The sports film genre has always managed to inspire in ways that others have not. The formula is perfect: a group of misfits who have been told their whole lives that they’ll never amount to anything find a strength through themselves and their teammates that helps them achieve the impossible. They make the catch, run over the finish line, and become the hero. A League Of Their Own is a perfect example of how memorable and fun this kind of movie can be, while also motivating it’s audience to appreciate something bigger.
Directed by Penny Marshall, A League Of Their Own focused on two sisters, Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty), grappling with each other and finding a purpose. It was a sibling strife that felt real: Dottie, more talented and more beautiful, found value in the league and worked to hone her craft, but she didn’t need it as badly as Kit. Long overshadowed by her older sister, baseball became the latest battleground for Kit to prove herself. Despite their mutual love and sisterly affection, the conflict between them was always beneath the surface and affected most of their choices on and off the field.
Part of the appeal of A League Of Their Own is the fact that it is rooted so deeply in actual history. While it was a fictional account of the Rockford Peaches and the rest of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the underlying story is true: during WWII, Phillip K. Wrigley, chewing gum tycoon and owner of the Chicago Cubs, wanted to create a women’s league as a wartime replacement for the usual professional baseball league. The rules were slightly different but it was similar enough to give people something to enjoy (and occupy themselves with) while many of their favorite ballplayers were off at war.
In the 25 years since the film’s release, many of its cast members have gone on to do interesting things. While you probably know what Tom Hanks and Madonna have accomplished in the following decades, you may not be as up on some of the other Rockford Peaches, so lets look at what they’ve been doing and also celebrate some of the women that inspired the film.
Geena Davis — Dottie Hinson
Geena Davis was a late addition to the cast after Debra Winger departed the role of Dottie. At the time, Davis was coming off of what would be one of the defining roles of her career (and the 1990s) in Thelma & Louise following star turns in Beetlejuice and The Fly. League would only elevate her further as one of Hollywood’s top actresses, but the transition into big budget action fare like Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight didn’t pay off at the box office. A switch to television also didn’t pay off, with the short-lived Geena Davis Show, Commander in Chief, and The Exorcist scattered over the last 17 years, among other projects.
Off-screen, Davis took up archery as a hobby at 41 and became so adept that she was a prospect for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She also founded The Geena Davis Institute On Gender In The Media, which works to create a more diverse creative landscape in television and film.
Lori Petty — Kit Keller
On the rise thanks to League and her role in Point Break, Petty co-starred with an Orca in the first Free Willy movie, took on a dramatic co-starring role in The Glass Shield before going all the way in the opposite direction In The Army Now beside Pauley Shore and Tank Girl, a comic book movie that pre-dated the surge in comic book movies. The film developed a small cult following after its initial run, but it represented Petty’s last high-profile starring role. Petty has continued to work steadily in television and film, though, most notably appearing in 17 episodes of Orange Is The New Black as troubled inmate Lolly Whitehill. She also directed a feature about her childhood called The Poker House, which starred a pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence.
Petty has done extensive voice work for the television series Superman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, as well as doing the abridged audiobooks for three of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels.
Rosie O’Donnell — Doris Murphy
Following her charming and brash turn in A League Of Their Own, Rosie O’Donnell went on to have a varried career. She continued to act in films like Sleepless In Seattle, The Flintstones, Now And Then, Beautiful Girls, and Harriet The Spy, but decided to pivot to a career as a talk show host (a not unnatural progression considering her career as a stand-up comic, especially considering the show’s late night in the daylight feel) in 1996. The Rosie O’Donnell Show was O’Donnell’s most successful endeavor, lasting from 1996-2002 while winning big ratings. A switch to The View proved less successful, lasting less than a year from 2006 to 2007. A second stint would follow the unsuccessful Rosie Show, which ran from October 2011 to March 2012 on the Oprah Winfrey Network, but O’Donnell left The View again after less than a year in 2015 citing health concerns.
On top of her work in television and film, O’Donnell has written two memoirs, overseen a reboot of McCall’s magazine, starred in Broadway productions including Grease and Fiddler On The Roof, won 13 Emmy Awards, and become an active and vocal leader in the LGBTQ community. She has also done extensive charity work, especially for children.
