More Than a Movie

Twenty-five years later, A League Of Their Own still resonates. (via Chris Gigley)

It’s an interesting time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the best baseball movies of all time, A League of Their Own. Social media is magnifying the gender gap and unleashing a mean-spiritedness that threatens the can-do spirit of women the film captured so well.

The 1992 classic, based on a professional all-female baseball league in the Midwest during World War II, highlighted characteristics we prize in ballplayers today–grit, determination, perseverance, etc. That the story applied these qualities to female ballplayers didn’t matter at the box office.

According to iMDB, A League of Their Own grossed more than $107 million in the U.S. and more than $132 million worldwide. It also made more than $53 million in rental sales at dearly departed Blockbuster Video stores across the country (Although one stays alive on Twitter).

But just as the movie depicted a different world from 1992, the ’90s seem distant now. Sexism existed 25 years ago, but the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle has made it impossible to ignore today.

The nation still isn’t completely over the undercurrent of sexism that ran through the 2016 presidential election. Oh, and the winning candidate said this. Never forget, because he keeps behaving badly, even with the whole world watching.

Reminders that sexism, like racism, is enduring pop up all the time. It’s in the media. (Look at what happened at Fox News.) It’s in Silicon Valley. It’s in Hollywood.

The sports world has plenty of it, too. The world was atwitter after tennis star Andy Murray corrected a reporter at his final Wimbledon press conference over a question that ignored women’s tennis. Speaking of sports journalism, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Journalism released a study showing that microaggressions against female athletes in the media increased by almost 40 percent from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

It’s not just the way sports are covered, either. Jessica Luther recently wrote an excellent article for Bleacher Report about Girls Travel Baseball, a Florida-based national travel baseball team for girls that competes against boys’ teams in tournaments all over the country. If you want the sour taste of sexism in this day and age, just sit in the stands at one of their games.

Here’s a sample from Luther’s story:

The girls of GTB are always on the lookout for the hate. They never know if what they are getting is simply bad sportsmanship or if it’s intentional because they are girls. Either way, they are always on alert. They once played a tournament in which three teams dropped out when they found out they’d have to play an all-girls team. For a while, GTB submitted rosters with only the girls’ first initials and their last names. The girls describe how often they get hit by pitches while at the plate or hit by balls while running the bases (they can’t prove they get hit more than the boys, but they all believe it to be true).

The hate doesn’t just happen on the field. After the first game the Prime Team played in Miami, Julie Clines, whose daughter Olivia plays on the team, saw a grown man standing near the field, flapping his arms around, mimicking the girls, saying “I’m a girl ballplayer.” Clines told the tournament director, but there was nothing he could do. “We’re used to it,” she said, angry but resigned.

Meanwhile, people like that so-called grown man had a field day on Twitter when Jessica Mendoza, ESPN’s first female baseball analyst, called the Home Run Derby in Miami this month. Not that that was anything new, really. She takes a beating from the Twitterverse on a regular basis. (And not just from mouth breathers, either.)

It is through this lens that America has spent this summer reminiscing about A League of Their Own. Mendoza contributed to an excellent oral history of A League of Their Own that ran on ESPNw in June. Several major league teams and even more minor league teams have commemorated the film with everything from special player-worn jerseys to actor appearances and bobblehead dolls.

Back in June, The Hardball Times attended one such celebration held at one of the original sites for the movie, League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind.

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League Stadium still looks much like it has since it got its movie makeover. (via Chris Gigley)

The exit off I-64 in southern Indiana seems like a mistake. Easing onto Indiana State Route 162 doesn’t seem right. The GPS has malfunctioned, a thought that only gets more alarming when it orders a quick turn left from 162 onto a road that bends, dips and twists through an industrial park and then an endless emerald sea of giant corn stalks interrupted only occasionally by modest farmhouses and weatherbeaten barns. Only after about 20 minutes of this do descending speed-limit signs hint at an approaching town. It’s Huntingburg.

