In the 1992 film “A Class of Its Own”, which told the story of a baseball league for women in 1943 with actors like Tom Hanks and Madonna, there was a wonderful moment of pause. A ball lands on the edge of the field – in front of the feet of a spectator who is standing a few meters from the stands. Unlike the all-white players of the “Rockford Peaches”, she has dark skin, lifts the ball out of the sand and throws it back with unexpected force. And when the Geena Davis-played player Dottie, who is the focus of the film with her sister Kitty (Lori Petty), has safely caught the ball, the mute onlooker sends a proud and meaningful look afterwards.
It’s nice that you white women are allowed to play now, that’s what it means. But we? Black players were out of the question. Black players weren’t even seen in the men’s “major league”. They played in Negro Leagues, which only gradually disappeared after Jackie Robinson’s sensational signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In the last of them, in 1953, you saw the first black woman, Toni Stone, surrounded by lots of guys.
Breaking into the male domain
A League Of Their Own, the Amazon-produced adaptation of the 1992 film, now tells both stories at once – that of the white women who broke into male-dominated baseball (until the dissolution of the women’s league in 1955) and that of the first black ones Players who were only given a few seconds in the cinema classic. The series takes many poetic liberties. For example, the man who founded the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943 was chewing gum maker Philip Knight Wrigley. In the series, this becomes the candy bar manufacturer Morris Baker (Kevin Dunn). And a character said to reference Toni Stone and two other black women baseball players named Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan is named Maxine Chapman (Chanté Adams).
Anyway, “A League Of Their Own” is very spirited, mostly upbeat television exploring the role of women and black people in 1940s America. And at its core, the story seems correct, despite all the inventions. Even the lesbian love story didn’t come out of thin air. At the Tribeca Film Festival in June, screenwriters Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson sat alongside sports legend Maybelle Blair, who played in the women’s league for the ‘Peoria Redwings’ in 1948 – the 95-year-old jumped at the late coming out opportunity and believes that probably 400 of 650 players in the league may have been homosexual.
The two players who fall in love on the show are Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson) and Greta Gill (D’Arcy Carden). One is a well-behaved Pride and Prejudice reader, married to a soldier fighting in Europe, who needs a modern haircut as a sign of the beginning of self-discovery. The other, an extrovert city brat who gives GIs hot looks in front of the recruiting offices and bubbles for cigarettes. They get to know each other in the pilot on the way to Chicago for selection training. Sparkling vintage cars. Jazzy drums.
And Holy Shit! Their destination, Baker Field, normally populated by the men of the Cubs, is actually full of women playing baseball that day. The series’ casting department has made sure that no diversity officer has to yell or even reach for the Twitter account.
The manners of women
The women were invited by a confectionery entrepreneur. He hopes that the founding of a women’s baseball league will revitalize the stadiums – many players have left because of the war – and more attention for his products. Only the manners of the women are often not at all what he would like. The idea for curious behavior and make-up courses is born. They were used somewhere out in Illinois parallel to the first training session of the newly founded “Rockford Peaches”, one of four teams with which the league starts, and are intended to teach the players to “be women despite everything”. Nobody comes onto the field without lipstick .
The whole thing is told from the perspective of Carson Shaw, who only manages to get on the train to Chicago with a daring sprint; one of many scenes alluding to scenes from the 1992 movie. But we also get to know the black baseball player Maxine Chapman more intensively, while the white women in their training quarters get into a kind of class trip mood and smirk and drink and argue and love.
The fact that she was brusquely rejected in Chicago doesn’t deter brash Maxine from her dream, nor does the life plan that her mother made for her: “In this country, owning your own business is the only way to have control over your own life .” On the contrary: she will soon ignore the advice and secretly hire in a factory. Because men are missing there too. And no one can become a player in the previously all-male “Screws” team without being part of the workforce. Maxine is the most interesting character in the eight part remake of A League Of Their Own. Unlike Clanton and the other women of the “Rockford Peaches”, she has not yet reached the goal of her sporting dream, and her little world between her mother’s hair salon, the church, the factory and the wall on which she practices her throwing technique makes a great impression round and complete.
Strong scenes in a restaurant and a supermarket underscore what racism and segregation meant in 1943. But you don’t have to fear boredom in the story of Carson and the “Peaches” either. Although the production can’t come up with a Madonna, Geena Davis or Tom Hanks.
A League Of Their Own starts today on Amazon Prime Video.