"Every woman in Hollywood was reading for this movie"
July 1, 2017 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Twenty-five years ago today, a sports movie premiered. Everyone expected it to be something a hit, with its crowd of high-powered actors (and even a pop star), immaculate Hollywood pedigree behind the cameras, and perfectly nostalgia-y and Bechdel-Test-passing cred. But not many people probably thought that A League of Their Own would go on to be the highest-grossing baseball movie of all time, nor that it would make the National Baseball Hall of Fame's "Diamond Dreams" exhibit about women in baseball one of the Hall's most popular areas. And yet, it doesn't get its due in discussions about The Greatest Sports Movies Of All Time; allow Katie Baker of The Ringer to explain why that is some hot garbage.
posted by Etrigan (52 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
A perfect movie.
posted by mpbx at 6:44 PM on July 1 [5 favorites]


So I auditioned for ABC's Pyramid this year and was sad not to make it. But I was even sadder when I saw that Kathy Najimy and Rosie O'Donnell were the celebrities on one of the first episodes this season because I feel like we have an affinity that would have led to me being $150,000 richer. But there was another level of sadness when one of the categories given to Rosie was "things at a baseball game" because then I would have been able to talk to her about this movie forever without seeming like more of a freak than I already would have on national television.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:50 PM on July 1 [20 favorites]


ESPN has an oral history of the movie.
posted by noneuclidean at 6:53 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


The question of whether Dottie purposely dropped the ball is interesting, I think, because of what it reveals about the person answering the question, in particular their views on sports, honorable competition, family, and the relative value thereof.

Also, she obviously didn't drop the ball on purpose, and if you think she did, you are literally choosing to make the movie worse.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 7:03 PM on July 1 [18 favorites]


Best movie!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 PM on July 1


Wow that ESPN list is crap. I'd easily put League above The Natural, Field of Dreams, and Bad News Bears on a list of the best baseball movies ever, having recently rewatched all four of them. They're good (mostly), but not even close to League. Never saw Eight Men Out, but it's hardly ever mentioned in discussions of ball movies. Bull Durham I'd have to rewatch - it's certainly quotable like League, so I'd have to see it again to decide 1 and 2.

Not sure how high I'd put it on an all sports list, but it'd still be damned high. Above Brian's Song and Jerry Maguire, certainly. Surprised Rudy's not on the ESPN list, based on what garnered significant votes.

But more than that, I'd put it on a list of best movies, period. It's one of those that you can't help watching if you come across it flicking channels. You never have to wait long for a great scene or line. I can't even start to quote 'em, because I'd never stop. The script crackles with them. There's storylines for all the characters, great interactions, deeper meaning, wicked casting, history... I'm trying to find something wrong about it, and there just isn't.

(Checking other lists... Fox Sports places it #9, behind Field, Durham, and... Major League at #4? Rolling Stone doesn't have it in their top 30, and Bleacher Report puts it at #42. Sheesh.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:29 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


The question of whether Dottie purposely dropped the ball is interesting, I think, because of what it reveals about the person answering the question, in particular their views on sports, honorable competition, family, and the relative value thereof.

Also, she obviously didn't drop the ball on purpose, and if you think she did, you are literally choosing to make the movie worse.


I don't think she dropped it on purpose either (I don't think Dottie would have ever done that to her team, for one thing) but the movie most certainly sets up that possibility.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:31 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


An acquaintance interviewed Geena Davis and she apparently DELIGHTS in refusing to answer whether Dottie dropped the ball on purpose.
posted by dismas at 7:49 PM on July 1 [19 favorites]


That Katie Baker essay made me laugh and cry, such a fitting tribute to a great movie.
posted by leesh at 7:56 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I was 9 years old when this movie came out, and absolutely in love with playing softball. A League of Their Own was so, so special for me and all the girls on my team. It felt like it was made just for us.

And Dottie definitely didn't drop the ball on purpose.
posted by imalaowai at 8:07 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I was mad about baseball/softball growing up. I played on three teams at once in middle school, and that's not counting my dad's office team. We had season tickets for the Yankees and we'd watch movies and documentaries in the off-season to stave off withdrawal. I have seen a lot of baseball movies, and A League of Their Own is my favorite.

There was a single A team with a stadium not far from where I grew up. It had the closest batting cages too, so we were there often. When I was eleven or twelve or so, I saw an elderly woman at a game with a sweatshirt that read 'AAGPBL'. Of course I went over and asked her about it, and she spent a good half inning telling me stories. I've forgotten most of them by now, but not my favorite: how she lied about her age in order to join the league. She said she got in the habit and was still telling people the wrong age years later.

