It’s the middle of August, and baseball season is at its sweetest during these hazy, lazy days when the sharp crack of a Louisville Slugger is the absolute best and onliest thing that can pierce the mosquito-laden humidity. Who needs A/C when you have thousands of fans stirred into action as a long, languishing fly into left field arcs into the waiting glove of a lucky kid in the grandstand?
Amazon Prime Video had the right idea when it picked this week to release eight episodes of A League of Their Own, a nostalgic peek at women’s teams—here, the Rockford Peaches—who were recruited by major-league moguls anxious at keeping up morale on the home front during World War II. These “Rosie the Riveters” of the baseball diamond remind us how essential our national pastime really is to our identity and endurance, even heaped with some generous helpings of sapphic love.
This new TV series, created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, draws its inspiration from Penny Marshall’s 1992 film for Sony Pictures that was inspired by the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell were among the cast members of that iconic production that ended up being selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry. Marshall said she had been motivated to make the film after seeing an earlier documentary of the same name that she’d seen on television.
Like its 1992 counterpart, the new Amazon Prime series lovingly portrays its cast members as multidimensional characters, complete with eccentricities and character defects. The real-life All-American Girls were drawn largely from rural, small-town backgrounds, so the series can also be enjoyed as a “slice of life” depiction of Americana nearly a century ago.
By frankly foregrounding issues of race and queer attraction, A League of Their Own reminds us, paradoxically, how far we’ve come but how little we’ve progressed. One of the most endearing characters is that of Max, a Black woman lovingly portrayed by Chanté Adams. Because of Jim Crow-era color lines in major-league sports, she is unable to use her talents on the pitcher’s mound but emerges as a staunch and fearless role model for some of the other women. (During World War II, the U.S. military still fought in segregated regiments, and the real-life Jackie Robinson would not become the first “Negro” major-league baseball player until several years after the war’s end.)
Also memorable are the performances by two “lovebirds” on the team: Carson (Abbi Jacobson) and Greta (D’Arcy Carden). Carson is a housewife from Idaho who tries out for the team while her husband is away in the service. The eighth episode in the series opens with a tense bedroom scene in which Carson implores her mate to allow her some “room of her own” time in the dugout. The episode concludes with a steamy deep-kissing scene involving Carson and Greta on the side porch as Carson’s husband returns bearing a bouquet of flowers for his freedom-seeking spouse. It makes one anticipate the as yet-unrealized ninth episode (or shall we say, ninth inning?).
One of the most endearing scenes also comes in the eighth episode, when in a spontaneous display of sisterly solidarity, the Peaches gratuitously carry an injured opponent to home plate so she can officially be credited with a home run, even though this means defeat for the Peaches.
Though the women athletes of the Rockford Peaches are not engaged in combat like their male counterparts in the armed services, they are portrayed in this sensitive and well-wrought series as furious fighters on their own battlefields, transgressing lines of race, color, gender stereotyping and sexual orientation. All this adds up to a richly layered narrative about women defying all odds to hit home runs, even if they land far from home. Batters up!
Grade : A
Here’s the trailer of the film.