It was clear to the film’s cast and crew, and especially the audiences, that “A League of Their Own” was something special, both on and off-screen. Keep reading to discover some unknown facts about the movie that made headlines and conquered audiences worldwide.
Did Kit Really Win, or Did Her Sister Let Her?
One of the film’s classic moments is the final showdown between Dottie Hinson and her sister Kit, played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty. After a smashing hit down left field and running through all bases, Kit sprints towards home in a showdown with Dottie, the only person who can stop Kit from making the game-winning run. The two sisters clash with each other, causing Dottie to drop the ball and give Kit the victory.
But did Dottie really lose control of the ball, or did she drop it on purpose to give her perennial underdog sister her much-needed win? Dottie giving up her success in the name of sisterly love makes sense (it is a Hollywood movie, after all). But according to the filmmakers, doing that goes against Dottie’s character. Guess we’ll never know.
A Movie Set Is Like a Box of Chocolates
Tom Hanks has made a ton of movies (and continues starring in them at a rapid pace), but it looks like this 1992 classic remains his fondest experience on set. Hanks said as much in a 2021 interview. Filming a baseball movie in America’s heartland does seem better than living in a re-created set of JFK airport (see: “The Terminal”) or having to lose nearly fifty pounds for “Castaway.”
But what put “A League of Their Own” over the top for Hanks was the fact that his family came along with him for the ride. He had all his kids with him, the family was all there, having the time of their lives over that summer. Apparently, according to the two-time Oscar winner, the entire family still speaks about it.
Rosie O’Donnell Came Close to Missing the Movie Entirely
Thirty years after the movie came out, there is a pretty clear consensus that it remains one of Rosie O’Donnell’s most memorable screen performances. Though O’Donnell cemented herself into the pop culture pavement with her hit daytime TV talk show — which first premiered on NBC in 1996 — many 90s kids will remember her most fondly as the loud-mouth, potty-mouthed Doris Murphy.
But a scheduling conflict with the sitcom “Stand by Your Man” almost derailed the whole enterprise. Thankfully, schedules were changed, negotiations sought, and Doris remains in our nostalgic memories to this day. Honestly, we can’t imagine the classic film with anybody else but Rosie.
Jon Lovitz Has High Opinions of His Own Role in the Movie
Depending on your age and tastes, you may remember Jon Lovitz best from his time as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member in the mid to late 80s or as a standout character in 2001’s critically panned (but much beloved) movie “Rat Race.” Or, simply as one of the better spokespeople for Subway sandwiches in the mid-2000s (“Subway… eat frrrreeshh!”).
But Lovitz’s role as brash, old-school mustached baseball scout Ernie Capadino is easily one of the best in his career—and he seems to agree, too: according to director Penny Marshall, Lovitz thought his performance was worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Madonna Was Called "Mo" During Production
Despite looking a little rough around the edges nowadays, younger viewers may be surprised to know that Madonna was once the hottest and most popular artist in the world. The time was the early 90s: big hair was in, coming out was controversial, and OJ Simpson was best known for being a legendary football player with a burgeoning acting career.
Madonna's casting in “A League of their Own” was by far the most high-profile, though she wasn't called by her name on set: cast and crew took to calling her "Mo" instead. Apparently, this was done to make it easier for other cast members to talk to the world-famous pop star.
Crowds Still Shout the Film’s Iconic Lines to the Cast
It often happens that when a film becomes a classic, or an intrinsic part of pop culture, its dialogue and most famous lines are perpetually remembered. More so, these movie script quotes become a part of our day-to-day language, often being used as slang. This was definitely the case with plenty of lines from “A League of Their Own”.
Lori Petty is still remembered fondly for her portrayal of Kit Keller in "A League of Their Own," even today. Whether it's on the street or from passing cars, people will often shout out one of two popular lines from the iconic film, to which she gladly responds with a sassy retort. "Lay off the high ones!” they yell, to which Petty yells back “But I like the high ones!” and fans love it.
The Actors Had to Go Through Actual Baseball Auditions
Auditioning for a part in a film is stressful enough for any actor; now, imagine if you also had to pass an athletic ability test as well! This was the case for any cast member that wanted a role in “A League of Their Own”. In fact, the casting ad actually read: “Wanted for a starring role: women who can play ball”.
Tracy Reiner (aka Betty "Spaghetti") revealed to ESPNW in 2017 that baseball was the deciding factor if someone was to even be considered for a role. But fate had been kind to her – she'd already put some innings under her belt and effortlessly passed Rod Dedeaux's evaluation test with flying colors. Literally!
Tom Hanks Was a Big Admirer of the Cast’s Athletic Skills
It’s a wonderful thing when co-stars in a film think and talk so highly of each other, and this was exactly what happened on the set of "A League of Their Own." Actor Tom Hanks would always tell his fellow actresses how much he admired them.
Hanks was nothing but complimentary towards his co-stars in the 1992 movie, giving them all high praise. He described Rosie O'Donnell as "a great player on the field," Freddie Simpson and Robin Knight as both being excellent players, and then added that Lori Petty was "a monster up on the mound – she’ll take your head off!”.
Geena Davis Almost Didn’t Play Dottie
Dottie Hinson is the quintessential cool leading lady, and we couldn’t think of anybody but Geena Davis carrying out her role. But surprisingly, Geena Davis wasn't even initially considered for the part! The director first had her eyes set on Sean Young and Demi Moore.