League Stadium is on the right, set back in a quaint little park tucked between the city pool and, yep, more corn fields. Location scouts for A League of Their Own really nailed it when they managed to find this place and pick it as the home of the fictional Rockford Peaches.

We know, there was a real Rockford Peaches, too. That team played in the All-American Girls Baseball League from 1943 through 1954 at Beyer Stadium, which is still in the process of being restored to host the Rockford Starfires of the Women’s Hardball/Baseball League.

League Stadium was an excellent stand-in for the film. The main grandstand dates all the way back to 1894, but the stadium got a major overhaul leading up to the movie shoot, which started in July of 1991. Columbia Pictures negotiated with the town to expand the stadium to its current 2,783 capacity and enhance the early-20th century character it already had. What was left after the movie crew left town is a rustic stadium reminiscent of Birmingham, Ala.’s venerable Rickwood Field.

Nods to the film are still all over the ballpark. The old manual scoreboard has “Rockford Peaches” splashed across it. Many of the outfield billboard ads are painted to look like they’re from the ‘40s. The tiny gift shop sells T-shirts printed with “There’s No Crying in Baseball…” And wedged beneath the grandstand is a life-size shadowbox of the Peaches’ locker room set.

League Stadium now hosts the local high school team, the Raiders, and a college summer league team, the Dubois County Bombers. The Bombers wear knicker-style uniforms designed to look like early-20th century uniforms, and the team slogan is “Where Every Night is Throwback Night.”

The slogan is dead on. For baseball fans who still hold a candle for places like Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Detroit’s Tiger Stadium and the original Durham Athletic Park featured in the 1988 baseball movie gold standard Bull Durham, seeing a Bombers game at League isn’t a recommendation, it’s a must.

The best place to take in the whole scene is atop the renovated grandstand, where a wide aisle gives fans plenty of space to stand and catch a nice breeze from ceiling fans that cut through the thick humidity of a Midwestern summer. The whole town gathers for Bombers games, eating hot dogs, brats, and homemade fried peach pies from the concession stand, washing it down with locally made Dad’s root beer. If you could sum up summer with one place, this would be it.

But to say League Stadium reminds you of the good old days really depends on who you are. Today’s female athletes probably would balk at wearing a uniform that included a skirt.

The women weren’t overly fond of their skirts, and it’s easy to see why. (via Chris Gigley)

The 25th anniversary festivities in Huntingburg included an exhibition game between the Peaches and Belles, a la the climactic championship game in A League of Their Own. Many of the players were softballers from nearby colleges, and their faces told two stories. One, they enjoyed playing. Two, they weren’t thrilled with the skirts.

Overall, however, the game was a hit with everyone in the stands. The public address announcer called the game over the speakers, just like in the film, and the game went along quickly. Not as quickly as the players shed those skirted uniforms after the game, though.

A few of them stuck around for the Bombers game, but most left in the early innings, slinging duffles stuffed with bats, gloves and other equipment over their shoulders. In A League of Their Own, the characters left the ballpark of that championship game knowing a more conventional life for women of that day and age awaited them, if not right away then eventually.

Not these softball players. They, along with Mendoza and the Girls Travel Baseball players may still have to deal with sexism, but clearly they’re not going to be stopped by it. Sexism endures, unfortunately, but this is a different age after all, even with all the bad stuff swirling around in politics, the media, sports and society in general.

Here’s what Billy Bean, vice president and special assistant to commissioner Rob Manfred, had to say about A League of Their Own in that ESPNw piece:

This movie is no different than having young girls watch Venus and Serena Williams play tennis. If they see an image they can relate to, it makes them want to try something. To inspire is something to really behold.”

Hopefully A League of Their Own does keep inspiring women and girls to try baseball and other historically male-dominated sports and fields. By the time the 50th anniversary of the film rolls around, maybe they won’t have to put up with as much grief as women today and the women of the All-American Girls Baseball League.


