Turn Back The Clock

Movie Review

A League of Their Own

Distributed By: Columbia Pictures


Reviewed by Melissa Minners

 

            As a child, I dreamed of becoming the first woman to play professional baseball in the United States.  The boys I played ball with told me time and time again that it could never happen.  Women don’t play professional baseball.  But, let’s face it, these same guys had also told me that girls can’t play ball…that is, until they noticed my talent at hitting and catching.  And the fact that I always had a ball on me was an added plus. 

            As I got older, my love for baseball never waned, but my need for a decent paying job necessitated that I give up my dream of playing in the major leagues.  Then, the movie A League of Their Own hit the theaters and I was vindicated!  All those years, I had been told that a woman never had nor ever will play for a professional baseball team.  Well, imagine my surprise to learn it was all a lie!

            During World War II, with so many men fighting the war effort overseas, women were counted on to pick up the slack, working in factories and other jobs once considered “men only” professions.  Even major league baseball suffered, losing a great deal of its players to the war effort.  Dozens of players signed up to join the fight, leaving many of the major league teams suffering for lack of decent, well-trained ball players.  Baseball owners were in a real pickle.  And then one shrewd owner, realizing how much he stood to lose should baseball completely shut down during the war, came up with a revolutionary idea.  Why not create a professional womens baseball league?  The rest is history.

            A League of Their Own takes place in 1943, the very first year of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  It centers primarily around two sisters who work at a dairy during the day, carry out chores at their own farm at night, and somewhere in between, find time to play on the dairy’s baseball team.  Dottie Hinson is a catcher and a fine hitter for the team.  Her younger sister, Kit, is a pitcher with a penchant for swinging at high fastballs…and missing them. 

            When baseball scout Ernie Capadino approaches Dottie and asks her to go to the AAGPBL tryouts, she’s reluctant to do so.  After all, she has responsibilities at home, at the dairy, and she is awaiting the return of her husband who is off fighting in the war.  She is also put off by the idea that the league is looking for women who can play that just happen to be decent in the good looks department as well.  Capadino strikes a deal with younger sister Kit, telling her that if she can convince Dottie to try out, he’ll take Kit, too.  Kit begs Dottie to take her to the tryouts insisting that nothing will ever truly happen for her in their little town in Oregon.

            Dottie and Kit travel to tryouts in Chicago and eventually become members of the Rockford Peaches, learning how to play in skimpy uniforms, taking courses in charm and etiquette, and dealing with their manager Jimmy Dugan, once a baseball great, now nothing more than a lush.  Talent, looks and charm aren’t enough to draw crowds, so the Peaches create spectacular stunts to promote the league and make it a success.  But when sibling rivalry rears its ugly head midseason, will the bond that brought Dottie and Kit into this fledgling league be severed for good?

            A League of Their Own is a fictitious movie about the women’s professional baseball era.  Thus, some of the facts are slightly altered.  For one thing, chewing gum mogul Philip Wrigley was the genius behind the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, but in the movie the credit was given to a fictitious character named Walter Harvey, a candy bar mogul.  The teams are real, but the teams that made it to the championships in the movie, were a tad different than the ones that actually participated in 1943, obviously to create a more interesting storyline. 

            Despite these changes, Director Penny Marshall was determined to make this movie as genuine a representation of the era and the league as possible.  According to the documentary found in the Special Features of the A League of Their Own DVD, actresses interested in trying out for roles in the movie had to either have baseball skills or be trainable enough to be believable in their baseball prowess.  Marshall also demanded that the actresses where the authentic uniform of the times and play with actual equipment from the era, causing more than a few injuries when balls slipped through the fingers of the mitts.  The song sang by the players in the movie is actually the official AAGPBL song written in 1988 by two members of the league.  Marshall even incorporated scenes from a reunion of AAGPBL old-timers so we could get a glimpse of the real players and their love for baseball that never waned despite their age.

            A League of Their Own has an all-star line-up of cast that, well-worth its payroll.  Geena Davis and Lori Petty are incredibly believable in their roles as Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller.  Geena Davis actually had to be taught how to play baseball, yet she looks as if she has been playing all her life.  Lori Petty not only had plenty of experience with the game, but she played her part so well, that it was hard not to believe that she and Davis were sisters.  Madonna’s role as “All the Way” Mae is by far the best she’s ever played.  She, too, had to learn how to play ball, but did a great job of it.  I’m not a huge Madonna fan and yet, I loved her in this role.  Rosie O’Donnell was as loud and obnoxious as ever in her portrayal of third basewoman Doris Murphy.  Jon Lovitz is hysterical as baseball scout Ernie Capadino, a role for which a great deal of the lines were ad-libbed.  Tom Hanks’ portrayal of crass Jimmy Dugan was perfect, making his character the man you loved to hate.  Even Penny Marshall’s family got into the act with brother Garry Marshall playing the role of Walter Harvey and daughter Tracy Reiner as left fielder Betty Spaghetti.  There were just so many big names in this film that I couldn’t possibly mention them all.  Every member of the cast seemed to truly enjoy their roles and all had an incredible chemistry that added to the movie’s believability.

            What I loved about A League of Their Own is that it wasn’t just a baseball movie.  The movie alluded to a time in American history that I hadn’t even known about until its release in 1992.  And yet, it was more than just a period piece which touched upon the growing role of women in America.  This was a movie about teamwork, the realization of dreams and sacrifice for the love of family.  A League of Their Own contained so many messages for so many women watching the film.  It was an enjoyable story that taught women that nothing was impossible, despite what the kids used to tell me on the baseball field.

            The Special Edition DVD version of A League of Their Own is a two-disc affair.  The movie is on the first disc and the second disc is full of special features, such as Nine Memorable Innings, an informative featurette which includes interviews with cast members, Penny Marshall, and crew.  The featurette is cleverly divided into eleven sections – a pre-game, nine innings and a post-game.  The Deleted Scenes opened my eyes to a direction the movie could have taken involving possible romance between Dottie Hinson and Jimmy Dugan.  I am so glad that they decided not to go with these scenes – they would have taken away from the movie.  One deleted scene in particular was very telling in that it gave some insight as to what occurred in the championship game between the Belles and the Peaches.  There would have been no question as to Dottie’s motives in that final game.  Again, I am happy that the scene was removed, especially since it would have caused some continuity issues as well.  Also included on the Special Features DVD are filmographies of the cast and Madonna’s music video, This Used to Be My Playground.  If you’re a fan of the song, or a Madonna fan in general, check it out.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother as the video mostly features Madonna in numerous poses.

             A League of Their Own is an incredible film that any woman, young or old, could enjoy.  I can watch this movie again and again and never grow tired of it.  So, check it out for yourself and see if you don’t feel the same way.  But I must warn you, you may come away quoting memorable lines from the movie – lines like, “There’s no crying in baseball!” and “Start using your head. That's the lump that's three feet above your ass!”

For more information about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, visit their website at All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association.
 

 


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