This story based on the true story of the first woman’s baseball league still holds its own as one of the most beloved baseball comedies nearly twenty-five years later.
In 1943, Major League Baseball players have enlisted in World War II. In an attempt to keep baseball, America’s national pastime, going, businessman Walter Harvey leads the charge with other business owners to create the first women’s professional baseball league. Harvey puts his most trusted man, Ira Lowenstein, in charge of creating the league.
When scout Ernie Capadino heads to Oregon to check out a small town women’s baseball game, he notices the star of the league, Dottie Hinson, whose husband Bob is currently in the war. Dottie’s little sister Kit, who is a pitcher, convinces Ernie to have her tryout and he agrees as long as Dottie is able to come along. Dottie has reservations about becoming a professional baseball player, but Kit convinces her to give it a go and the sisters head to Chicago for tryouts. Along with Wisconsin-based star hitter Marla Hooch, whom Dottie befriends, the girls become members of the Rockford Peaches. Their manager is Jimmy Dugan, a one-time star player who has become a struggling alcoholic who has no interest in coaching women.
As the Peaches start their season, the members slowly begin to bond and Jimmy, who at first didn’t have a care in the world about coaching, finds himself sympathetic and even finds Dottie a mentor in life. However, Lowenstein learns that interest is low in the league and hopes the players can do something to help boost interest. Dottie takes advantage of this and once again, her rivalry with her little sister reaches an all-time high to the point where Kit is traded to another team. As the team continues to struggle internally, a chance at the first World Series for these women are on the horizon and they must overcome their differences to help both the league and themselves.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was an actual women’s professional league that began in 1943 during the course of World War II. It would go on to continue until 1954. To the later baby boomers and first millennials, this may not have really been known outside the most hardcore of sports fans. That is until this film came out and would soon hold its rank as one of the most cherished baseball films even nearly a quarter of a century later.
Penny Marshall directed this great 40’s-set film that features a great ensemble cast led by the wonderfully talented Tom Hanks, who plays former star Jimmy Dugan, who goes from bumbling alcoholic on a course to redemption when he coaches the Rockford Peaches. Geena Davis also ups the ante as Dottie, the star player who still has reservations and only sees herself playing for two reasons. One, to find herself something to do until her husband comes back from war and two, to do a favor for her sister Kit, played wonderfully by Lori Petty. Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Ann Cusack, Anne Ramsay, Freddie Simpson, and Renee Coleman provide extremely good ample support as the other Peaches as we get to learn a bit about their backstories, which help the bond between the team members.
The legendary Garry Marshall makes the most of his screen time as Walter Harvey, whose character is based on Philip K. Wrigley (yes as in Wrigley’s gum) while David Strathairn is great as Ira Lowenstein, the assistant who finds himself first a business-type but like Hanks’ Dugan, has a care for these girls and wants the league to even continue after the war and well, the rest is history.
What makes this film even more outstanding is the final act, where we see actresses playing the elder members of the team as the league makes it way to Cooperstown’s legendary Baseball Hall of Fame. This is based on the historic 1988 event where the AAGPBL was inducted to the Hall of Fame and the end credits combine scenes and stills from the film along with the real-life legendary players of the league playing a game at a reunion event, where the final act was set up.
A League of Their Own is truly one of the most beloved baseball films made, with its fictionalized true story of history and exhilarating performances from the cast. This is one film that is definitely a home run!
WFG RATING: A+
A Columbia Pictures Production. Director: Penny Marshall. Producers: Elliott Abbott and Robert Greenhut. Writers: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel; story by Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele. Cinematography: Miroslav Ondricek. Editing: Adam Bernardi and George Bowers.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Bitty Schram, Ann Cusack, Anne Ramsay, Freddie Simpson, Renee Coleman, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman.