It's World War II, and all of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball have left the field of play. Something has to be done to keep the stadiums full, the people's morale up, and profit coming to the owners of the league and their business partners. One man's solution: Create the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. This is their story.
A League of Their Own is a 1992 Dramedy directed by Penny Marshall, starring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, and Tom Hanks, with major supporting roles by Madonna, Rosie O Donnell, Jon Lovitz and Penny's brother Garry Marshall. It is a fictionalized telling of the founding of the aforementioned baseball league and its struggles to stay relevant after the war ended. The main focus is the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, headed by drunkard former baseball player Jimmy Dugan, and Kit and Dottie, two sisters who join the team.
Not to be confused with the British sports panel show of the same name.
This film provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Doris clearly views the two nerdy guys who have a crush on her as this. And Kit refers to a local boy who has the hots for her as "one step up from dating a pig."
- Actor Allusion:
- At one point, while the girls are trying to come up with ideas to bring attention to the league, Mae suggests letting her bosoms pop out. Doris shoots the idea down: "You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?" At the time the film was made, Madonna had caused a controversy by showing herself in public. In fact, Mae's entire character—an exotic dancer before getting recruited for the team—is basically a 1940's version of Madonna.
- When Doris talks about how guys she dated criticized her for being "too masculine" because of her size and the fact that she enjoys playing baseball, the then-closeted lesbian Rosie O'Donnell sells the line like no one else could.
- The song the girls sing about the league includes stating that the roster includes Swedes. Geena Davis lived in Sweden in her youth, as an exchange student, and speaks the language fluently.
- The Ace: Dottie's the best player in the league and tends to dominate every room she's in, albeit unintentionally. The movie deftly explores just how infuriating The Ace can be to those around her, as Dottie's sister Kit complains that "when you're in the room, it's like I'm not even there." Kit even acknowledges that she's being illogical, which only serves to annoy her even more.
- The Alcoholic: Jimmy. It's the reason the latter part of his career was a disaster, when it seemed like he was on pace to pass Babe Ruth's home run record. Part of his attempt to lure Dottie back to play in the World Series is the beginning of a I Coulda Been a Contender! speech.
- Alliterative Name: Kit Keller and Mae Mordibito
- Ask a Stupid Question...:Jimmy Dugan: Does he know how good you are?
Dottie Hinson: Bob?
Jimmy Dugan: No, Hitler. Yes, Bob.
- Big Damn Heroes: Dottie returns just in time for the final game of the World Series. Subverted in that they lose.
- Big Game: Game 7 of the World Series.
- Bittersweet Ending: The ladies and their families get to see the new exhibit dedicated to them at Cooperstown, and Dottie and Kit reunite warmly. However, Bob, Jimmy, and Evelyn, Stillwell's mother, have all died.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Doris. Makes sense, since she was a bouncer at a strip club.
- The elderly Dottie attending the league's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- The game the girls are playing. She hits the winning runs to cheers of "Dottie! Dottie!" from the crowd. At the end it's KIT who scores the winning run and is escorted off the field to the sound of her name.
- Book on the Head: The female baseball players, additionally to the sportive training, also have to follow etiquette lessons, which include this exercise.
- Bottomless Bladder: Jimmy subverts this, eventually. Doris tells Mae to get a stopwatch.
- The iconic "THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!!" rant comes after Evelyn bursts into tears when manager Jimmy Dugan rips her for missing the cutoff (wo-)man on a throw from the outfield. During the final game of the World Series, she makes the identical error, allowing Racine to score their first run, Jimmy barely contains his rage. She finally gets it right in the climactic scene when she fields the final hitter's base hit deep in the gap and uncorks an excellent throw to the cutoff man, but Kit's still safe.
- Evelyn burst into tears after Jimmy screamed at her, "Start using your head! That's the lump that's three feet above your ass!" Later:Jimmy: So, let's play hard, let's play smart, use your heads.
Doris: (chuckling) That's that lump three feet above our ass, right, Jimmy?
Jimmy: (amused) Some more prominent than others, there, Doris.note
- At the reunion, the now-elderly Mae and Doris recognize Dottie by throwing a ball at her. She catches it barehanded - exactly like when they first met.
- Captain Obvious: Jon Lovitz' recruiting agent, to Kit and Dottie.
- Ernie: They'll pay you seventy-five dollars a week.
Kit: We only make thirty a week at the dairy.
Ernie: Well then, this would be more, wouldn't it?
