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Mark Whelan discusses #7-A League of Their Own:
Girls can’t play baseball.
The hell they can’t.
In the only movie on this list that is about women playing baseball, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, and a host of others portray women who can hit, run, field, and pitch well enough to play professional ball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. But A League of Their Own is not just a movie about a group of women who can play ball. It is a well-rounded film, both charming and funny, that deals with gender roles, life during wartime, adult sibling rivalry, and the business of sports, all viewed through the lens of the nation’s pastime, baseball.
And ultimately, we see that it is not the gender of the player that matters on the diamond. It is the heart, the talent, the passion of the ballplayer that makes all the difference.
The all-star cast is led by Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, the drunken ex-ballplayer manager of the Rockford Peaches, and Davis, who plays the best player in the league, catcher Dottie Hinson. But the talent is spread throughout the expansive cast, with some spectacular performances in smaller roles. Perhaps the most notable is Jon Lovitz, who completely takes over the screen in his early-scene cameo as a scout looking for women to play ball. Lovitz is smarmy, rude, and yet somehow loveable in this small but hilarious role.
League has some of the most memorable movie lines of all time:
- May our feet be swift; may our bats be mighty; may our balls… be plentiful.
- (On a baseball signed for a young fan): “Avoid the clap. Jimmy Dugan.” Then he calls after him “Hey, that’s good advice!”
- You ever been married? Yeah, twice? Any children? Yeah, one of them was.
- Anybody ever tell you you look like a p***s with a little hat on?
- And of course: “There’s no crying in baseball.”
I love this movie. I have watched it about 20 times, and each time, I catch some nuance that previously escaped me. It is extremely well-written and wildly funny. And it is a movie filled with great moments. Remember when Davis catches the fastball with her bare hand? When the attractive blonde second baseman nails the idiot on the dugout by knocking him over with a well-placed ball in his chest? Hanks and Davis side-by-side giving contradictory signals to the baserunner? Or Hanks’ struggle to use polite language when scolding, or rather, teaching his ballplayers? Every well-crafted scene makes us care more deeply about the cast of characters.
But what makes A League of Their Own special is how the movie treats baseball, the sport that we love so dearly. Clearly, the people who put this movie together care as deeply about the game as we do. And it’s not that the actors are particularly skilled at hitting or fielding. They just capture the emotional side of the game exquisitely well. And our love of baseball is nothing if not emotional. Perhaps the movie’s treatment of our favorite sport is best exemplified by an exchange between Hanks and Davis near the film’s end:
Jimmy: Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.
Dottie: It just got too hard.
Jimmy: It’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.