubt, but there is no underestimating the strong performance of Tom Hanks, and great support from the likes of Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty (more on her later). Watching this I really felt as if they took that old adage, “There is no ‘I’ in team”, to heart.

Respect. Bookending the film are modern day segments that show the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame opening a wing for the Girls’ League. Two things about this, first the actress they got to play the older version of Geena Davis’ character is a dead ringer for her. I’ve always thought that was actually her, but in makeup, rather than another actress. Kudos to the casting director for finding that lady. Second, in the ending credits, we see actual women that played in the league back in the day playing baseball as Madonna’s most beautiful song, “This Used to Be My Playground” plays. What can I say, other than this was a masterful piece of directing by Penny Marshall.

What didn’t I like?

Teams. I know there weren’t many teams, but it seems like the Rockford Peaches were always playing the Racine Belles. Almost every game the team they were playing were wearing those yellow and brown uniforms. Eventually, in montage form, we see them play some other clubs, but it all comes back to Racine in the end. I have to wonder what the obsession with Belles was. The other teams should have received a bit more attention, in my eyes.

Nuisance. Little sister Lori Petty does nothing but bitch and moan about being her sister’s shadow the whole movie. I can understand her pain to a certain extent, but there is no reason to keep going on and on and on and on and on….about it. There comes a point where she went from the plucky little sister to a nuisance, and I already wasn’t a fan of her character, so that didn’t help, either.

Mean girls. Compared to Geena Davis and some of the other girls in the film, Megan Cavanagh is not as pretty, many would agree with that, but the way the film constantly points that out is unnecessary and cruel. Pretty much from the moment she is introduced all the film does is use her looks as a joke. At one point they even show close-ups of all the girls, but when it comes to her they show her from a distance. A friend of mine pointed out, she doesn’t look that much different from Rosie O’Donnell, and yet there was no shame in showing plenty of scenes with her. At least they found a guy for Cavanagh and they got married because I am sure the jokes at the expense of her looks would have kept going.

Reading some reviews of A League of Their Own, there is apparently some debate about whether or not this is a chick flick. I actually asked a couple of my female friends about this and it was 50/50 on both sides. That debate will keep going for quite some time, I believe. In the meantime, I cannot think of any reason to not recommend this film, so rather than waste words, I’m just going to say check it out!

5 out of 5 stars

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3 Responses to “A League of Their Own”

  1. […] it deserved nominations, though. Do I recommend this film? Yes, especially if you like films like A League of Their Own. If that sounds like something up your alley and you are a fan of Mary Poppins, you have to check […]

  2. […] Old and fake. Hollywood just cannot make people look genuinely old. In present day, James Caan and Bette Midler are in their 90s, yet with their make up on, they look like puppets. Who ever it was that did this makeup job needs to be fired! I have never seen old people that look like that! Wouldn’t have just been easier to find a couple of old farts that somewhat resemble them a la A League of their Own? […]

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