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Chris Gigley is a freelance writer who has written for a number of Major League team publications, as well as Baseball America and ESPN the Magazine. Follow him on Instagram @cgigley and Twitter @cgigley.
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Eddie
Guest
Eddie

“The girls of GTB are always on the lookout for the hate. … The girls describe how often they get hit by pitches while at the plate or hit by balls while running the bases (they can’t prove they get hit more than the boys, but they all believe it to be true).”

Oh, yeah, this totally sounds like a great way to produce healthy, confident adults.

Curtis
Guest
Curtis
Yeah I found that quote pretty weak too. As a journalist it seems like you would recognize this is a really subjective view and just leave it out. If you look for hate, you’re gonna find it. I’m getting a little tired of all the viewpoint journalism we see now. Too often the writer seems to start with a premise and then only report the material that fits the premise. Its a shame because the movie was both a great movie and inspiring and there’s some great material in this story but the slant of the article at the opening… Read more »
RA
Guest
RA
I mean, some of the best athletes in the world are famous for taking any small perceived dig at them and using it as motivation. Aaron Rodgers still talks about how he didn’t receive a D1 or D2 scholarship and is renowned for the “chip on his shoulder”. During his Hall of Fame speech, Michael Jordan made a point to call out his high school basketball coach for not placing him on the varsity basketball team like 40 years ago and he’s regarded as “the greatest competitor that ever lived.” Now, maybe you think these athletes are slightly unhinged and… Read more »
OttoTheBum
Guest
OttoTheBum
I made it to “microaggression”. Life’s too short for this soft Pinko site; I come here for baseball, not sermons from the priests of political correctness. Either the editors of this site recently converted to the Marxist faith – and they see as their holy duty the fomenting of social ruptures, or the editors exercise poor judgment in hiring zealots whose opinions rightfully belong in the Salon.com comment bin. Whichever of the two is true, the editors of this site have abandoned their readers in favor of pious proclamations. They might enjoy self-flagellation, but this bum ain’t on board.
Joe
Guest
Joe

Wow, Otto, you are one angry white guy. Maybe you oughta sray in your mommy’s basement safe room, with your case of doritos, and keep watching your Siuth Park libertarian bullshit

Morris Buttermaker
Guest
Morris Buttermaker

I’ve heard all the hate about Jessica Mendoza and honestly I was at first skeptical of a female baseball announcer. But she won me over the first broadcast I saw. She is intelligent and explains the game in a way that’s explanatory to new fans but not boring to old ones. I will take her over Curt Schilling or Joe buck any day.

Now if only espn would get rid of that damn box and the dots for every pitch. Then maybe I could watch sunday night baseball again.

Chris
Guest
Chris

^ part of the problem

Chris
Guest
Chris

To be clear, not intended for Buttermaker. More for the heads-in-the-sand company.

KurtP
Guest
KurtP

Chris, buddy, if we stopped reading before the end because we opened a baseball story and found a political one, then no matter how superior you feel … you lose.

Morris Buttermaker
Guest
Morris Buttermaker

Wait. What exactly is part of the problem?

Mike Easler
Guest
Mike Easler
We really do need to separate foolish comments made by a politician, and unknown people on twitter, from what is really going on. Women’s sports have never been better, and softball has been tremendous in providing opportunities for both girls and women. The movie succeeded in telling a story which wasn’t well-known at the time, and did inspire participation in softball. It seems doubtful baseball would ever replace softball in popularity for girls and women. Softball’s appeal is the point of entry, along with the scholarship opportunities available later on. It’s really up to the population to decide, resources and… Read more »
David B.
Guest
David B.
This is my last comment and last visit to Hardball Times – a website that I have frequented since its inception. It was one of my first baseball blog bookmarks. But we’re done. I don’t have any interest in the social issues you are pushing. For the record, I am a father of a young girl. We love baseball and attend major league games regularly. We play ball in the backyard during free time. It’s one of many activities we do. I don’t really care if my daughter becomes a baseball player or an engineer or a barista, so long… Read more »
OttoTheBum
Guest
OttoTheBum

Check your privilege, white devil!

Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman
Good God, this site is going into the toilet faster than you can say “Jackie Robinson”. If it wasn’t the leftist, politically correct and fraudulent claptrap put out by Sarah Wexler and Mary Craig, it’s this detritus from some clown named Chris Gigley. Who confidently asserts that sexism played a role in the last election, and that ‘microagresssions’ exist. Is this the product of our public education system today, as well as the secondary education system? I notice that Wexler, Craig and Gigley all appear to be fairly recent college graduates in their mid 20s. God help our country if… Read more »
Paul Swydan
Admin
To Dave and others who are offended, First, I can assure that Chris is not in his 20s. He is a father of teenagers, and while I don’t know his exact age, I’m guessing he is in his 40s because I am 38 and he is older than me. Second, at this site we strive to offer a variety of different types of content, and have since the site’s inception. The types of content are now more concentrated now that we only run one story per day, but the site’s mission hasn’t changed. Third, there isn’t a single article that… Read more »
Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman

Thanks for the reply Paul. I’m glad to see you’re man enough to engage with (once loyal) readers.

But it’s your funeral. Your tone has a whiff of what’s going at CNN right now, as they continue to double and triple down on a failed strategy that is sending their ratings into the dumper.

Good luck to you. You’ll need it.

Paul Swydan
Admin

I’ll have to take your word on that. I haven’t watched CNN or any other cable news channel in well over a decade. Thanks for the well wishes.

A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive

– “broad spectrum of content and writers”

– continually publishes nakedly political pieces all parroting the exact same extremist dogma

Why can’t progressives ever be honest about what they’re doing?

Paul Swydan
Admin

If you’re going to sit here and blithely ignore stories on baseball books, pitchers mixing speeds, star pitcher’s home run problems, profiles on a double-a catcher or pieces on baseball cards — all stories we’ve run in the past week or will tomorrow — I can’t help you. I’m sorry you think you are being lied to. I have better things to do with my time than lie to a person on the internet who doesn’t even have the nerve to list his or her real name in his or her comment. Have a great day.

A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive
That’s just a dodge. Obviously you publish non-political pieces as well. But when you do get political, which is increasingly frequent, there is nothing “broad” about your viewpoints. They are in lockstep with each other. You’re so far gone that just the other day you had a literal communist gender-studies-splain to us how to do baseball. If it’s too much to ask you to stop dragging your politics into every single facet of life, just please be honest about what those politics are. They’re not “broad,” they’re not “diverse,” they’re not a “spectrum.” THT is about baseball history, analysis, and… Read more »
David B.
Guest
David B.
Paul, Baseball brings people together of all different views. You have recently brought on-board three writers that whose articles divide people. If you don’t believe me, re-read the comments on their articles. So while you may act indignant, the truth is there a huge difference between finding a baseball article on one of my longtime favorite baseball sites that talks about an aspect of baseball of which I’m uninterested…… and finding a baseball article on one of my favorite baseball sites that isn’t actually about baseball, and is yet another tiresome social issue piece. Like you, I don’t watch CNN.… Read more »
Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman
Hey Paul, I’ve got an idea that might make us all happy. To show your support for “broad perspectives” why don’t you give me, A Former Progressive and few others a chance to balance the scorecard? We’ll write an article called ‘Baseball Analysis: A Celebration of Broads.’ For a Broad Perspective. Get it? It will include riveting in-depth analysis, nostalgic anecdotes, and memorable photos of female fans with big boobs. I still have my signed photos of me and Morganna from some old Reds games I attended. And we can provide current commentary from Milwaukee with clips and news that… Read more »
Paul Swydan
Admin
Dave Kingman – Very nicely done, turning my words around on me. Let me know how the research goes about how Amy affects visiting teams. David B. – I think I have a hard time squaring up your view that you don’t want certain groups of people banned but that you don’t want them on the site you like to read. Would that not be banning them? As for the comment about baseball bringing people together, it can do that. But it can also spark discussion. I don’t think said discussions need to divide people — I’d like to think… Read more »
A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive

This is getting funny. I keep asking you to just be honest about your site’s progressive political agenda, and what’s your response?

