Depending on where you live
and whether you pay attention to American baseball, you may be aware
that the Boston Red Sox will face the Colorado Rockies tonight in game
1 of the World
Series. I care
because I’m a Red Sox fan (of the intrepid variety — living in New York).
But, although I like baseball, I don’t like that’s it’s so exclusively
a boy sport.
For the most part, girls are
relegated to the separate, but unequal, realm of softball. (Before you
yell at me, I’m not denigrating softball or softball players. I’m just
saying that no one who isn’t directly connected to the sport pays attention
to it.) Of course, there is a history
of women playing baseball on a national scale.
There were the league-less “bloomer girls” teams in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, and the All-American Girls Baseball
League in the 1940s and ’50s. Additionally, a handful of women played
in the men’s Negro Leagues in the 1950s.
But still, baseball is about
the boys, both in real life and in entertainment. Occasionally in sitcoms,
you’ll get a fish-out-of-water premise of moms coaching baseball. Remember
when Mrs. Brady took over baseball and Mr. Brady had to cook with the
girls? (They both learned important lessons that day.) (I have, however,
heard that there was a great moment on Buffy when a slayer suddenly
got her powers while at bat.)
At the suggestion of a friend,
I thought I’d take a brief look at women-in-baseball movies. And my
look was brief because there ain’t much to see.
1. A League of
This is the mother of all women-in-baseball
movies … because it’s the only movie that’s actually about women in
baseball. What’s good about this movie is that it features a lot of
women playing baseball — with tennis balls to minimize injuries. (I
saw a thing about that on TV once.) The actors had to undergo baseball
auditions and, except for Geena Davis, they all performed
their own stunts.
Additionally, all of the injuries they displayed were real. The movie
also introduced the world to Megan Cavanaugh, whose character,
Marla Hooch, was inexplicably straight. (Megan can now be seen in Exes & Ohs.)
The downside is that not only
was Marla Hooch straight, everyone was straight. And so much of the
movie was about the redemption of Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks). Whatever.
2. The Bad News
This was pretty much the perfect
’70s movie. The good guys are about as flawed as they get: The children
swear. The coach is an alcoholic, who gives beer to children and it’s
kind of OK. The team we’re rooting for loses, but we cheer for them when
they throw their second-place trophy at the first-place team to the
strains of “Toreador” from Carmen.
And then there’s Tatum O’Neal.
She was only 12 or 13 when this was filmed, but she had already won an
Oscar for Paper Moon.
The boys balk about playing
with a girl, but Tatum’s character Amanda, along with bad boy Kelly Leek — Amanda uses her feminine
wiles to lure him onto the team — are the stars.
3. Bull Durham (1988)
Once we get into the realm
of Kevin Costner baseball movies, we know things are going downhill.
But it’s always pretty easy to watch Susan Sarandon, so it’s
still OK. It’s fair to call this a women-in-baseball movie because,
although Sarandon’s character is classified as a groupie, she does get
down-and-dirty when she teaches Tim Robbins about baseball. (And about life,
of course.) And then Kevin Costner teaches her about love.
The other good thing about
this movie is that this is where she and Tim Robbins met (I believe).
And they’re almost a lesbian couple, really.
4. Fever Pitch (2005)
Calling this a women-in-baseball
movie is a huge stretch. Workaholic Drew Barrymore
falls in love with goofy Jimmy Fallon. Puerile physical comedy
ensues. (It’s a Farrelly Brothers movie.) All goes well until his rabid
Red Sox fandom gets in the way.
I included this because of
an observation made by a close friend. What would make this an interesting
movie? A character switch. What if Drew were the Red Sox fan insteady of Jimmy?
Then it’s not the generic Peter Pan–syndrome movie; it’s a whole new
ball game. (I’m sorry. I know that was wrong.)
It’s not an unrealistic scenario.
Anyone at all familiar with Red Sox Nation knows that Red Sox fandom is not
exclusively a boy thing. And, as my friend pointed out, her fandom was
matrilineal, passed down from her maternal grandmother.
That’s really the best that
I can do. I thought about Amy Madigan in Field of Dreams,
but I didn’t want to write about another Kevin Costner movie. (Plus
I didn’t see it.) And there are some women in The Natural. Maybe.
Are there any great women-in-baseball
gems that I’m missing?