Megan Cavanagh — Marla Hooch
Marla Hooch was the underdog who made good. After her role in League, Megan Cavanagh continued with comedy, working with Mel Brooks in Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. She also had a role in Ivan Reitman’s Junior and recurred on Home Improvement as Al Borland’s love interest. Like Petty, Cavanagh is a talented voice actress, playing multiple characters in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and other projects.
In her early career, Cavanagh was a troupe member of comedy cabaret, New Age Vaudeville, and returned to those roots with touring performances of Menopause: The Musical.
Ann Cusack — Shirley Baker
Ann Cusack, sister to John and Joan, has worked steadily following League, co-starring on The Jeff Foxworthy Show (back in the throes of America’s “You might be a redneck…” fixation) and guest starring on Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, One Tree Hill, Charmed, Ghost Whisperer, The Unit… all of the shows? All of the shows. Boston Legal, Bones, Frasier, Ally McBeal, Criminal Minds, Private Practice… etc. Better Call Saul and Fargo are also on that list, showing Cusack’s appeal to peak TV casting directors. She’s also popped up on the big screen in films like Multiplicity, Grosse Point Blank, and Nightcrawler.
Bitty Schram — Evelyn Gardner
A League Of Their Own is easily one of the most quotable movies from the ’90s and nothing stays in the mind like “There’s no crying in baseball!” Bitty Schram, the actress who played had the line shouted at her by Tom Hanks, went on to be a television actress, with guest spots on Felicity, Roswell, and Ghost Whisperer. Also, like many of her League costars, she had a turn on Broadway with Laughter On the 23rd Floor. However, her big non-League break was as Sharona on Monk, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She left the show during season three after contract disputes couldn’t be resolved but briefly returned in season 8, though she hasn’t done much on screen since then.
Anne Ramsay — Helen Haley
Following her turn as Helen, the kindest Rockford Peach, Anne Ramsay was a regular on Mad About You, as the dysfunctional Lisa. During her time on the show, she earned a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble in a Comedy series. Following that more comedic turn, Ramsay transitioned into more dramatic roles with appearances on The L Word, Six Feet Under, Dexter, and The Secret Life Of The American Teenager.
The Film’s Inspirations
A League Of Their Own was able to convey that while they were wearing skirts and had to attend charm school, these women were serious athletes. They were given an opportunity to do something greater than themselves, and there was no way that they were going to let the opportunity pass them by. Time broke down exactly what these women were capable of, and it was truly staggering: “Blue Sox Catcher Mary “Bonnie” Baker could throw 345 feet. Lefty pitcher Annabelle Lee threw a perfect game. And Sophie Kurys stole 1,114 bases during her ten-year career.” These were not just women holding a spot for men until they returned. They were exceptional in their own right and went on to be honored by the Baseball Hall Of Fame with a permanent exhibit that predated the film, ensuring that they will never be forgotten by history.
Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis played for 10 seasons on three different teams — the Fort Wayne Daisies, the Racine Belles and the Grand Rapids Chicks. During her time in the league, Davis was a talented defensive catcher and infielder and one of the league’s all-time best run producers. Davis She went on to have three children, and served as a consultant for A League Of Their Own. While the character of Dottie was a combination of many women, Davis was one of the inspirations, and they even used the victory song that she co-wrote for the AAGPBL in the film. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 88.
Another of one the real-life players was Doris Sams, a founding member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Sams was one of the best players in the league, pitching a perfect game and setting a single-season home run record in the AAGPBL. After her time in the league, she moved back home to Knoxville. Her bat and player-of-the year trophies currently reside at a permanent exhibit in the Hall of Fame. She passed away in 2012 at the age of 85 due to complications from Alzheimer’s.
Some had larger roles in making the film a reality than others, including Helen Callaghan Candaele St. Aubin. She played for four seasons in the league, and her son Kelly Candaele made the documentary, A League Of Their Own, about his mother’s baseball career in 1988, which was the inspiration for Marshall’s film. Her other son, Casey Candaele, went on to follow in his mother’s footsteps, playing in the majors for the the Montreal Expos, Houston Astros, and Cleveland Indians, before coaching for the Seattle Mariners. Helen passed away in 1992 at the age of 69 after a battle with breast cancer.
Mildred “Meach” Meacham was honored just last year by the AAGPBL for her longtime dedication to the game and to her time with the league, playing for the teams that inspired A League Of Their Own. She passed away in January at the age of 92.