Any list of the top baseball related movies usually includes A League of Their Own somewhere in the top ten. Between classic lines like “there’s no crying in baseball” and it’s ability to draw attention to the contributions women have brought to the sport, it’s a lighthearted movie that I always stop to watch for at least a few minutes when it’s on TV. Unfortunately, the movie’s director, Penny Marshall, passed away a few days ago due to complications with diabetes.
For those of you who don’t know, A League of Their Own starred Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell, Maddona, and some other big names and traced the beginnings of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The real life league was started in 1943 because so many Major League Baseball stars were away fighting in World War II and MLB owners like Philip Wrigley were looking for a way to keep money coming into their coffers. The movie mainly follows the Rockford Peaches as they end up making it to the World Series, but losing in seven games.
The movie was well received, both commercially and by critics. The $13.2 million it grossed on its opening weekend placed it second at the box office behind Batman Returns and it actually ended up first on its second weekend. It would eventually go on to gross $130 million world wide.
A quick internet search easily brings up people talking about how the movie taught them about feminism and showed that women can do anything — even that activity’s traditionally considered part of “a man’s world.” Some even specifically said it inspired them to take up the sport of baseball. Others pointed out that the movie proved a woman led cast could produce a financially successful movie.
As someone with a degree in history who’s also a huge baseball fan, I think A League of Their Own also has other benefits as it draws attention to an often overlooked period of baseball history. We often hear about how players like Red Sox legend Ted Williams interrupted their baseball careers to serve in the military during WWII and the Korean War, but not nearly enough attention is given to the women portrayed in the film. A League of Their Own helped to make more people aware of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
In the days since Marshall’s death, there have been a lot of people paying tributes to her role in the movie’s production (including several of the stars). Madonna, who played center fielder Mae Mordabito, took to Instagram to post a picture of her with Marshall and say “So Lucky to have known you and worked with you Penny Marshall!! Your Talent was as BIG as your Heart and you were a Trailblazer For Women In Hollywood!”
Tom Hanks, who played manager Jimmy Dugan and delivered the famous “there’s no crying in baseball” line, tweeted out remarks saying “Goodbye, Penny. Man, did we laugh a lot! Wish we still could. Love you. Hanx.”
Major League Baseball also added to the tributes by putting out a tweet saying “we join the baseball community in mourning the passing of Penny Marshall.”
While it’s rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I want to add my voice to those celebrating Marshall’s life. She brought joy and laughter to many and her contributions to the entertainment world will be missed.