Director Penny Marshall has produced a moving, sensitive, nostalgic film about women who worked as baseball players during World War II.
These bat girls were young women who were suddenly drafted into the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. They were unusual and exciting and they added a page to the history of sports. In the last scene o the film, the teams are reunited in Cooperstown for the opening of the women's section of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The game scenes are very realistic and the women play hardball very well. The underlying story as presented by Marshall is woven with a warm look at the lives and challenges women were forced to deal with in the 1940s. It was clear in the minds of the owners that when the men came back from the war, the Girls' League would end. Their work was therefore like many other women who went to work at the urging of government during the war and were edged out when the men returned. Further excluded were black women, despite their skill.
Tom Hanks stars as a disgruntled former pro ballplayer, Jimmy Dugan, who is assigned to coach and manage one of the teams, the Rockford Peaches. His character is obnoxious, spitting and urinating as he pleases. With time he begins to appreciate the dedication and skill of his players. The real star is Geena Davis. She plays Dottie Hinson, a top player in the women's softball circuit in Oregon who becomes the top player in the new professional league. Each woman's story is completed at the Cooperstown reunion.
The skill which Marshall brings to the screen moves and inspires, whether its the silence of a young woman who can't read or the growth in confidence of Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh) from a shy, ugly, dumpy young woman into a vibrant confident woman in the end.
The story of the history of women in baseball is not the true focus. It is the growth and confidence the young women gain as they work together in a new setting as the world was changing. As Dottie Hinson says to Jimmy Dugan "It's only a game". Their lives are the important events, not the innings they play.
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