A League of Their Own is widely regarded as one of the best sports films of all time. The 1992 film, which was directed by Penny Marshall, who passed away on Monday, left its mark as a funny and poignant female-driven story of friendship and the fight to play ball.
It grossed $130 million worldwide, coming in right behind Marshall’s 1988 hit,
Big to become the second female-directed film ever to do so.
In the wake of Marshall’s passing, the Cut asked influential women to reflect on how
A League of Their Own informed their own lives, and what Marshall’s legacy means to them. Here are their responses.
I was about 14 years old when
A League of Their Own came out; I was just starting to form my sense of feminism and this movie played a major role in that. (I was also a huge Madonna stan which is probably why I went to see it in the first place.) The idea that women can do what men can do and should be able to have access to the same things men have access to was a point my teen self needed to see and experience. “There’s no crying in baseball!” is something my girlfriends and I have said over the years as a joke because men cry all the time about baseball!
Penny Marshall had a way of making narratives about women but doing it so artfully that you didn’t even realize the incredible statements she was making. Looking back on her legacy and thinking about how much we’re still struggling for representation of women, especially behind the camera, her legacy as a groundbreaker becomes that much more apparent.
After seeing it for the first time when I was 11, I realized I wanted to grow up and do something that challenged me. And while I eventually realized it didn’t have to be baseball (mainly because I couldn’t play to save my soul), Dottie’s story taught me that to pursue something difficult could be worth it. Or, in the immortal words of Jimmy Dugan, “It’s the hard that makes it great.” A League of Their Own is one of those rare movies that makes you not just start to believe in your own dreams, but in the dreams, you’ve never had before — almost to the point of delusion.
Especially since you didn’t have to do it alone. Penny Marshall was so wonderful at telling stories of people navigating something so overwhelming but finding their way (and themselves) because of the friendships formed. Which is also part of Penny’s own story and something I love so much about her success: She brought her friends with her, she cast women she liked and wanted to work with, and she made it fun. She found an industry that is very hard to work in, and she kept going and made her work great.
As a girl who played sports, any sports film that had women in it was of interest to me — and I remember that the women really played and that it wasn’t faked. It was a really important movie because it was commercial, had stars in it, and showed that women could play sports and have been playing sports and were good, even when they had little to no support. It really excited the Title IX generation; we were the girls who were pushing into the sports leagues and realizing that we could play like girls and didn’t have to play like boys. I haven’t seen the film in a while, but I remember that it was either Geena Davis or Rosie O’Donnell who caught a pitch in her bare hand and didn’t flinch. I loved that. I loved how it showed competence and toughness.
Penny Marshall’s career as a director is one of happenstance. She didn’t seek it out, it found her. When James Brooks asked her to direct Big, she had no idea that every other director has turned it down. But in some ways that was good, because she had no pressure. She understood that she opened doors to women, but also understood that it was not intentional. She will always be the first woman director who grossed $100 million, and she paved the way for other women to direct studio films.