- Chewing the Scenery: It's a sign of Penny Marshall's underrated directorial skill that she not only gets great performances from Hanks, Davis and Petty, and from all the supporting cast, but even from Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna — however, even Ms. Marshall couldn't stop Ms. Ciccone from going for the Best Supporting Actress statuette once:"And what am I supposed to do, huh? Go back to taxi dancin'? Ten cents so some slob can sweat gin all over me? I'm never doin' that again! So you go back there and you tell ol' rich Mr. Old Chocolate Man that he ain't closing me down!"
- Chick Flick: or rather, a Deconstruction of the very term.
- Chivalrous Pervert: In a Deleted Scene, Jimmy follows the girls to the roadhouse to make sure they don't get into trouble, explicitly warning Kit about her date's intentions, and actually knocking out Lowenstein when he arrives to prevent him from seeing the girls and kicking them out of the league. Note that this is well before his Character Development begins.
- Christianity Is Catholic: The two times we see characters in church, they're crossing themselves and/or leaving a confessional, indicating this.
- Coitus Interruptus: Dottie claims one of the reasons she returned was because a boy scout walked in on Dottie and her husband having sex in Yosemite Park.
- Covert Pervert: Right before Betty gets the telegram, Stillwell is seen sneaking peeks at the changing Peaches.
- Confessional: "That's the second time he's dropped that Bible[...] Mae, what'd you say?" "Everything."
- Creative Closing Credits: A mix of Credits Montage, interlaced with scenes from the Legends Game that book-ended the main portion of the film.
- Dare to Be Badass: Jimmy's page quote is his most famous speech, but Hanks has an even better (if much quieter) speech to Dottie when she is about to leave the team just before the World Series:"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Ernie Capadino drips with deadpan snark throughout his recruitment of Dottie, Kit, and Marla to join the league.Ernie: [Walter Harvey]'s starting a girls' baseball league, so he can make a buck while the boys are overseas. Wanna play?
Ernie: Nice retort. Tryouts are in Chicago. It's a real league, professional.
Kit: Professional - baseball?
Ernie: Mmm-hmm. They'll pay you $75 a week.
Kit: We only make 30 at the dairy.
Ernie: Well then, this would be more, wouldn't it?
- Ira Lowenstein has some good moments:Ira: That was some good coaching. I particularly liked that play in the fifth inning where you scratched your balls for an hour.
Jimmy: Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
- And, in the same scene: "Hey Jimmy if I paid you a little more could you be just a little more disgusting?"
- Ernie Capadino drips with deadpan snark throughout his recruitment of Dottie, Kit, and Marla to join the league.
- Death Notification: One of the girls gets a telegram telling her that her husband was killed in action. The man delivering the telegram somehow didn't realize that he never bothered to find out which woman on the team was supposed to receive the letter. This leads to one of the truly suspenseful and heart wrenching moments of the film, as every married woman (especially Dottie) watches with dread as the inept telegraph deliverer starts to leave, saying they'll just have to wait. Jimmy makes him hand over the telegram and takes it upon himself to be the Bearer of Bad News... to not Dottie, but Betty.
- Immediately after, Jimmy shows one of his first (on-screen) "A Father to His Men" moments, a reminder that, despite the sad times...Jimmy: We still have a game to play.
- Immediately after, Jimmy shows one of his first (on-screen) "A Father to His Men" moments, a reminder that, despite the sad times...
- Despair Event Horizon: After the Death Notification scene, it jumps to after that game. When she's alone, Dottie breaks down and cries in her room, not knowing what has happened to her husband.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Madonna's "This Used To Be My Playground".
- Down to the Last Play: Zig Zagged Trope, because the Peaches were down to their final out, with Racine ahead 1-0, when Dottie's base hit allowed them to take the lead. But that was the top of the ninth... The Opposing Sports Team wins on the last play.
- Fan Nickname: In-universe: Dottie is hailed as the "Queen of Diamonds" for her beauty and skill at the game.
- Fat and Skinny: Doris and Mae.
- Fat Best Friend: Doris to Mae, even though Mae isn't the protagonist.
- Foreshadowing: Subverted. Betty has a Jimmy Dugan baseball card belonging to her husband and jokes he'll come back to kill her if anything happens to that card. When she gives the card to Jimmy for him to sign, he tears it up. Also, Dottie hasn't heard from her husband in quite a while, which is why she's afraid that the Death Notification is for her. It turns out he'd been wounded severely enough to be discharged, and was sent back to the States so quickly that he didn't write a letter, knowing it wouldn't arrive before he did.