But Moore became pregnant and the new addition to her family also threw director Penny Marshall’s original plan out of order. And Sean Young didn’t manage to fully convince Marshall in the auditions. Luckily (for all of us movie fans), an unexpected switch-up enabled Ms. Davis to swoop in and save the day with one epic performance that we still can't get over today.
Debra Winger Refused to Act Alongside Madonna
The three-time Academy Award nominee Debra Winger is an incredibly talented actress. Her roles in “Terms of Endearment” and “An Officer and a Gentleman” are brandished in our memories. As it turns out, Winger was meant to be a part of another iconic film, but she decided to drop out when some information came to light.
Winger was set to join the cast of “A League of Their Own” for the role of Dottie, but a last-minute change of heart occurred when she found out Madonna had been added to the cast list. Penny Marshall recounts in her memoir that "the star felt like having Madonna in the film would turn it into ‘an Elvis movie’ and promptly made an exit.”
The Cast Had to Be at the Top of Their Game – Always
The producers of the movie weren't going to settle for any actress pretending they knew how to play baseball. So, Robert Greenhut and his team spent more time than usual auditioning – searching high and low until they could find actresses with actual sports skills. As it turns out, throwing a ball from first base to third is much harder live than on television.
This meant that casting someone and shooting each game scene felt like a mission impossible. In turn, this meant that every single cast member had to be on top of their game at all times. Knowing the rules of baseball and how to play the basics wasn’t enough, so actors had to learn and train for every scene, several times.
The Film Was a Life-Changing Experience for Geena Davis
Actress Geena Davis was a late addition to the cast, but she quickly proved her worth with natural athletic prowess. Despite having written off sports as an uncoordinated venture due to her lanky build, taking part in America's favorite pastime changed everything — it gave the star newfound confidence and appreciation for the sport that would forever alter her life.
Davis must have had some serious skills since she managed to impress even those who’d been coaching baseball for years. Not only did she become more open-minded to sports, but Davis has even said that she took up baseball lessons after the film wrapped up. We don’t know how many lessons she went to, but she’s officially a baseball convert!
Tom Hanks Put on Some Pounds for His Role
Actors must often undergo strict diet regimens for a film role, training 24/7 and eating nothing but greens and proteins for months. Sometimes, however, the part requires an actor to gain weight, which sounds far easier. Tom Hanks was lucky enough to be one of these cases when he was preparing for “A League of Their Own”.
Tom Hanks embraced the role of Jimmy Dugan by going all-in — on eating. With a strict diet of fatty meats and milkshakes, he made sure to put his acting chops AND waistline in peak performance condition. In an interview with “ET,” Hanks referenced what can only be called 'the old-fashioned way' to gain ten pounds: classic American cuisine. This means that the “Forrest Gump” star ate a lot of BBQ ribs and was a regular at the local Dairy Queen.
The Extras Got Prime Entertainment From Rosie O’Donnell
The director of “A League of Their Own” needed huge crowds of people to stand in as stadium fans for each baseball game, but as extras, these folks had very limited opportunities of performing, meaning they were constantly bored. Enter Rosie O'Donnell.
This actress and comedienne took it upon herself to liven things up for the extras with renditions of Madonna hits. According to other actors and producers on set, they would often walk by a scene rehearsal to find O’Donnell singing her heart out to “Like a Virgin” or “Material Girl,” and the extras loved it. Madonna, however, was not so impressed.
Madonna Had Some Odd Treats for Her Birthday
Actress Megan Cavanagh was mostly known for her voice-over gigs in famous animated films. However, she rose to fame in 1992 when she played the role of Marla Hooch in “A League of Their Own”. And not only did Cavanagh have the chance to be part of a movie that became a cult classic, but apparently, there was also quite a lot of entertainment behind the scenes.
Things got especially entertaining when they went to Madonna's birthday party. According to Cavanagh, Madonna had baked herself some Rice Krispie treats to celebrate her special day. Who knew Rice Krispies treats would make an appearance in such an illustrious company? Evidently, Madonna knows how to keep things casual after all.
Renee Coleman’s Nasty Bruise in the Film was Completely Real
If you’ve seen “A League of Their Own,” you surely remember Alice Gaspers’ infamous bruise. As it turns out, the actress that played Alice, Renee Coleman, got that bruise in real life! There was no special effect involved and “not a pinch of makeup,” according to fellow actress Tracy Reiner.
Apparently, Coleman got the sore shiner from sliding into the base during a shot in the film, which worked out perfectly for the director and producers, but must have been a real nuisance for the actress. Imagine having to act as a baseball player with an actual huge bruise. The bruise was so nasty that it took years to disappear. Ouch!
The Cast Got to Play Baseball With Actual Professional Athletes
A lot of things made filming “A League of Their Own” special – the actresses had to know how to actually play baseball, they had a major pop star in the cast, and Tom Hanks played a drunk coach. But perhaps one of the most special moments was when the cast got to play with actual professional baseball players.
Actress Tracy Reiner, who played Betty Horn in the film, recounts a wonderful night she spent playing with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. As if the mere experience of playing baseball with one of the country’s most famous teams wasn’t enough, a few of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players also showed up.
An Accident Almost Stopped Anne Ramsay From Being in the Film
For actors, an injury prior to filming can be a real showstopper. Fortunately for Anne Ramsay, though, her broken nose wasn't enough to stop her from taking on the role of Helen Haley in “A League of Their Own” – although it sure hurt like hell!
When asked about how she broke it during practice leading up to the film's shoot, Anne revealed that: "It was the first day that we switched from modern-day mitts to authentic vintage mitts from the 40s." Apart from her central role in “A League of Their Own,” Ramsay was most known for her role as Lisa Stemple in the hit TV comedy show “Mad About You.”
