A League of Their Own

League of their OwnAre you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball! ~Tom Hanks as “Jimmie” Dugan in A League of Their Own

The comedy-drama, A League of Their Own, is based on a true story of two rival sisters who joined the first female professional baseball league during the second World War.  The movie’s all-star cast featured Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnel, and Ann Cusack; it grossed $107 million when it was released in the summer of 1992.

The story of the Oregon farm sisters Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller is filled with sisterly love and rivalry.  In the movie, Dottie is chosen to play in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, a women’s baseball league that was formed during World War II, when many of the minor league baseball teams disbanded for lack of players.  Knowing how much her sister Kit loves baseball, Dottie refuses to join the league unless her sister can play with her.  The two sisters travel to Illinois to try out for the league and ultimately make the Rockford Peaches. Throughout the movie, the girls’ rivalry grows as Kit feels like she is always overshadowed by her sister Dottie, who is a better player than she.  Making matters worse, Kit is eventually transferred to Rockford’s rival team, the Racine Belles.  The movie ends with Kit scoring a winning run for her team and making amends with her sister.

Although the characters in A League of Their Own are fictional, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League was an important part of women’s activities during World War II.  The league was formed in the spring of 1943 and was a non-profit organization managed by Phillip Wrigley, Branch Rickey (President of the Brooklyn Dodgers), Paul Harper (attorney for the Chicago Cubs), and Ken Sells.  Throughout the 1940s, the exact name of the organization changed, as did the technical rules.

During the league’s formation, agents were assigned to identify women’s baseball talent around the country, try outs were held in Chicago, and many of the women chosen earned salaries greater than their parents’ or their husbands’.  Standards for women baseball players were high, however: women were required to adhere to a strict code of conduct that included always wearing feminine attire, keeping their hair long, refraining from smoking and drinking, and attending charm school.

As the war came to a close, it became apparent that men’s baseball would continue on as it had before the draft, and the United States lost interest in women’s baseball.  Attendance at games and earned revenue fell and the league eventually ended in 1954.

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