- Framing Device: Most of the movie is a flashback of the now-senior Dottie.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: An in-universe case, as the newsreel montage implies that Mae is able to get away with the nickname "All the Way Mae" thanks to the assumption that it's a reference to her base running skills.
- Gilligan Cut: Evelyn asks if she can take her son on road trips, saying, "He's the sweetest little boy. Everyone's just going to love him!" Sure enough, the next shot is of the little brat running through the bus screaming his head off.Mae: (wielding a bat) Evelyn! I'm sorry but I'm going to have to kill your son!
Doris: Mae! Mae! Don't use my bat! (beat) Use Marla's. It's heavier.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Dottie and Kit in the worst way.
- Good Bad Girl: Mae. A former taxi dancer and promiscuous. Other than that, she's clearly a good person—fiercely loyal to and protective of her best friend Doris, teaches Shirley to read, helps Marla and Kit with makeovers, consoles Dottie after the World Series loss, is a great ball player, and for all her flirting and sleeping around, is never once seen to be pursuing any of the other girls' men.
- Graceful Loser: Make no mistake, Dottie is a hardnosed competitor, who has no problems exploiting her sister's weaknesses in the final game, but she isn't unhappy that Kit bowled her over to jar the ball loose on the climactic play. After all, she states, that's how you play the game.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Kit towards Dottie, somewhat.
- Happily Married: Dottie and Bob; judging by her comments at the reunion, Marla and Nelson too.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Marla Hooch is introduced batting right-handed, hitting solid line drives. Then her father says "Okay, Marla, now hit lefty." Marla, who it turns out is a natural left-hander, starts hitting booming home runs.
- I Choose to Stay: Kit stays in the city with some of the other girls at the end, instead of going back to the farm with Dottie.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: Jimmy was a Hall of Famer, yes, but his alcoholism prevented him from challenging Babe Ruth's home run record, as it did the real Jimmy Foxx.
- I Was Quite a Looker: All of the Peaches.
- Jackie Robinson Story:
- The women have to prove themselves as ballplayers to a country that's used to men's teams, but there are no African-American women allowed to even try out.
- The yet-to-be-broken barrier is alluded to when a foul ball goes into a (even more subtly hinted at) segregated group of African-American fans. Dottie holds up her glove for an easy toss, and the woman who caught it shocks her by firing a perfect strike all the way out to the shortstop (which had more than enough power behind it, judging from Ellen Sue's reaction).
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Jimmy Dugan.
- Also Ernie Capadino, though not the same number of karats.
- Jumped at the Call: Kit.
- Meaningful Echo: Dottie and Kit's argument about hitting high fast balls turns endearing at the end.
- Men Don't Cry: Or, more precisely, real BASEBALL PLAYERS don't cry, as the page quote states.
- Modesty Shorts: The uniforms the girls wear sport a pair of team-appropriate ones underneath the skirts, particularly visible when Dugan picks up and carries Kit to the locker room. The women still aren't fond of them when they're introduced.Dottie: I'm gonna have to squat in that thing!
- Mood Whiplash:
- The Peaches have literally just gotten through cracking up over Doris and Jimmy's Call-Back exchange, above, when a Western Union Man barges in on the Peaches; the man delivering the telegram somehow didn't realize that he never bothered to find out which woman on the team was supposed to receive the letter. This leads to one of the most truly suspenseful and heart wrenching moments of the film, as every married woman (especially Dottie) watches with dread as the inept telegraph deliverer starts to leave, saying they'll just have to wait. Coach Jimmy makes him hand over the telegram and takes it upon himself to be the Bearer of Bad News... to not Dottie, but Betty.
- Dottie is openly weeping in her room, knowing what happened to Betty could have happened to her, too, when the door opens, revealing her husband Bob, discharged after being injured. The joy and relief on Dottie's face is palpable.
- Ms. Fanservice: In-Universe, as Dottie is dubbed "The Queen of Diamonds" by Lowenstein to Life Magazine. She does an unnecessary split to catch a foul ball for the mag.note Racine Catcher: I can't do that!
Umpire: Nobody can!
- Never Learned to Read: Shirley. After the Training Montage for the tryouts, the Racine manager took for granted that the ladies knew how to read, and thought she was having a Heroic BSoD over not being picked. Helen came up and helped her, locating her name on the Rockford roster. During a bus trip scene, we see Mae teaching Shirley how to read...with an erotic novel.Shirley: Her. M - mi - mil - mil - milky, milky. White, white. Milky white...buh-buh—breasts.
Evelyn: Mae. What are you giving her to read?!
Mae: Oh, what difference does it make? She's reading, okay?