Actress Moira Kelly Lost a Major Role in the Film
You probably know actress Moira Kelly from her role as Karen Roe in the hit TV show “One Tree Hill” and the 1994 film “With Honors.” However, back in 1992, Kelly lost a huge opportunity — she was on track to portray the iconic Kit in “A League of Their Own,” but fate stepped in with a painful plot twist.
When rehearsing for “The Cutting Edge” movie in 1992, Kelly landed "funny" while jumping and broke her leg. Thankfully, Lori Petty swooped right into frame to make us laugh-cry our way through the legendary sports flick. Although we can’t help feeling bad when thinking about poor Moira's broken bone.
Tom Hanks Didn’t Know What to Think of Madonna
“A League of Their Own” was filled with celebrity actors, but having a world-famous pop star like Madonna on set was an entirely different ballgame. According to Tom Hanks, no one knew what to expect, since she was, after all, the world’s most recognizable, popular cultural icon.
Even the world's most beloved celebrity wasn't immune to an initial period of adjustment – and this certainly rang true for the “Material Girl.” At first, Hanks found Madonna’s distinct personality a little intimidating, but eventually ended up warming up to her and claiming that "she was neat; she was cool." Looks like it all worked out!
A Romance Was Cut Out of the Film
Hollywood has a known formula when it comes to filmmaking, and when it comes to epic sports films, there’s usually a romantic storyline in the background. Interestingly, “A League of Their Own” was no exception to the rule – but only a few people know about it. It turns out that “A League of Their Own” could have featured a romantic subplot between Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, but viewers weren't sold.
The director and film producers wanted to make it happen, but when they tested the story with focus groups, they were less than thrilled. Viewers argued that it wasn't in line with the independent spirit they'd come to know and love in Dottie — so unfortunately, any ideas of romance between the movie stars were cut from the final version.
The Actresses Loved to Mess With Jon Lovitz
Imagine being an actress on an almost all-woman film set. Yes, things could get messy and be unpleasant, but they could also go entirely the other way and be great fun. This was definitely the case in “A League of Their Own” – all the actresses got along swimmingly, and they often ganged up to tease their two male co-stars. They especially loved to mess with Jon Lovitz.
In what was probably one of those moments when you wish you were anywhere else, the cast teased Lovitz by joking about how groups of women eventually sync up their periods when they spend a lot of time together — something we can assume wasn’t part of Lovitz's high school health curriculum, since the man was absolutely baffled.
The Director Considered Aging the Actors for the Final Scene
There is nothing worse than filmmakers trying to age their actors with makeup for future scenes. Granted, sometimes the makeup is subtle and brilliant, and it looks as real as possible, but more often than not, it just looks bad. Fortunately, the casting director from “A League of Their Own,” Ellen Lewis, had exactly the same thought.
In the touching finale of “A League of Their Own,” we see a glimpse into how far the beloved characters have come since their days playing baseball. To get it just right, Ellen Lewis was challenged with casting older women, refusing to settle for old-age makeup and instead leaning towards realistic truthfulness in her selections. And we’re sure glad she did.
Jimmy Dugan was One of Tom Hanks’ Favorite Characters
Since he started acting in the 1980s, we’ve been used to Tom Hanks playing sweet, kind, light-hearted characters that we’ve come to adore. And judging by what we’ve seen in the press, Hanks seems to be exactly the same way off-screen. As much as Hanks has come to love playing charismatic characters, he was also relieved to have the chance to do something different in “A League of Their Own.”
Jim Dugan’s character allowed Tom Hanks to play someone different for a change – and it made him incredibly happy. As he himself put it: “I got to be everything they never let me do without having to make it all about my character.”
There’s a Reason That Tom Hanks Is Such a Beloved Actor
It’s often disappointing to learn that one of our favorite actors is a mean person in real life. But when it comes to Tom Hanks, we’re happy to report that couldn’t be further from the truth. In an interview in 2020, Geena Davis shed some light on the true character of her “A League of Their Own” co-star.
Contrary to his stoic role in the movie, there was an energetic side that came out, often involving silly props like baseball hats and bats and doing a puppet show. And when it came to lifting team morale? The legendary star wasn't afraid to lead a rousing cheer, with everyone around him joining in: "Give me an E!".
The Cast Got Camera-Ready With a Special Album
When it was time to prep for their scenes, the cast of “A League of Their Own” had a unique way of getting in character. They'd turn up the "Jesus Christ Superstar" album and break out into singing roles with Tom Hanks playing Caiaphas and their long-haired makeup guy taking on Jesus himself.
The cast members found that the rock opera's energy and uplifting spirit helped them get into character and set the tone for the film's themes of female empowerment and teamwork. The use of music to enhance performance is not uncommon in the entertainment industry, and in the case of "A League of Their Own," it seems to have worked like a charm.
The Film Inspired an Actual Olympian Gold-Medalist
The movie might just be a movie, but its impact on people went far beyond the silver screen and seeped into the real world. For example, softball gold medalist Jessica Mendoza has spoken publicly about how the film inspired her to work hard and pursue her dreams.
Mendoza, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has cited the film's portrayal of strong, determined, and talented female athletes as a source of motivation throughout her career. Mendoza's success as a softball player and sports broadcaster is a testament to the lasting impact of "A League of Their Own" on generations of female athletes.