Also, and I say this as both a softball player and a younger sister: Dottie did not drop the ball on purpose.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:25 PM on July 1 [20 favorites]


SUCH a great movie!

When my children cry for no reason I tell them, "There's no crying in baseball!" with the result that all of them, by the time they're two, announce, "There's no crying in baseball!" at their siblings. It's pretty great.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:00 PM on July 1 [33 favorites]


A perfect movie.

Truly and overwhelming to single out any of a thousand challenges of fore/background and drama/veracity Penny Marshall accomplishes, but I'll mention two: Megan Cavanagh's (Marla Hooch) evolution that fills me with a joyous ache and the power of casting that demonstrates Madonna's ability that critics (rightly and wrongly) denied her in larger roles.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:04 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Oh, I just adore this movie. I will stop and watch it any time it pops up on TV. Thanks for the reading material!
posted by olinerd at 10:34 PM on July 1


The way you know someone is your true soul mate is if they go to the bathroom and you announce, "That was some good peein'" and they GET THE REFERENCE instead of freezing you out forever.

I am a sports movie aficionado, and I'd put A League of Their Own up there with Chariots of Fire and Miracle and Bend It Like Beckham; ahead of Field of Dreams (awesome, but frankly cheesy) and Hoosiers (great story, gorgeous cinematography*, so-so ensemble outside the leads). Definitely better than Rudy, which is lovable but not that great a movie and its message is a hot mess. The Cutting Edge is also stupidly good for what it is, but a little too soapy to rise above second tier. The Mighty Ducks is a great sports movie but it's about kids so I'm not totally sure it counts. I'm not totally decided on whether Invictus is in that top tier or not, I probably have to watch it six or seven more times -- but it's pretty good. (I guess we have to include Bull Durham but it feels a BIT dated tbh.) I suppose Invincible is second-tier at best but COME ON, the mud football game scene is ICONIC.

Also obviously the best sports movie of all time (after A League of Their Own) is Brian's Song.

*One of my favorite things about Hoosiers is that the director and cinematographer clearly understand what makes the midwest beautiful, and they film it, in a way that very, very few Hollywood movies ever bother to. It makes me forgive an awful lot in Hoosiers that is less-than-awesome, because seeing my eyes for the prairie reflected on the big screen is definitely worth something big.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:37 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


Even I enjoyed this movie, and I hate sports.

Penny Marshall has said that every actress who played a baseball player had to pass a test of their athleticism in order to be cast. Marshall herself had no say in this. There were some actresses she wanted to cast and wasn't able to get because they didn't pass the test. Madonna had never played baseball in her life, but she tested as trainable, so she was in.

Lori Petty is actually a better athlete than Geena Davis -- she was a faster runner and a better player. And she's a very competitive person to boot. Marshall said she had to keep telling Petty to slow down and let Geena outrun her.
posted by orange swan at 10:43 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


Wow that ESPN list is crap. I'd easily put League above The Natural, Field of Dreams, and Bad News Bears on a list of the best baseball movies ever

I agree except with Bad News Bears, a film which slipped through and delivered the most bitingly and terrifyingly honest examination of American childhood that had/has ever been made. That alone would have been enough, but Bad News Bears also is a picture perfect snapshot of mid 70s American suburbia. It's the final, however, which is so goddamn perfect, such a giant middle finger to everything the film mocks.
posted by Beholder at 11:16 PM on July 1 [9 favorites]


This post made me watch League again just now. Worth staying up late, completely. It had been way too long since I'd seen it, even though my coworkers and I (mis)quote it routinely. ("There's no crying in [industry].")

That said, the other good sports movie is clearly Breaking Away.
posted by asperity at 11:45 PM on July 1 [11 favorites]


I will note here that Hoosiers and Breaking Away were written by the same person.
posted by mwhybark at 12:01 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


The best sports movie I've seen recently is actually Queen of Katwe, which is about chess.

The second best sports movie I've seen recently is Chak de! India, about an Indian female field hockey team. Classic sports movie, hits all the required beats. So fun.

That both movies are about women is at least part of the reason why they're so good.
posted by suelac at 12:07 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


"There's no oversimplifying in baseball!"
posted by fairmettle at 12:42 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Oh God, Baker links the ending in her article and now I'm totally wrecked.

What an amazing movie. One of my all time favorites.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:44 AM on July 2


That said, the other good sports movie is clearly Breaking Away.