- Never Trust a Trailer: The original theatrical trailer made the movie look raunchier than it actually is by focusing on all the sex jokes: Jimmy's prayer about "plentiful balls" and a woman he had sex with in a motel; A sailor asking a player to slide so he can look up her skirt; the young boy who hits on Dottie; Doris asking Mae if there are any men left who haven't seen her bosoms.
- Newsreel: "Betty Grable has nothing on these gals!"
- Nobody Poops: Averted in the scene where Tom Hanks takes an extraordinarily long pee. It's so long Mae pulls out a stopwatch. "He ain't done yet!"
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jimmy Dugan represents Jimmie Foxx, who managed the Fort Wayne Daisies in the real league, and Walter Harvey the candy bar magnate founder was inserted in place of P.K. Wrigley, the gum magnate founder of the real league. (Naturally, Wrigley Field is replaced with Harvey Field.)
- Not in Front of the Kid: Inverted spectacularly by Jimmy when two kids ask for his autograph. Of course, "Avoid the clap" is good advice.
- The Not-Love Interest: Jimmy and Dottie. In any other film they'd have Belligerent Sexual Tension but here they really are simply friends. It's strongly implied it's because Dottie's married and Jimmy, despite all his faults, refuses to pursue her. Had she been single, Jimmy was clearly interested.
- Not So Different: Jimmy and Dottie. It's highlighted when Dottie chews tobacco alongside Jimmy, who compliments her chaw.
- Obsolete Mentor: Jimmy put himself out of baseball when he wrecked his knee while drunk. He is hired basically for his name value, and since he cares nothing for the girls or the team, he is also a Sink-or-Swim Mentor for the first half of the movie.
- Old-School Chivalry: When Jimmy reduces Evelyn to tears, the umpire gives Jimmy a gentle talking-to based in this: "Perhaps you chastised her too vehemently. Good rule of thumb: treat each of these girls as you would treat your mother." This being Jimmy, the results are not what said umpire expected or desired.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Kit spends her life in Dottie's shadow.
- Panty Shot: A Blink-And-You'll-Miss-It one right before Kit complains about Dottie being The Ace.
- Passionate Sports Girl: All of the women, especially Kit, love the game; ironically, the two who seem to prove (by leaving the league) that they care the least are also acknowledged as the most talented: first Marla, then Dottie.
- Playing Gertrude: Well, relatively-speaking. Older Ellen Sue was played by Eugenia McLin, who at the time of shooting was only 52 playing someone who should've been in their 70s. She would've been six in the period the film was shot in. McLin was well-known in The '80s for being a mature model, whereas Ellen Sue was an actual beauty queen before picking up the bat and glove.Ellen Sue: Dottie, I married a plastic surgeon!
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Jimmy makes numerous sexist comments, at one point outright telling Dottie to "stop thinking with your tits", but eventually comes around and takes his managing job seriously.
- Poor Communication Kills: After Kit's rant at Dottie about how difficult it is for the two of them to be on the same team, the latter tells Ira that she (Dottie) is struggling to stay with the Peaches because of her relationship with her sister and intends to quit. Desperate to keep her, he suggests a trade so the sisters won't be on the same team. She thinks he's talking about trading her and agrees, telling him to make the arrangements by the next day. But he of course arranges to trade Kit instead, who is understandably furious at this development (not least because the hurry means she has almost no time to pack or say goodbye before having to catch her train). That example immediately leads to another example: Kit accuses Dottie of purposely trying to get rid of her, and when Dottie tries to explain the situation, Kit refuses to listen.
- Refusal of the Call: Jimmy reveals late in the film that Harvey offered him a job managing the not-Cubs minor league team — he passed on it to continue coaching the Peaches.
- Refused by the Call: The league scout has no real interest in Kit. He only recruits her because her older sister won't join without her. This builds up resentment on her part (she had already spent her life in Dottie's shadow) that culminates when the Dottie goes to the bosses saying they just can't play on the same team anymore (hoping to be traded) and accidentally gets her little sister shipped off to another team.
- Same Language Dub: The older actresses playing the senior Dottie and Kit were dubbed by Geena Davis and Lori Petty.
- Save Our Team: The league gets off to a slow start, and Harvey starts to think maybe they should just give it up and wait for the war to end. Dottie responds by making a spectacular catch in front of a photographer for Life magazine, and the Peaches follow suit with a whole campaign of similar showboating to help boost media attention and draw crowds.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When the Western Union man comes to the Rockford locker room with the telegram that one of their husbands died in the war, he forgot the placard for who it was for, and said he couldn't open the telegram to see who it was for. Jimmy relieves him of the telegram, knowing the team would not be able to function not knowing who had lost their husband.