The Cast Hated Their Costumes
A film’s set and costume design team are often called ‘magicians’ because they manage to transport audiences to different moments in history. However, nobody thinks about how uncomfortable it might be for the actors to have to wear certain period-appropriate outfits. The movie required the actors to wear uniforms reminiscent of the 1940s.
Despite the costumes being historically accurate, the cast complained about the heavy wool fabric and uncomfortable design. Lori Petty described the dreaded ensemble to Vulture Magazine saying it was "horrible." Between the itchy wig, tight cap, and “creepy spiked shoes,” this acting gig clearly came with some pain. In fact, all that gear caused Lori's leg to break so badly that she had a cast on for half of the filming!
The Actresses Rented a House Together
When it comes to shooting a film, actors usually get set up in the most luxurious hotels, with a crew of people that are usually waiting on them hand and foot. However, things were very different for the actresses of “A League of Their Own” – and they preferred it that way! The film’s six main actresses decided to rent a house together for the entire time of the filming.
Lori Petty, who played the beloved Kit Keller, said that it was just awesome and that they were just like a family having a gas. Petty says the house had its own pool and ended up costing much less than a hotel room. And apparently, they even had cases of wine delivered to them as gifts from Francis Ford Coppola himself!
The Cast Needed Bodyguards
Though the set of “A League of Their Own” was usually filled with cheerful cast members and light-hearted fun, it wasn't always a walk in the park. As it turns out, Madonna's on-set protection team was worried enough to put up wanted posters for one potential threat that had recently been released from jail and aimed his sights at her.
In fact, the stalker managed to cause such a scare that the entire cast of the movie had personal bodyguards. Guess that’s the price to pay for co-starring with one of the world’s most famous musicians. At least the girls never got bored on set, that’s for sure!
The Mooing Cow Scene Was Totally Real
Who knew cows could be so disruptive? Certainly not Jon Lovitz! On the set of “A League of Their Own”, he had to deal with a particularly vocal cow, but thanks to quick thinking and some improvisation from the actor, one of his most iconic lines was born.
After director Penny Marshall's request for Lovitz to get the guest-starring cow to stop mooing, the actor simply blurted out, “Will you shut up?!” The entire cast and crew fell to the floor laughing and, obviously, left the scene in the movie’s final version. We can all thank that annoying bovine for creating one of the film’s most hilarious scenes.
Some Modern Costumes Accidentally Appear in the Film
Fewer things are more fun than trying to spot mistakes in your favorite movies – a small prop that was left on set by accident, a costume that doesn’t belong, an actor messing up his line, etc. We get to feel like Sherlock for a second.
For “A League of Their Own” it was a sneaky piece of underwear that definitely didn’t belong in the 1940s. If you watch the movie again, make sure to watch the scene where Lori Petty crashes into Geena Davis very carefully. This famous scene will reveal a glimpse of Petty’s underwear, which clearly reads “Calvin Klein.”
The Film was Inspired by a Documentary
Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele created a documentary in 1987 that was so inspiring it caught the attention of director Penny Marshall. Inspired by Candaele’s mother, Helen Callaghan — an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League center fielder – “A League of Their Own” told her story on public TV station KCET before making its way to PBS.
Once it reached PBS, Marshall had a chance to see it and thought that such a story deserved to be told to the entire world. Alas, she started writing the script for her award-winning film, and both Wilson and Candaele got immediately on board to collaborate with the scriptwriters.
The Rockford Peaches Were an Actual Baseball Team
Like the plot of many classic films, “A League of Their Own” has a lot of fictional storylines. However, one thing that's absolutely real is the baseball team — The Rockford Peaches. They were an all-women team that played from 1943 to 1954, representing Rockford, Illinois.
Belonging to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), they were just one team out of fifteen when the league was at its peak. Other teams were the Kalamazoo Lassies, the Chicago Colleens, and the Peoria Redwings. We don’t know who came up with the names, but they should get an award for creativity.
The Film Stayed True to History
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League made its debut in the 1940s but was originally called the All-American Girls Softball League. It was created by American executive Philip K. Wrigley, who had the clever idea of rebranding the league to ensure professional baseball kept running during World War II. The women's league held strong even after the war ended, although the sport’s popularity started to dwindle.
Still, the AAGPBL managed to stay alive until 1954, and our beloved film “A League of Their Own” showcases this history quite accurately. For director Penny Marshall, it was essential for the film to be as historically accurate as possible, all the while weaving interesting fictional subplots that would keep the viewers entertained. And she did just that.
Dottie’s Character was Based on a Real Woman
Geena Davis' character Dottie was based on Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek, the real-life first baseman for the Rockford Peaches and a true star in her day. According to Marquette Magazine, she knew how to win over an audience – “At first, they just came to see the skirts, and then we showed them we could play.”
This left-handed thrower was spotted by a baseball scout when she was only 17 years old, and after some tryouts, she became a part of the Rockford Peaches. Just like Geena Davis very accurately portrayed her, the real-life Dottie had a strong, invincible attitude that made her into one of the greatest women baseball players America had ever seen.
It Took Five Years for a Studio to Buy the Movie
Even though director Penny Marshall joined their team after seeing the documentary, Wilson and Candaele still had to fight to get their story made into a feature film. The original documentary came out in 1987, and it took five long years of hard work, creativity, and dedication for a movie studio to finally buy the story.
In an interview, Kim Wilson explained that they were completely obsessed with the idea. It took them almost five years. It definitely didn’t happen in one week. Fortunately, their hard work paid off, and Columbia Pictures bought the story to turn it into an award-winning film that became a cult classic.
