Behind-The-Scenes Stories From ‘A League of Their Own,’ The Most Rewatchable Sports Movie



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Vote up the behind-the-scenes stories from A League of Their Own that are a total grand slam.

In 1987, a short documentary about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL; 1943-1954) aired on television, catching the attention of producer and director Penny Marshall. The documentary inspired the making of the feature film A League of Their Own, which became a commercial and critical hit when it was released in 1992.

Behind the scenes, the cast members trained hard to convincingly portray baseball players, even suffering real injuries in the process. Many of the details in the film, such as the players being sent to charm school, having chaperones, and being forced to play in skirts, are based on the real experiences of the AAGPBL athletes. 

While the film project hit some stumbling blocks along the way - the original studio placed it in turnaround and several of the actors originally cast dropped out or were replaced - the final film remains one of the most entertaining and inspirational sports movies in Hollywood history. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry. And in 2020, Amazon announced it had picked up a TV series version of the film; the show will follow a new set of characters as they attempt to become professional baseball players.  

In the film, Tom Hanks's character memorably claimed, "There's no crying in baseball!" That may or may not be true, but what is true is that the making of A League of Their Own sounds as fun as the finished movie.

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    6 VOTES

    No One Thought That 'There's No Crying In Baseball!' Would Become A Classic Movie Line

    Decades after audiences first heard Jimmy Duggan scream, "There's no crying in baseball!" the quote remains a fixture in pop culture. However, screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel never thought the scene would continue to be quoted years after the film's release.

    The intent of the scene, the screenwriters told ESPNW in 2017, was to show how different the cultures of men's and women's baseball were. "We never said, 'And then there will be this great scene where the coach says, "There's no crying in baseball,"'" Ganz claimed. He added that the line didn't come from knowing that Tom Hanks would be playing the manager; it was in the very first draft of the script, well before the actor had been cast.

    Bitty Schram, who played Evelyn Gardner, the right fielder who breaks down in tears when she is berated by her manager for missing the cutoff man, said that the scene was filmed out of sequence and took numerous takes to get right. "What kind of sucked was that they had to fix my face for the next take because I couldn't look like I'm crying before I'm crying," Schram told ESPNW. The actor admitted she couldn't stand to watch the scene when she went to the film's premiere because "it made me nauseous. All I could see is 'Oh, they pick the take where I look like I was crying before' or 'Tom is great, but look at my f***ing double chin.' That's all I think about."

    Geena Davis said she always thought the line was very funny, but never thought it would become as iconic as it has: "That line is a signature. Right up there with 'Hasta la vista, baby.'"

    6 votes
  • In the early 1990s, Madonna was a huge star. She had been nominated for multiple Grammy (and other) awards, and each of her first four studio albums had gone multi-platinum in the United States. She had nine singles top the Billboard Hot 100 and completed two successful world tours. She had also been in several films, most notably Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) and Dick Tracy (1990). Still, when it came to casting her in A League of Their Own, some of the executives at Columbia Pictures weren't sure whether she would be able to handle a sizable role. 

    "There's still some dispute about whether she's a 'movie star,'" a Columbia Pictures executive told the Los Angeles Times in 1991. "The feeling is that, surrounded by the right people, she's fine. The big question is whether she can take on a big role and carry it off on her own."

    Marshall thought of casting Madonna in A League of Their Own after the actor chosen to play All the Way Mae dropped out of the film. Madonna was eager to be in the film, and when producer Robert Greenhut warned her she wouldn't be paid very much, she replied that she wanted to diversify her career. Greenhut recalled that she took her role very seriously, and that although he had to occasionally reprimand her for being late to the set, she was determined to do a good job.

    Lori Petty told The Ringer that Madonna was such a huge star at the time that she wasn't even sure how to address her. "We were like, what are we even supposed to call her. We can't call her Madonna! That's like calling her the Empire State Building!" But sharing a makeup trailer with Madonna helped Petty relax around her. Madonna even confessed to the other actors that she hadn't been confident that she was going to become a huge star.

    Marshall also didn't know how to act around the superstar singer. "I couldn't get the word 'Madonna' out," she wrote in her memoir. Her solution was to deal with Madonna and O'Donnell in the same breath as "Ro and Mo."

