The offseason can be tough on baseball fans. Why not get your baseball fix through the Silver Screen? All offseason long, check out “Friday Flicks” at lunchtime for a baseball movie review. Want to suggest a movie for review? Comment below with the title.
Last week, I reviewed an ’80s classic starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close, a movie enjoyed by many but that I found disappointing. Today’s review is admittedly biased, as the film is a favorite from my days as a young softball player and baseball fan.
I still remember falling in love with A League of Their Own (1992). I was ten when the movie came out, and I think I saw it by the time I was about twelve. I may not have understood half of the jokes, but I was at just the right age to be star struck by the Peaches, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, and women in a professional sport.
A League of Their Own takes place during World War II, when baseball players left their bats and gloves to join the rest of the country’s young men on the battlefield. Even that historical occurrence is intriguing today. Aside from the political complications that make the draft a questionable possibility in the future, it’s virtually impossible to envision today’s society forcing current celebrities and superstar athletes to join the plebeians in combat. Most sport franchises are very supportive of our REAL Hometown Heroes, but I wonder if teams would find a way for their MVPs to stay stateside in a conscripted major conflict or war?
During WWII, women took over many jobs traditionally held by men, and American’s Favorite Pastime was one of them. A League of Their Own uses a fictional story of two rival sisters who played in the league and weaves in elements of history from the real women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The story contains a rich cast of characters who embody the different women who shared the ability to play the game, an ability and a passion that sometimes caused them to be scorned before they were given the chance to play professionally.
The film covers the unique challenges faced by women in the 1940s and 1950s who juggled their talent and passion for the sport, being wives and mothers, and proving themselves as capable of being both ladies and ballplayers. The film incorporates historical moments. Some moments mimic real photographs, such as the massive raspberries some players were “man enough” to earn on sliding in short skirts. (Can you imagine a group of male baseball players being subjected to sliding in shorts?) Other historical elements incorporated by Director Penny Marshall include the victory song written by Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis and Nalda “Bird” Phillips, which sheds light on the relationships and camaraderie between the women, relationships that may have been as professional as the male baseball players’ relationships but which held a different level of solidarity and kinship because of the adversity they faced together as women in the game.
Lest you fear this movie is a preachy, feminist tirade about professional sports, Title IX, etc…it’s not. Instead, it’s a story of endurance, sibling rivalry, opportunities, and a different kind of courage. While there are certainly some small-time actors in the movie, it also features a number of superbly cast stars, including Geena Davvis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, David Strathairn, Garry Marshall, and Bill Pullman. (That is likely the only time I’ve referred to Madonna as “superb” at any role.)
As a teen who had seen A League of Their Own quite a few times and had fallen in love with it, my first visit to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame was tinged with disappointment. The movie incorporates the HOF’s unveiling of a display honoring the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. In the film, a new wing is dedicated to the league, but in reality, Cooperstown has a large display case that one can fully view by standing in one spot. For many years, I was offended by the smaller-than-anticipated recognition. However, looking back, the HOF really did a great job of honoring a particular time in baseball history while respecting that time in the larger context of baseball history. For those interested in more, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League website, linked above, contains information about current events and information.
Is it a hit? I give it a homerun. Despite places where historical license was taken, the film paints a vivid picture of the women who stepped to the plate while the men stepped onto the battlefield. Illustrating some of the forgotten home front realities, both difficult and comical, the film tells a story that has become a timeless, rewatchable classic. Most importantly, it taught us that “there’s no crying in baseball!”
Come back at lunchtime next Friday for a review of a movie considered to be one of the funniest and most memorable baseball flicks.