Somebody Else Was Supposed to Direct the Film
Although we can’t imagine anybody other than director Penny Marshall directing “A League of Their Own”, there was actually another director attached to the project at first. The first in line to direct the sports comedy-drama was director David Anspaugh, the creator behind the very successful basketball drama film “Hoosiers.” Also, Penny Marshall was busy at the time directing the award-winning film “Awakenings” with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams.
However, when Anspaugh stepped down from the project due to personal matters, Marshall immediately took the lead. And we’re very happy she did because she brought the movie to life in a way that possibly nobody else could have. It’s hard to imagine how “A League of Their Own” would have turned out if the vision behind it had been entirely different.
Very Few People Knew About the American Girls Baseball League
One of the greatest things about telling a story through a feature film is the wide audience it gets exposed to. Often, so many stories would remain unknown if it weren’t for Hollywood. And this was the case with “A League of Their Own” – nobody knew about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League before the film came out.
Director Penny Marshall even admitted years later that she had no idea the league even existed before watching the 1987 documentary. Likewise, the film’s writers, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, had never heard of it either, and Ganz was a major baseball fan.
The Film’s Writers Aren’t Happy With the TV Series
As often happens with very successful films, people often want to see a sequel or a TV series spinoff, and filmmakers know this. However, it also often happens that the producers behind these spinoffs are not the same writers that created the original movie. In 2022, Amazon Prime debuted a TV series version of “A League of Their Own”, and the film’s writers were less than thrilled.
It’s safe to say that Mandel and Ganz, the original writers, will never watch the show. As they explained in an interview in 2020, when they found out the series was in development, “We take our characters to where we want them to stop. So I’m not particularly excited about seeing another version or a continuation or anything like that.”
The Director’s Daughter Was in the Movie
Because of her different last name, few people know that actress Tracy Reiner, who plays left fielder Betty “Spaghetti” Horn, is director Penny Marshall’s daughter. Tracy is football player Michael Henry’s and Penny Marshall’s daughter, but when Marshall remarried famous actor Rob Reiner, Tracy took his last name. But despite the advantages, Tracy earned her part in “A League of Their Own” like everybody else.
It turns out she and her cousin Wendy went to the auditions at the USC campus, where there were over 2,000 women. Tracy recounts that the casting directors were evaluating the girls to see if they were trainable and she had the advantage of playing softball on the weekends. To her surprise, she got cast as Betty Horn, and she’d only attended the audition because her cousin wanted to go.
No Tooth, No Problem
Even though Tracy Reiner was the director’s daughter, she still decided to attend the casting auditions like everybody else. However, she went the extra mile to prove to herself that she could do it – Reiner attended auditions right after getting her wisdom teeth pulled! Straight from the dentist, Reiner arrived at the auditions and tested in the top 20 list of preferred actresses.
Reiner recalls that her mother was furious, but not for the reason she thought at first. After the audition, she got home with popped stitches in her mouth and spitting blood, and her mom was upset. She thought for sure it was about the teeth. However, it turns out that Marshall was upset about Reiner trying out with the rest of the casting call group.
Actress Lori Petty Had to Audition Eight Times
By the time actress Lori Petty was auditioning for “A League of Their Own,” she’d already been in two major Hollywood films. Her role in 1990’s comedy “Cadillac Man,” alongside Robin Williams and Tim Robbins, and her portrayal of the wild surfer Tyler in 1991’s cult classic “Point Break,” established her as a talented actress that could play the wild, strong-willed, eccentric girl roles to perfection.
However, when it came to trying out for the part of Kit Keller, she had to audition eight times to get the part. Petty recalls every woman in Hollywood reading for this movie. It was a strong female movie, which is hard to come by even today, let alone in 1992. Well, she has a point there.
Geena Davis’ Audition for the Dottie Lasted a Few Minutes
In what was probably the easiest audition of her entire acting career, Geena Davis’ tryout for the role of Dottie Hinson lasted little more than a few minutes. From the moment the casting started for “A League of Their Own”, Hollywood’s biggest actresses wanted an audition. It was a strong, female-empowering film – something very rare back in the early 90s.
The word had gotten out that director Penny Marshall was asking actresses to throw a ball before any reading; she needed to make sure they had some athletic skill. On the advice of her agent, Davis refused to throw a ball at the audition at first, but after Marshall insisted, they went out to the director’s backyard. Davis remembers, throwing the ball to her, competently getting it to her, she caught it and said, 'OK.'. Imagine if every movie casting was that simple!
Geena Davis’ On-Screen Splits Were Totally Real
One of the most amazing scenes in “A League of Their Own” is when Geena Davis catches a pop fly ball by doing a perfect split. Audiences thought it was a stunt double, but it was all her. Apparently, this was something that took Davis a lot of time to practice.
The actress recounts that the director asked her if she could do a split for the scene, and Davis asked her to put it later in the shooting schedule to her time to work up to it. However, what the actress didn’t manage to pull off so easily was getting back up. Her character does a Chuck Berry split and then hops right back up. But at first, there was no popping up happening and she needed to be helped up. Yikes!
The Baseball Playing Was Real, But the Balls Were Not
Even though the director, the writers, the casting director, and the production crew of “A League of Their Own” were adamant about casting actresses that could play baseball, they were less strict when it came to the actual balls. It turns out that, while all of the gameplaying was one hundred percent real, the balls used in the film were squishy, with a soft center.