    Davis was another person who wasn't sure what to expect, telling USA Today in 2017, "She was Madonna. We wondered if we were going to be able to talk to her. Was she going to have an entourage? Were they going to put up walls around her where she stands?" But the actor went on to state that the singer fit in well, training hard for her role and doing her own stunts like sliding head-first into the bases.

    4 votes
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    4 VOTES

    Rosie O'Donnell Would Sing Madonna Songs On Set To Annoy Her

    O'Donnell did not seem to be intimidated by Madonna's fame. There was a lot of downtime during filming, and O'Donnell would often fill the lulls by singing Madonna songs. According to Megan Cavanagh:

    Madonna would get so mad and swear at her... and that was part of their friendship. Rosie was not afraid of Madonna. She did what she wanted to do, and I think Madonna loved that. Rosie would sing all of "Holiday," and Madonna would get mad at her and say, "Don't ever sing one of my songs again." And the next day, she'd come out and sing "Vogue." It was so fun to watch her do that.

    Years after the film was released, O'Donnell had Marshall come on her television talk show. During that interview, O'Donnell remembered how, before she ever met Madonna, she had gone to see Truth or Dare with her boyfriend (this was during what O'Donnell called her "brief heterosexual period"). When her boyfriend speculated that O'Donnell and Madonna would be friends if they ever met, O'Donnell dismissed the chances of her ever meeting the singer.

    Two days later, she learned that Marshall wanted to cast Madonna to play the part of the best friend to O'Donnell's character. 

    4 votes
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    4 VOTES

    Yes, The Gigantic 'Strawberry' Bruise On Alice's Thigh Was Real

    Baseball is a dangerous game. Balls are thrown or hit at high speed, player collisions aren't uncommon, and sliding on dirt can be very hard on the body. In order to look like real players, the cast trained strenuously for as many as eight hours a day, six days a week, over a period of several months. So it isn't surprising that the cast of A League of Their Own had their own version of a disabled list.

    In one scene in the film, someone in the crowd yells out for outfielder Alice Gaspers (played by Renée Coleman) to slide into third base. She does and ends up with a huge bruise on her thigh. Well, that bruise was not the result of Coleman spending hours in makeup: "That was real. That was not one pinch of makeup. She had that bruise for, like, 10 years," Tracy Reiner recalled to ESPNW in 2017.

    That was just one of the real-life injuries that cast members suffered. About two weeks before filming was set to start, Anne Ramsay was injured when a ball hit her in the face. "It was the first day that we switched from modern-day mitts to authentic, vintage mitts from the '40s," she told ESPNW. "The mitts were restored a little bit, but they were the original deals. We were in Chicago, the coach throws me the ball... and maybe the fourth time he threw it, it just slips and hits me. It breaks my nose."

    Ramsay recalled that Marshall told her that if her nose didn't look great after it was reset, the director would just write the injury into the script! Luckily, she didn't have to do this, as the nose healed fine.

    Marshall herself recalled to Newsday that Lori Petty filmed scenes while wearing a cast and that Rosie O'Donnell played with broken fingers.

    4 votes
  • There is a definite attraction between Dottie and Jimmy in A League of Their Own, although they never act on it. In 2017, Megan Cavanagh recalled that a scene in which the characters kiss got cut from the finished film because "it was very upsetting to the real women players, apparently. Davis's character was married, and it upset the [former AAGPBL] players that she would kiss another man while her husband was at war."

    Another scene that got deleted was one where Dottie revealed that she married her husband Bob the night he got drafted.

    3 votes
  • In 2012, Penny Marshall told an audience at the Hudson Union Society that Tom Hanks asked to play the part of Jimmy Dugan, the heavy-drinking former MLB star turned reluctant manager of the Rockford Peaches. At the time, Hanks was coming off of two flop films, The 'Burbs and Joe Versus the Volcano.

    Dugan was originally supposed to be a man in his 50s, but Hanks reportedly talked Marshall into making the character younger. The director was worried that a younger Dugan would be too appealing to the audience, so as a compromise Hanks packed on about 30 pounds to make the character more slovenly. "I had to get fat. I had to gain some weight," the actor told Entertainment Tonight in 1992. "I had BBQ pork ribs and enjoyed the desserts of America."

    3 votes