And Jackie Earle Haley was in both of them. What unbelievable odds.
posted by Beholder at 1:31 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


When my cats meow at me for no reason (that I can discern anyway) I tell them that there's no crying in baseball. Unfortunately they don't say it to each other like Eyebrows' kids do, that would be awesome.
posted by kitten magic at 3:02 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


Our new dog is very vocal and given to making funny little crying noises when he wants to get our attention or is frustrated. At least a couple times a week, one of us will tell him, "There's no crying in baseball!"

I had no idea this was the highest grossing baseball themed movie ever. Why is there this pervasive idea that movies about women aren't good box office? Oh right, sexism.

I love this movie. I didn't have words to articulate the Bechdel test passing nature of it, at the time, but I knew that made it special back then (and still rare today, sadly).

I watch it now and I think my God, they were all so, so young. They were all younger than I am now. They're beautiful and snappy and electric with chemistry between themselves. Just superb.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:07 AM on July 2 [16 favorites]


When my cats meow at me for no reason (that I can discern anyway) I tell them that there's no crying in baseball.

You chose the wrong quote from the movie. You shold instead do your best John Lovitz and tell the cats, "Will you SHUT UP?!"
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:36 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I was a [paid] extra in A League of Their Own. :-) I worked at the bar where they filmed the dancing/Marla scenes. Since we were closed for a month and losing all that tip money, all employees were offered a chance to be extras. I was pretty tall then (still am...) so Penny Marshall picked me out of the crowd to stand in the frame when Geena Davis walked into the bar, so she (Geena) wouldn't look quite so tall and imposing. (GD is six feet.) I got to meet Madonna, who was extremely nice. Rosie O'Donnell offered me gum during a lull. Tom Hanks offered to mix my drink, and popped up from behind the bar with a [literal] screwdriver. By the end of the week's filming, most of the extras were drunk because we ran out of the non-alcoholic beer we started the week with, and they just switched the taps over to the real thing.

It's a fun story to tell now, but it was probably one of the most boring weeks of my life. Good lord, making movies is slow and repetitive.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:59 AM on July 2 [89 favorites]


Manny Ramirez proved plenty that there was crying in baseball. And for crying foul about the best baseball movie lists that exclude this gem? Certainly at this point we can acknowledge these sins and put this movie in the light and remove it from the list of of less than stellar movies such as Angles in the Outfield, Major League Two, Airbud: Seventh Inning Fetch, and the remake of the Bad News Bears.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:50 AM on July 2


If you are ever at a Rollerderby function and want to make new friends, just start quoting this movie. In derby, it's practically scripture. And if you're clever enough to have a derby name that references this movie, you will rightly be hailed as a prophet and jolly friend for life. Amen.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:54 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I somehow have never seen this movie (despite being told by my mother, many times, that there's no crying in baseball) but I will rectify that soon and I'm excited that I get to see it for the first time.
posted by lazuli at 8:14 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Penny Marshall made three great movies in a row (Big, League and Awakenings) and then three not so good movies and then retired about fifteen years ago. I wonder if she gave up or if the studios didn't give her any projects after three flops? Her brother and ex-husband certainly are/were able to keep making movies long after they'd stopped making good ones.
posted by octothorpe at 8:32 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Even I enjoyed this movie, and I hate sports.
Me too. It makes me wonder if the idea of a "sports movie," or any other hyperfine classification based on the plot elements of a film rather than the properties of the film itself is actually useful. At least for those of us who would choose dental surgery over watching an actual baseball game, none of the things that make the movie great have much to do with sports.

I'd agree that this is the best "sports movie." Just as The Bicycle Thief is the best "poster-hanging-business movie," and The Great Dictator is the best "barbering movie."
posted by eotvos at 8:40 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


At least for those of us who would choose dental surgery over watching an actual baseball game, none of the things that make the movie great have much to do with sports.

In some ways I imagine it's easier to appreciate a "sports movie" if you're not a big fan of the sport being depicted. As somebody who's followed baseball religiously since childhood, I can tell you how much of a stumbling block it can be toward appreciating even the best baseball movies if I don't work to switch off or at least override that part of my brain that wants to nitpick over the various ways a movie Gets It Wrong about little details regarding gameplay, history, etc.
posted by non canadian guy at 10:57 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


It's often going to be easier to enjoy a movie about something if you don't know anything about that subject because they always get it "wrong" somehow. I'm not beating up on movies, it's just that the constraints of narrative and running-time make it so that they have to change and/or condense things to make them work within a film. It's like watching a car chase through your own city; it always takes you out of the film because the route never makes sense geographically. I'm sure that the chases in Baby Driver are non-sensical if you know Atlanta but I don't so they were fine with me while ones in The Next Three Days or Striking Distance throw me out of the film because I know the streets in Pittsburgh.
posted by octothorpe at 11:19 AM on July 2 [6 favorites]