Why? Not because the actresses couldn’t handle a real baseball, since they were all vetted for real-life skills, but to keep the crew and cameramen from getting severely injured by a flying ball. And we’re thankful they did because a bad hit from a real baseball can land anybody in the hospital.
Coach Jimmy Dugan was Almost Played by Someone Else
If anybody were to ask us now, we truly couldn’t think of anybody else other than Tom Hanks playing the iconic Jimmy Dugan. And we imagine that the entire cast and crew, and even the director of “A League of Their Own,” feel exactly the same. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that Tom Hanks wasn’t director Penny Marshall’s first choice.
For some reason, the film production team wanted Jimmy Dugan to be played by actor Jim Belushi. If you think about it plainly in casting terms, it is a decision that would’ve made sense. Belushi might be a great actor in his own right, but only Hanks could’ve brought Dugan to life the way he did.
Rosie O'Donnell Wasn’t Intimidated by Madonna
When other actors in the film learned that none other than Madonna was joining their ranks, some nervousness set in. People did not quite know how to act around a world-famous pop star, but actress Rosie O’Donnell seemed to be the only exception.
The comedienne, who played Doris Murphy, treated Madonna like anybody else. She would arrive on set singing popular Madonna songs, and the pop star hated this, often threatening O’Donnell by telling her to never sing one of her songs again. But O’Donnell paid no mind, as she would do exactly the same thing the very next day.
Making Cinematic History
When Penny Marshall decided to direct a feature film based on an interesting sports documentary she saw, she probably had no idea it would be so wildly successful that it would break box-office records. When “A League of Their Own” came out in 1992, it grossed a whopping $132 million, making it go down in history as the highest-grossing baseball film of all time.
This 1992 sports drama was, and still is to this day, the only baseball film to gross over $100 million at the box office. It far surpassed Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball,” John Lee Hancock’s “The Rookie,” Chadwick Boseman’s “42”, and dozens of other baseball classics.
The Film Was Inducted Into the Library of Congress
An important recognition received by “A League of Their Own” was the fact that, in 2012, the film got inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. This registry consists of a list of movies that are considered to be of “cultural, historical, or aesthetical significance,” meaning they are works of art of great importance to American culture.
The films on this list are designated for preservation by the reputed Library of Congress of the United States. Other groundbreaking films adopted into the registry include “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “The Times of Harvey Milk,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” A pretty big honor for our beloved sports film to make the list too.
Jon Lovitz Had More Than One Improvised Line
Without a doubt, Jon Lovitz’s most memorable ad-libbed line was the moment he yells, “Will you shut up?!” to a mooing cow. However, Lovitz had more than one of these iconic lines, despite him being in little more than a few scenes.
In the scene where Lovitz is leaving the field and a sad Geena Davis and two other teammates sadly ask him if he’s leaving already, the witty actor improvised a bold comeback. Lovitz sassily replies, “Yeah, I’m going home, give the wife a little pickle tickle, and I’m on my way.” Even though the line was a bit out there, it surely made the cast, and everybody, laugh hysterically.
The Longest Bathroom Scene in History
If you take a close look at Tom Hanks’ films, you’ll find that he pees in nearly all of them. There are scenes of Hanks peeing in “Apollo 13”, “Castaway,” “The Green Mile,” and dozens of others. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a running joke in Hollywood. So true to form, “A League of Their Own” also features the beloved Hanks in a hilarious bathroom scene.
You probably remember that scene at the urinal that lasts almost a full minute. What you probably don’t know is that even Hanks had no idea when he would be done peeing! It turns out that director Penny Marshall was behind the camera with a water hose and a bucket and kept it going for as long as she thought was funny.
Walter Harvey was Played by the Director’s Brother
Director Penny Marshall was very clear about who she wanted to play the millionaire founder of the league. Her eyes were set on actor Christopher Walken, but unfortunately, when she got a hold of his agent, the price he was asking for was way over her budget. So, she started looking for other options – among them Paul Newman, Max von Sydow, and James Coburn.
But they all proved to be too expensive as well. Marshall had to save money and stay on the budget, so she opted for a cheaper yet equally good choice – her brother, director Garry Marshall. And luckily for her, it turned out to be a perfect choice.
Walter Harvey Is Based on Philip K. Wrigley
The actual founder of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was American executive Philip K. Wrigley. Yes, the same Wrigley whose name you see plastered on every piece of American chewing gum – he also founded Wrigley Gum.
The character of Walter Harvey in “A League of Their Own,” played by Garry Marshall, is based on Philip K. Wrigley. However, in a little twist of the script, instead of the founder of the famous gum brand and the historic Wrigley Field, Harvey owns a candy bar and chocolate empire. Maybe director Marshall didn’t want the similarities to be so obvious. Or perhaps she’s not such a fan of gum.
The Film Spawned One of the Most Famous Lines in Cinema
Some film’s lines stay with us long after the end credits roll up, and some of them are so iconic they go down in history as cinema’s most famous lines. Nobody can forget the “Here’s looking at you, kid” from “Casablanca” or the “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” from “The Godfather.” And when “A League of Their Own” was released, nobody imagined that one of its lines would become equally as iconic.
The famous scene where Tom Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan yells out to a crying teammate, “There’s no crying in baseball!”, became the film’s most repeated line. Ironically, it was written in the draft version of the script, so the director wasn’t even sure they would use it in the movie’s final version. Once they heard the words come out of Hanks’ mouth, they knew it was a keeper.
More Than 2,000 Women Auditioned for the Film
Back in 1991, the campus of the University of Southern California must have been quite the sight. It turns out that when director Penny Marshall called out for young women to come audition for the roles of the Rockford Peaches, more than 2,000 girls showed up and filled up the University’s campus.
