When you ask anyone about women’s professional baseball, the majority of people will make some reference to director Penny Marshall’s 1992 film A League of Their Own. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna and tells the story of the real-life Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The league was created to provide sports fans with entertainment while the men – including many star major league baseball players -- were away fighting in World War II.
Fans might know about the Rockford Peaches, but did you know about the Muskegon Lassies, the Kalamazoo Lassies, the Grand Rapids Chicks, the Battle Creek Belles and the Muskegon Belles? The league, founded by Chicago Cubs owner and chewing gum pioneer Philip K. Wrigley, was based in the Midwest and Michigan played a big part in the AAGPBL. There were 10 teams that existed between 1943 and 1954 with more than 600 players that were as young as 15 years old.
Frank Boring, a filmmaker and an Affiliate Professor in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University, explores those teams in a documentary that he spearheaded entitled A Team Of Their Own.
“The beauty of this film is that it really gives you an inside view, walking in the shoes of these girls,” said Boring. “When they tried out, how they tried out. How they heard about it. And then getting on the trains and the buses, and going out to these different places. And how it eventually evolved into baseball. So it’s really a beginning, middle and end. You’ll understand about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.”
The evolution that he mentions refers to the fact that unlike what the Hollywood film shows, the teams started out pitching underhand for the first couple of years.
“What they’re known for, is the fact that they actually did play on a field, with the same equipment that the men played, eventually,” said Boring.
According to Boring, there was one important thing that the Tom Hanks character Jimmy Dugan got right in A League of Their Own and it came in one of the film’s iconic scenes. The women interviewed for the documentary have confirmed that there was, in fact, no crying in baseball (Watch the scene below, which includes some foul language).
“The women were very adamant about that,” said Boring. “In fact, in the film itself, we included two of the women who said that they never saw anyone crying, they were baseball players!”
The documentary shows that when the players left the league, many of them had earned enough money to pay for college. Many players moved on to very successful careers and some founded organizations that gave women more opportunities to play sports.
“Every little girl that plays sports in the United States today, in my opinion, owes a debt of gratitude to these amazing women because they proved it could be done,” said Boring.
Watch the trailer of A Team Of Their Own below
To find out more about the film, visit the GVSU website here.
Listen to the full interview below to hear about the massive team effort at Grand Valley State that went into the production and to hear a clip from the documentary.