The Batter’s Eye: A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own (1992, directed by Penny Marshall) caps off the peak baseball movie era, injecting it with a much-needed focus on women, who often are ignored or mostly irrelevant in baseball movies.

The movie is lighthearted in its approach to the material, following Dottie (Geena Davis), a star catcher and hitter, and her sister, Kit (Lori Petty), a pitcher who struggles with hitting. The conflict between the sisters is the core relationship.

Complicating matters, though, is the alcoholic former player, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), who is picked to manage the Rockford Peaches.

Rounding out the cast are Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna and a tiny appearance from Bill Pullman. It’s a lot to balance and even at two hours, the movie does feel a bit too stuffed.

This movie seems to not realize this is a story about Kit. She’s the only one that goes through any kind of journey, gaining confidence in her playing and in herself. She had long lived in the shadow of Dottie and wanted more than to just be married. Dottie basically ends up in the same place where she started. Jimmy does realize he can share power and not drink as much, or something.

The supporting players are fun. Madonna is having a blast here, and there’s a playfulness to how all of this is handled. The feminist message is obvious but it’s not over-emphasized. This was meant to be a crowd-pleaser and it mostly is.

Some things don’t land as well. Jimmy’s drunkenness and cruelty is played too much for laughs (the infamous “There’s no crying in baseball” scene feels mean and not funny). The movie treating Marla (Megan Cavanagh) as ugly likewise feels unnecessary when it could have just highlighted her awkwardness.

The framing sequences with the players reuniting are useless and I don’t know why anyone felt they were needed. They don’t provide a larger context for the story and just fill up time. (I’ve watched this movie a few times and basically just ignore the end.)

The baseball action is great. While there are the usual quick cuts and wide shots, all the people here felt like they were actually playing (and several of the actors were injured while filming). That lends authenticity and enthusiasm to the movie that I appreciated.

A League of Their Own is fun enough, but it’s definitely an incomplete look at the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. But it’s not really meant to be history. It’s just a star-studded summer popcorn movie and it does deliver there.