One of the greatest baseball movies of all time wasn’t played with men as the lead actors but was with women. In 1992, Penny Marshall directed A League Of Their Own. To this date it is one of the most highly regarded baseball movies of all-time and was set in a time in which there was a chance that baseball was put in the backburner to World War II. At this moment in time, while a lot of the men were out fighting the war there were a lot of the women home taking care of their families. Cub’s owner Walter Harvey (Gary Marshall) decides to talk other owners of the Major League Baseball to create a women’s baseball league to help fill the void. This movie helps capture this moment in time with a story of two competitive sisters, memorable supporting characters, and great acting.
The heart of this film rests on sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit Hinson’s (Lori Petty) competitive nature and love for each other. The movie starts off with the two going back and forth about Kit’s batting while scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) looks on and determines that Dottie is the player he wants on his team for this new big-league team. Dottie refuses but it’s Kit that insists this is her chance to get away. Ernie tells Kit that if she talks Dottie into playing than they both can play, and she does. Throughout the movie there is a glaring difference between the two’s talent level and Dottie is a star while Kit is too stuck in playing the game her own way and often does not rise to the challenge. Kit begins to become very resentful of Dottie’s success to the point that she is traded to a new team. The movie makes it apparently clear that if each sister could trade places, that they would, and that Dottie would be just as happy at home waiting on her husband to come back from the war. It’s this moment in the movie that you wish the two could have just made up and kept winning on the Peaches. But what would be the fun it that; there had to be a rivalry with a climax that pays off this rivalry. Both sisters meet up In the World Series and the rivalry is settled. Watching this the first time, I had wished it went the other way but after repeat viewing it is a very satisfying conclusion.
The best movies have supporting characters that help carry a movie. Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), the Peaches manager who is an alcoholic has some of the best moments of the movie. He starts off treating the whole thing as a joke and then begins to warm up to the team. Everything from taking an extended pee in front of the girls to yelling there’s no crying in baseball to one of the girls is some movie magic. There’s also the teammates of the Peaches that include Mae Mordabito (Madonna), Doris Murphy (Rosie O’ Donnell), and Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh) who also become the heart of the movie as well. Their all dealing with their own issues on the field and off the field that really help audiences want to rally around them. Mae helps a fellow player how to read, Doris keeps the team engaged, and Marla finally feels comfortable in her own skin and marries a man. The team becomes a sisterhood, and they all keep each other accountable.
The acting in this movie is what make this film tick. Before the movie even started filming; all the actors had to spend eight hours a day, six days a week doing baseball drills so that the movie looks realistic. Penny Marshall wanted the film to look very authentic. Geena Davis was a perfect choice as Dottie because she does a good job of coming off as a talented baseball player and you feel like her character is genuine. Tom Hanks is a scene stealer who injects the movie with a sense of sarcasm and charm that it would be hard to imagine anyone else playing the part. Rosie O’Donnell also steals scenes with her comedic timing and her heartwarming scenes of reacting to the huge stage they were playing on. Madonna has some good moments too but at the time this came out may have been more of a distraction based off her popular music career. Even some of the smaller parts like Jon Lovitz and Garry Marshall all do a good job with what they are given. Davis has even said that a lot of the women playing baseball in scenes suffered ripped off skin from sliding home in continuous takes. All the hard work and research done in these characters really shown through the actor’s great work.
In the end, this movie packs an emotional punch with the characters returning over 40 years later to open an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. We than see the characters reminiscing and we see the fates of these characters and they all sing their team’s song one last time together. It’s movie moments like this that we remember why we love the game of baseball and why we love playing baseball and that’s because we loved playing the game with our teammates. A league of their own does a good job of letting us remember the spirit of being young and making the game about our love with it by giving us a good story of two sisters, memorable supporting characters and great acting!
Rating: Grand Slam! 5 out of 5 stars.