I get to tell my story! Much of the movie was filmed in my home town and the surrounding small towns, as they had, for example, old-timey-looking gyms. For a few summers, I worked at a theatre right next to the gym where they filmed the "Rosie O'Donnell breaks the window" scene. You could tell which window it was because that pane had been replaced, and all of the others were still the old glass.
posted by DebetEsse at 1:31 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Marla Hooch broke the window. And her dad was Pa Kent. That is all.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:13 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Just finished watching the movie and oh, my goodness, it's good. And I'm crying. Thank you for inspiring me to see it!
posted by lazuli at 4:50 PM on July 2 [13 favorites]


Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:22 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


Ha!
posted by lazuli at 7:33 PM on July 2


Marla Hooch broke the window.

Marla Hooch... what a hitter.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:25 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I can't be the only person who still periodically breaks into song ...

We are the members of the All-American League
We come from cities ... near and far
We have Canadians (woo!), Irishmen, and Swedes
We're all for one! We're one for all! We're all-Americans!

Each girl stands, her head so proudly high
Her motto do or die
She's not the one to use or need an alibi ....

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:31 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I definitely need to go back and watch this again. For years, I've had the implicit assumption that Dottie definitely dropped the ball on purpose, and it's the big strike I've used against this otherwise excellent film as to why it's not a great sports movie. I wonder whether that idea was in my head when I first saw it as an obnoxious teenager who wanted to mock womens' sports, and it's far past time for me to go back and reeavaluate it.

Although to this day, whenever our dog whines about wanting to go outside and play, I have always answered with "There's no crying in baseball!" and my children have taken up that response while never having seen the movie.
posted by replayer at 10:26 AM on July 3


I absolutely adore this movie and am reminded that it has been much too long since I last watched it. The other person I know personally who loves this movie as much as me is my cousin. Last week, I met his five-year-old daughter for the first time, whose life ambition, I am reliably informed, is to become the first female MLB player. Given her competitive spirit (as I was losing a ping-pong game to her 1042 - 0, she scowled at me and told me, "I'm not going to let you get even a single point") and the fact that she throws a ball better with either hand at 5 than I can do with my dominant at 38, I think you'd be pretty brave to bet against her.
posted by Errant at 11:05 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


replayer: Basically, the opening scene with older Dottie leaving for the ceremony has her seeing her grandsons playing basketball in the driveway, telling the older one to go a little easy on his little brother, and telling the little brother to not let up for anything, or something to that effect. And then at the end of the season, as Kit is excitedly signing autographs and riding high, and Dottie is extremely gracious while also remaining pretty uncaring about the whole enterprise, well, from those things one could take away that she did it on purpose.

But no. She came back for the game and played her damndest. It's truly (in my opinion) that Kit wanted it more and was willing to drill Dottie at the plate to get the win. Had their roles been reversed, I don't know that Dottie could have mustered that same degree of determination to run down Kit, but she wouldn't NOT play at her best and definitely didn't betray her team just to give Kit a win.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:13 PM on July 3


Anyone like the TV show based on this?
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:46 PM on July 3


A perfect movie.

Well, Home for the Holidays does exist, but yeah, pretty much.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:38 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Our local summer outdoor cinema is playing this on the same weekend as they're playing The Sandlot - two of the best baseball movies of all time. Now to convince myself to go get eaten to death by mosquitoes just so I can watch them (even though at least A League of their Own is on Netflix).
posted by urbanlenny at 10:23 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only person who still periodically breaks into song …

Indeed you are not! I am in this 2016 photo of 200+ NYC women in comedy, and when we were standing on the risers, waiting for everyone to squeeze in, someone started singing the first line of “Batter up; hear the call // The time has come for one and all // to pla-a-ay ball,” and then maybe 50 of us jumped in and sang our hearts out.
posted by Charity Garfein at 6:14 PM on July 4 [4 favorites]




These comments really surprised me. I never considered for a second that she DIDN'T drop it the ball on purpose. I guess I have to re-watch!
posted by silverstatue at 1:14 PM on July 7


I'm still convinced she let the ball go. She knew it meant more to Kit than it did to her.
posted by widdershins at 7:52 AM on July 8


Late to this thread, but oh yeah, is this a great film whether or not you like baseball. Echoing the luv for "No crying," and being from the Mitten State, I always liked the little detail that his parents had come "all the way from Michigan to see me play."

Speaking of which, I read recently that the song Madonna sang for this movie, "This Used to be My Playground," is supposedly inspired by my original hometown, where she'd also spent a lot of time as a kid, Bay City, MI.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:23 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


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