“Oh, it’s just a story about a popular baseball movie! [opens with 600 words of SEXISM and DONALD DRUMPF SUX] And that other one was just a harmless little piece about baseball jargon. [entire thing is about how baseball words are RACIST] What’s so political about that??”

Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman

Hear, hear.

I just laid down a playful challenge to Paul to represent the other side with an article co-authored by you and me, A Former Progressive. I notice my post was deleted by the moderator less than 30 seconds after it appeared.

The prosecution rests its case, your honor.

Paul Swydan
Admin

Dave Kingman – I didn’t delete your comment, and no one else should be monitoring comments. Sometimes if you put 2 or more links in a comment, it’ll get flagged as spam.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I find it sad and pathetic that so many people are so offended by one measly column that they profess to no longer want to read an entire website.

Here’s an idea: if you don’t like the column, go read something else. Why are the same people who complain so much about everyone else’s supposed fragility unable to handle the slightest offense to their own sensibilities? The hypocrisy is unreal. I wish that the critics of this piece would develop some self-awareness of their own thin skins.

Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman
Alex, thank you for your feedback and input. I used to really like this site. Topps Card Corner was one of my absolute favorites on the web. But somehow, somewhere in the last few months the HB Times has been hijacked by 20-something leftwing nitwits. It’s not only this article. Go read that nonsense by Mary Craig, which is cognitive dissonance and self-parody of the highest order on display. Or the Collection of Kooks “Celebration” by Sarah Wexler, where an award was bestowed on a young kid who laughably claimed (or perhaps, was erroneously embellished by Wexler) to have launched… Read more »
OttoTheBum
Guest
OttoTheBum

Damned straight, brother!

A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive
The left’s “fragility” meme is the worst case of projection I’ve ever seen. In the current year, the left’s entire identity is based on fragility, victimhood, and weakness. “I can’t even right now,” “I’m literally shaking right now,” “Donald Trump is literally going to round up all gays, browns, and women and GAS THEM TO DEATH, we’re so desperate for victim status we’ve deluded ourselves into believing this is true, PLEASE SOMEONE SAVE US.” This mindset doesn’t “offend” me. It viscerally disgusts me. It represents an ideology where the talented and strong are dragged down to be made into soylent… Read more »
A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive

Being a male feminist won’t get you laid, Chris. Even women feminists secretly loathe you.

“Microaggressions” aren’t real, and it’s hilarious that you’re using ThinkProgress as a source for this. You could more credibly tell me that our water is turning the frogs gay and link me to Infowars.

No one wants your social justice cancer, THT. This is a baseball site. You’re burning audience goodwill with every one of your political screeds.

Frank Jackson
Guest
Frank Jackson
For the record, it appears that “A League of Their Own” has become something of a cult movie for lesbians. A local LGBTQ, etc. group showed it in my hometown as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration. A quick scan of the internet confirms its popularity with lesbians. As for Jessica Mendoza, I think she does a good job, but I can’t help but note that a woman doing a job that thousands of men could do will get far more kudos than the men ever would. Finally, it is important to note that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League,… Read more »
Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman

Hear, hear.

And I might add, there is nothing stopping women from starting their own professional softball and baseball leagues right now. On their own.

Go for it, ladies! That’s one of the wonderful things about living in a free country. Emancipate thyselves!

Roger
Guest
Roger

Someone needs to learn the difference between “Choice” and “Agency”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)

Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman

You didn’t build that.

John G.
Guest
John G.

This is a very interesting, timely, and appropriate article. Thank you.