- Serenade Your Lover: Marla to Nelson, with the help of Liquid Courage.
- She's Got Legs: Dottie, which is a given considering she's played by Geena Davis. Lampshaded by Kit who complains Dottie is a faster walker because her legs are far longer than Kit's.
- Sibling Rivalry: Dottie and Kit. It doesn't help that everything Dottie tries to rectify the situation makes things worse Memorably, when she tells Ira she's thinking of quitting because of the pressures of being on the road, Ira trades Kit to Racine.
- Spoiled Brat: Stillwell. The only way Evelyn can calm him down is by giving him chocolate bars. He grows out of it and by the time of the reunion is a perfectly nice, respectful adult.
- Stacy's Mom: Dottie ends up in this situation when she recruits a boy to drive her to a bar the rest of the Peaches went to, to sneak them out before they're caught.
- Statuesque Stunner: Dottie is easily the tallest of the Peaches, and as many of the characters will attest, one of the prettiest.
- Stay in the Kitchen:
- A radio commentary plays over the tryout montage stating that the league is a gross perversion of women and they should all be ashamed of themselves and go home. After the league kicks off, the newsreel announcer hypes the girls' domestic skills just as much—if not more so—as their playing.
- Later, when the league is in danger of being shut down, Ira asks Harvey if he just expects them to all go back to their kitchens.Ira: Is that it? The war's over, Rosie, turn in your rivets.
- The Stinger: During the closing credits, the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League former players play a legends game at Doubleday Field.
- Sweet Tooth: Evelyn gets Stillwell to instantly behave by bribing him with chocolate.
- Team Mom: Dottie.
- Those Two Guys: Doris and May. They're introduced together and have been together since before the events of the film.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kit and Dottie, and Doris and Mae.
- Underage Casting: The adult Stillwell was played by Mark Holton, who was 33 years old at the time of filming. Young Stillwell is introduced shortly after the first season of the AAGPBL begins in 1943. The scene in which Holton appears takes place in 1988, meaning Stillwell would've been in his late 40s by then.
- The Un-Favourite: Kit views herself as this within her family.Kit: You ever hear Dad introduce us to people? "This is our daughter Dottie, and this is our other daughter, Dottie's sister." Should've just had you and bought a dog!
- Unnecessary Roughness: Kit does this as part of an Indy Ploy to win her team the championship.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The real AAGPBL did not play regulation baseball, but rather a sort of baseball/softball hybrid. The ball was larger than a baseball (but smaller than a softball) and the bases were closer together (but still farther apart than a softball diamond). Also, while Racine did win the 1943 World Series, it was a five-game series against the Kenosha Comets, not a seven-game series against the Rockford Peaches.
- Over time the rules would be changed to make the game closer to actual baseball. But the first year, it was closer to softball.
- The league was profitable immediately, rather than struggling as was portrayed.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Mae suggests this as a way to drum up interest in the league.Mae: What if at a key moment in the game my, my uniform bursts open and, uh, oops, my bosoms come flying out? That, that might draw a crowd, right?
Doris: (dryly) You think there are men in this country who ain't seen your bosoms?
- Wartime Wedding: A deleted scene explains that Dottie married Bob the night before he was sent off to war.
- Wham Line:
- "Bitch! I'VE BEEN TRADED TO RACINE!!"
- "I'm sorry, Betty."
- What the Hell, Costuming Department?: Invoked by the girls on seeing the "uniforms". This isn't an idle complaint; the lack of leg protection from the skirts meant that any time any of the players slid into base, they wound up with enormous bruises and even open wounds (called "strawberries") on their legs from the friction burns.Doris: That's a dress!
- What the Hell, Hero?: Jimmy questions Dottie telling Marla, their best hitter, to bunt. They get into an argument and it finally spurs Jimmy into becoming their manager for real, and not just In Name Only.Jimmy: Who's the manager of this ball club? I am!
Dottie: Then act like it, you big lush!
Doris: *chuckles'* You tell 'em, Dottie!
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Downplayed. Aside from those who had died, we only find out details about what a few of the players did with their lives following baseball. Helen became a doctor; Marla's husband, Nelson, had some sort of business success; Ellen Sue married a plastic surgeon; Kit ultimately married someone who was successful enough that they could travel in their retirement — and has half a dozen grandchildren.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Dottie assumes the death notice of a World War II GI is her husband. It's not.