But each girl was met with an additional, unexpected obstacle – they had to show Marshall that they knew how to play baseball first, before even reading any lines. The only woman to skip the mess at the campus was Geena Davis, who showed off her baseball-playing skills during her first meeting with Marshall in the latter’s backyard.
Rosie O’Donnell was Meant to Play Marla Hooch
When Comedienne and actress Rosie O’Donnell walked into the audition for “A League of Their Own,” director Penny Marshall asked her to read for the part of Marla Hooch. O’Donnell did a great job, and she was almost cast as Marla. That is, until actress Megan Cavanagh came along, and Marshall immediately realized there was nobody more perfect for the character of Mrs. Hooch.
Since Marshall wanted O’Donnell to be in the film, the scriptwriters wrote a whole new part for her – the character of Doris Murphy, which we know and love. And who added a unique element to the film that helped make it the classic it became.
The Actors Used a Slip ‘N Slide for Training
Not only did the actresses have to legitimately know how to play baseball, but they also had 8-hour training routines every day while on set. It was imperative for director Penny Marshall that every actress dominated the ball and the moves of a real player so the scenes would look authentic.
So, the crew got creative – they set up a slip ‘n slide so the actresses could practice sliding into the base. Although this does sound incredibly fun and actually quite a useful way to practice, they had to scrap the entire thing after three actresses got seriously concussed. Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen!
O’Donnell Really Does Throw Two Balls at the Same Time
In of her most impressive scenes, Rosie O’Donnell’s character Doris Murphy throws two balls to two catchers at once. Audiences were convinced it had to be a stunt when they first saw the film, but it was all O’Donnell. There were no special effects involved.
This particular nifty trick the actress learned from one of the real-life members of the American All-Girls Professional Baseball League while on set. However, O’Donnell was known to be one of the best actual players in the film since she came on set with previous on-the-field skills. In another life, she could probably make a career in pro baseball!
There Was a Cameo by a Real-Life Rockford Peach
We already know that the Rockford Peaches were an actual women’s baseball team back in the 1940s and that even some characters in the film are based on true players. But few people know that an actual Rockford Peach teammate made a cameo in “A League of Their Own.”
Remember that scene where the Peaches play in Cooperstown, New York? If you do, you probably also remember a woman in the bleachers saying that Dottie is “The best player in the league.” That woman is actually Dolores “Pickles” Dries, a woman that joined the Rockford Peaches as a pitcher from 1952 to 1954.
Lori Petty Out-Pitched Most Major League Players
Lori Petty was the perfect actress to play Kit Keller; she had the same light-heartedness and go-getter attitude and was just fun to be around. On top of all of these qualities, Petty also broke a record while filming for “A League of Their Own” – she pitched more than any real-life pitcher in a whole season!
Due to the several takes it often took to get the perfect scene, Petty found herself pitching the ball a few hundred times a week during the making of the film. She ultimately racked up a stat for the number of pitches in a season that far exceeded most major league baseball players. We can only imagine how her arm must have felt once filming was done.
There's Two “Laverne & Shirley” Cameos
If you’re a movie buff, you probably know that director Penny Marshall first rose to fame by playing Laverne DeFazio on the hit TV show “Laverne & Shirley”. The show ran from 1976 to 1983, and it was the most popular show on ABC for several years. Throughout the show’s run, there were several memorable characters, and Marshall remained friends with all of them.
So, when it came to picking actors for "A League of Their Own," Marshall cast two former co-stars from “Laverne & Shirley” – David Lander, who played Squiggy, and Eddie Mekka, who played Shirley’s boyfriend Carmine. Lander plays an enthusiastic game announcer in the film, and Mekka portrays a soldier that spends the night dancing with Mae, played by Madonna.
It Was Originally Over Four Hours Long
“A League of Their Own” is a considerably long film when it comes to a sports comedy-drama. But its two-hour run time is nothing compared to what it originally lasted. As director Penny Marshall said in various interviews after the film’s release, the raw footage was over four hours long! Marshall spent countless hours in the editing room to shorten the film and make it box-office ready.
This obviously meant that she had to delete several scenes, but fortunately, these weren’t lost forever. You can find all the cut-out scenes on special edition Blu-rays and DVDs. Or on Amazon Prime for a modest price. Some of these scenes feature Dottie having a lengthy discussion about her relationship with her husband Bob and Kit pitching with men at a bar.
They Filmed Through a Cow Giving Birth
Everyone remembers that famous ad-libbed line by Jon Lovitz when he very ungracefully shuts up a poor mooing cow – “Will you shut up?!”. However, the backstory is quite unknown. It turns out that in that scene when Jon Lovitz’s Ernie Capadino goes to the farm to recruit Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller, the cow behind them started giving birth!
Lovitz was so involved in his scene that he didn’t even notice – he only noticed the incessant mooing. After the mama cow gave birth to her calf, the actual owners of the farm named it ‘Penny,’ after the film’s director. What a nice homage!
Geena Davis Does the Voice of Older Dottie
The fact that the casting director for “A League of Their Own” chose not to age the actresses with makeup and special effects was a bold choice. This meant that Ellen Lewis had to carefully cast older actresses that would look similar enough to the original ones. Lewis cast actress Barbara Pilavin to play an older Helen Haley (Anne Ramsay).