John Autin
Guest
John Autin
I’m a liberal, but I don’t like what I’ve seen in recent months on HT, in two ways: 1. The proportion of political content is too high. 2. The overall quality of that content is too low. There’s room for social politics on a baseball site, but if the advocacy isn’t done more carefully than what I’ve seen here, you alienate far more people than you persuade. The start of the quoted passage from the GTB story disturbed me, and I’m one who longs to see women in MLB. “The girls of GTB are always on the lookout for the… Read more »
RA
Guest
RA

John, as I commented above, the behavior of the girls “on the lookout for the hate” is demonstrated by numerous famous athletes who take any perceived dig, no matter how small, and use it as motivation (see: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Jordan). If you think this behavior is unhealthy, fine, but society seems to praise these “great competitors.”

John Hinton
Guest
John Hinton
Rarely do I comment; however,… My daughter and I have watched League of Their Own countless times. The thing that differentiates this movie and the political climate of today is that the women in the movie went about their business. They didn’t whine and complain about sexism. They let their performance silence the ignorant masses. In all facets of society we need to have “a little less talk and a lot more action”. Men or women, we need to march silently forward toward our goals instead of bemoaning every perceived slight. Some type of ‘ism’ exists in all aspects of… Read more »
walt oconnor
Guest
walt oconnor

Sick to death of the rants. Go to HBT for a break. 1st article a rant. Sickening.

Melt the Snowflakes
Guest
Melt the Snowflakes
This comments section shows pretty clearly the appropriateness of the article in tone and substance. Nothing like anti-PC crusaders getting triggered by the most trivial observations of obvious sexism, demanding safe spaces to protect them from any discussion of the plain fact that sexism is alive and well in American society (and particularly in the world of sports). Somehow they don’t realize that every comment they make helps to prove the author’s point. Or maybe they just don’t care. I enjoyed the article a lot. I read HT a fair amount and I’ll read more if you keep publishing good… Read more »
Dave Kingman
Guest
Dave Kingman
That’s an interesting take on things. Back when I was a youngster, I learned something from my grandfather, father and other older men in the neighborhood. They never hesitated to “call bullshit” on something. That is, when something passed by them that was obviously wrong, or misguided, or poorly thought-through they would “call bullshit” on that thing. Perhaps you’ve heard the term. Or perhaps not. It seems like today that is somehow conflated to “being triggered”. The verbs in each are instructive, aren’t they? In the first, “calling” is a conscious act of commission. Something the debater offers of his… Read more »
A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive
Nailed it. The projection also stems from the fact that to argue/”call bullshit” is to square off in a one-on-one verbal duel. Contrast that to “call-out culture,” where someone with more social cache than you drags you in front of the social circle to be accused of hurting someone, and trying to argue your case only makes you MORE guilty of causing hurt, and your only way out is to grovel and repent and debase yourself to your superior and the wider social circle, after which you are (usually) allowed to return with even lesser social status than before. Here’s… Read more »
A Former Progressive
Guest
A Former Progressive
No, you see, the problem is that your definition of “sexism” depends on an assumption that is scientifically untrue: that men and women are exactly the same. Progressives work night and day across all of their institutions to convince us that what we all can see with our own eyes is false, because this idea of biological differences destroys their entire worldview. But the facts are are as follows: Men and women have different brains: http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html Women don’t get into STEM much because they have different interests: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201707/why-brilliant-girls-tend-favor-non-stem-careers Men and women have different IQ distributions; women cluster more in the… Read more »
Drew
Guest
Drew

Cool article Chris. Ballpark seems like a lot of fun, though I’m sure the play suffers with the uniforms. The red and nude commenters getting triggered over and over was icing on the cake.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.

That was one of the weirdest articles I have ever read, and I don’t just mean on THT but anywhere. The first part and the second part are so different a tone as it is difficult to conceive they were ever meant to be together, like some editor spilled coffee on the keyboard and accidentally merged two distinct pieces. It’s jarring.

Jayson
Guest

Do the Best it is all that a person’s need says.
I have found this same here.

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