In 1992, Penny Marshall directed “A League of Their Own,” a baseball film set during World War II about two sisters, played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty, who join the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Duggan, the alcoholic manager of the Rockford Peaches, who gives the famous “There’s no crying in baseball!” speech. Madonna also appeared in the baseball movie at the height of her musical stardom.
After an initial wave of successful baseball movies in the late 1980s with “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” and “Major League,” Hollywood greenlit a film about the short-lived women’s baseball league that hit its peak in popularity during World War II.
Davis was fresh off her hit “Thelma and Louise” (1991), but Hanks had been in back-to-back bombs (“The Money Pit” and “The Burbs”). Penny Marshall and Hanks had teamed up before with the box-office smash hit “Big” (1988).
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Release: July 1992
Produced by: Elliot Abbott and Robert Greenhutt
Written by: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel
Directed by: Penny Marshall
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
With a budget of $40 million, “A League of Their Own” grossed $132.5 million worldwide.
“A League of Their Own” opened the same weekend as “Batman Returns” (Michael Keaton). It grossed over $13 million its first weekend, and finished second behind the caped crusader sequel, which banked $45 million.
The Plot: Two Sisters Join All-Women Pro Baseball League
At the start of WWII, candy bar guru Walter Harvey (Gary Marshall) creates an all-women baseball league with hardballs and overhand throwing. The MLB ranks thinned out when many ballplayers, including stars such as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, served in the military. Harvey thought good-looking and athletic women could entertain Americans until the real pros returned stateside after the war ended.
Two sisters from Oregon, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty), work at a local dairy and play for the local women’s softball team. Kit is a star pitcher, while her older sister, Dottie, is the best player in the league. A scout (Jon Lovitz) wants to recruit Dottie, but she’s married (with her GI husband at war) and doesn’t want to leave Oregon. Kit convinces the scout to let her try out for the league if she persuades Dottie to head to Chicago for tryouts.
Both sisters survive the tryout at Wrigley Field and get drafted by the Rockford Peaches. The rest of the team includes a couple of sassy ladies from New York, Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) and Mae Mordabito (Madonna).
Their manager is played by ex-MLB star, Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks), who prematurely ended his playing career due to a bad knee and rampant alcoholism. Duggan spends the majority of the film drunk or hungover. It’s not until the Peaches start winning and attracting a big crowd that he thinks success with the Peaches can land him a job coaching in the big leagues.
Kit is traded to the Racine Belles, who end up playing against her sister Dottie and the Rockford Peaches in the AAGPBL World Series.
The film ends in the present day with the former baseball players reuniting at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to see a special exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of the AAGPBL.
No Crying in Baseball
You might not have seen the movie, but everyone knows the infamous and hysterical “no crying in baseball” scene. Heck, when Hanks dies, the “no crying in baseball” clip will be included in the “In Memoriam” segment at the Oscars.
During production of “A League of Their Own,” everyone in the cast knew it was a funny scene when outfielder Evelyn Gardner (Bitty Schram) makes a base-throwing mistake and gets promptly chewed out by the Peaches’ irate manager. However, no one anticipated the “no crying in baseball” scene would transcend the film. It became one of the most quoted lines in any film, let alone a classic scene among a vast cannon of baseball movies.
Did You Know?
Geena Davis’ character, Dottie, is based on a real-life person. Dorothy “Kammie” Kamenshek was the most-feared hitter in the AAGPBL.
Real-life slugger Jimmie Foxx inspired the Jimmy Duggan character.
Tracy Reiner, the daughter of Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner, appeared as one of the Rockford Peaches. It seemed like she got the role due to nepotism with her mother as the director. In reality, her athleticism earned her the part. Reiner played a lot of softball, and could throw an overhand baseball with proficiency.
Madonna put her Diva image aside and got down and dirty during production. She even pulls off a head-first slide into third base.
Catcher Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis)
Manager Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks)
Pitcher Kit Keller (Lori Petty)
CF Mae Mordabito (Madonna)
3B Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell)
2B Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh)
LF/P Betty Horn (Tracy Reiner)
Scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz)
Commissioner Walter Harvey (Gary Marshall)
The film shot the tryouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The rest of production mostly occurred in the Midwest in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.
League Stadium in Huntingburg, Indiana, filled in as the home ballpark for the Rockford Peaches. The Racine Belles played their home games at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana.
Madonna’s song, “This Used to Be My Playground,” appeared in the film during the end credits. It didn’t appear on the official soundtrack.
Amazon will reboot “A League of Their Own” as a half-hour comedy series, produced by Sony Pictures TV. D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place” and Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”) will star in the pilot.
In 1993, three episodes of a sitcom version of “A League of Their Own” appeared on CBS before the network canceled the show due to poor ratings.
Other Baseball and Sports Movies
The late 1980s and early 1990s produced several classic baseball movies. Over 30 years later, many of them still hold up.