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Back when baseball was a sport
Belonging just to men,
It took the likes of World War II
To widen people’s ken.
Since men were scarce, a chocolate “nut”
Financed a women’s league
To keep ball-lovers entertained
And battle war fatigue.
The scouts were out, collecting girls,
From south and north and west.
In Oregon, two rival sisters
Played ball and impressed.
The lovely Dottie always caused
Resentment in young Kit,
Who didn’t share the looks and skills
That made her sis a hit.
The sixteen girls that earned their way
To be a Rockford Peach
Competed well, despite some boors,
And fame was in their reach.
Their manager named Jimmy Dugan,
Once a home-run great,
At first spent all the innings drunk
And slept from state to state.
Yet as the Peaches won more games
And garnered crowds of fans,
He took more of an interest
And made signals with his hands.
He coached them rather harshly
As they earned themselves a name,
But Kit continued to desire
Dottie’s easy fame.
When Dottie thought of leaving
After Kit had had enough,
The younger girl was traded,
And she stormed off in a huff.
The women’s league world series
Brought a thrill to all involved,
And as the Peaches played well,
Kit’s concerns were far from solved.
But Dottie helped her sister out,
As well as her new team,
When she appeared to drop the ball
To boost Kit’s self-esteem.
Although the Peaches failed to win,
They served to represent
That playing like a girl perhaps
Was just a compliment.
Years later, they were honored
In the Baseball Hall of Fame,
And most were reunited
For a sentimental game.

Laverne and Shirley’s Penny Marshall had directed some pretty darn good films, including Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Big, and A League of Their Own continued her streak. With an all-star cast of actors who hadn’t quite reached their full stardom yet, it shone a funny spotlight on a subject few had considered for decades, a women’s baseball league that ran from 1943 to 1954. Not trying to be too historically accurate, it allows the humor and humanity to flow in a surprisingly entertaining way.

Lori Petty and Geena Davis were in their prime as Kit Keller and Dottie Hinson, and, though Kit’s jealousy seems juvenile, their competitive sisterly relationship is still realistic and paints both of them sympathetically. Madonna also makes a memorable appearance as Mae and, in one scene, dances well enough to win Dancing with the Stars. I’m not a big fan of Rosie O’Donnell, but her distinctively loud voice works well on the ball field and she gets some hilarious one-liners, like “Let’s make like a bread truck and haul buns” or “I’m so depressed, I could eat a cow.” Other up-and-coming players like Megan Cavanaugh, Anne Ramsay, Renée Coleman, and Tea Leoni also have smaller roles, as do Jon Lovitz and David Strathairn. The best role, of course, goes to Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, and, though he’s an utter jerk for the first half of his performance, his comedy is so effortless that Jimmy is still somehow endearing, even as he screams the famous line “There’s no crying in baseball!”

A League of Their Own isn’t really a “meet ‘em and move on” movie in the traditional sense, but it does have a number of memorable characters and a similar kind of ending that brings back most of them in a nostalgic, heart-tugging way. Revisiting all the older versions of the girls gives greater depth to the plot, by making this baseball interlude a defining time in their lives. Whoever cast the older versions of the actors did an excellent job in finding aged look-alikes; Lynn Cartwright as the older Dottie and Kathleen Butler as the older Kit share an amazing resemblance with their younger counterparts.

Overall, A League of Their Own presents how girls broke down barriers simply by enjoying a ball game. (A brief scene of a black woman throwing the ball to them and nodding knowingly brought home that point.) Whether you love baseball or not, this film is a funny and dramatic look at a lesser-known bit of sports history. Who wouldn’t want to see Mrs. Little, Tank Girl, Evita, Turk from Tarzan, the Evil Leaper, and that lady from “Mad About You” all playing ball together, with Forrest Gump cheering from the sidelines?

Best line: (Dottie, considering leaving baseball) “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. “

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 9
Other (touching, meet-‘em-and-move-on-style end): +4
Other (language): -1
TOTAL: 47 out of 60

Next: #152 – Les Miserables (1998)

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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