Patricia Wilson played an older Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh), Betty Hinson played Betty “Spaghetti” Horn (Tracy Reiner), and actress Lynn Cartwright played an older version of Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis). However, there’s one small detail few people know about this casting – Cartwright might have played an older Dottie, but her voice is dubbed by Geena Davis.
Jon Lovitz Had a More Substantial Part in the Movie
Actor and comedian Jon Lovitz had a much more substantial role in the film’s original script. His character of Ernie Capadino had way more lines and appeared in additional scenes throughout the movie. However, after seeing that the film footage was close to five hours, once the director got to the editing stage, she had to make a lot of cut-throat decisions.
Marshall decided only to keep Lovitz’s funniest scenes, which meant his nastiest comments, most hilarious punchlines, and iconic lines. Otherwise, a lot of his lines were cut out of the film. Part of us would’ve liked to see more of Jon Lovitz, but considering the movie turned out so perfectly, Marshall probably made the right call.
Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Petty Were the Best Players
Kit Keller and Doris Murphy were two of Rockford Peaches’ best baseball players. Funnily enough, the actresses that played them were also the best players on set. Both Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Petty were exceptional baseball players and often had hitting competitions just for the fun of it.
When asked about it, the two actresses said they had both played baseball before, even if just for fun with their siblings. However, neither of them had ever practiced or trained professionally, so it was quite impressive when they displayed those skills. Even the other cast and crew were astonished by their talent.
Farrah Fawcett Wanted a Part in the Movie
After playing the stunning Jill Monroe, one of “Charlie’s Angels,” on the hit TV series from 1976 to 1980, Farrah Fawcett rose to fame to become an A-list Hollywood celebrity. Fawcett further cemented her place in cinema with roles in big box-office hits like “The Cannonball Run,” “The Burning Bed,” “Extremities,” “See You in the Morning,” and dozens of other titles.
However, there’s one movie she really wanted to be a part of, and unfortunately never got the chance. After reading the script for “A League of Their Own,” Fawcett desperately wanted to be part of the team, and she was actually pretty good at baseball. However, director Penny Marshall ultimately thought Fawcett was a bit too old for the role.
Jon Lovitz Also Used a Pseudonym
Being the talented comedian and wildly hilarious man that he is, Jon Lovitz usually had everybody on set (and off it) laughing their hearts out. In one of his many antics, Lovitz decided that he would use a pseudonym when checking into a hotel. Why? Because he found out that Madonna had done it.
And hey, if Madonna, the pop star queen of the world, needs a pseudonym, so does he. Lovitz registered at the luxurious hotel under the name “Edna Poo-a-dee-doo,” and we can only imagine the face of anyone who became aware of this information. Or tried to call his room!
Marisa Tomei Made an Audition Tape for the Director
The gorgeous Marisa Tomei was one in a very long list of famous actresses that wanted to be a part of “A League of Their Own.” In fact, Tomei even went through the trouble of filming an audition tape for the director, in which she appeared playing baseball. But the best part was her coach!
Since Tomei was filming “My Cousin Vinny” at the time, she asked Joe Pesci if he could coach her for the tape, and he agreed. Director Penny Marshall saw the tape, and although she found it wildly entertaining, she decided Tomei didn’t have enough baseball-playing skills to make the cut.
Rosie O’Donnell’s Role Was Meant to Be Much Smaller
Rosie O'Donnell’s portrayal of Doris Murphy was one of the things that made “A League of Their Own” so iconic. And as major as her role was, audiences still couldn’t get enough of her! Ironically, O’Donnell’s character was meant to be a much smaller part than it ended up being in the film.
Doris Murphy didn’t appear in that many scenes or have those many lines when the script was first written. However, after O’Donnell proved to be one of the only actresses on set that completely understood Penny Marshall’s thick Bronx accent, she got additional scenes in the film. O’Donnell sometimes had to translate for Marshall when she was directing other actors.
Molly Ringwald Almost Played Kit
Molly Ringwald was the “it” girl of the 80s and early 90s; she starred in virtually every major Hollywood blockbuster during those years. From playing Andie Walsh in the hit coming-of-age film “Pretty in Pink” to her starring roles in the cult classics “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles,” Ringwald was one of the hottest stars of the decade.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that director Penny Marshall wanted to cast her for “A League of Their Own”. In fact, Molly Ringwald came very close to playing Kit Keller, but a conflict with another film caused the part to ultimately go to actress Lori Petty. And honestly, we’re glad it did.
Paul Newman Was Considered for the Role of Walter Harvey
Before Penny Marshall decided to cast her brother, Gary Marshall, for the role of sports mogul Walter Harvey, she considered a few options. Among them were James Coburn, Max von Sydow, and the one and only Paul Newman.
Newman, one of the most famous actors in Hollywood history, was still enjoying the success of his 1990 movie “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” and we can only assume the cost of his acting in “A League of Their Own” ended up being too expensive. Nevertheless, two years after the film’s release, Newman starred in two other box-office successes: “Nobody’s Fool” and “Hudsucker Proxy.”
The Film Almost Created an Olympian
“A League of Their Own” opened doors for many of its actors, but perhaps the one that saw the greatest change was Geena Davis. Her starring role as Dottie Hinson and the journey her character makes with her teammates inspired Davis to follow her dreams. And it turns out, her dream had been to try out for the Olympics.
Davis had always been reluctant to get into sports, but she had a hankering to get into professional archery for years. She only revealed it to the public after making the film. A few years after the movie was released, Davis started practicing professional archery and competed for a place in the 2000 U.S. Olympics. And despite her not making the cut, she placed 24 on a list of 300 women!
“A League of Their Own” Made History
This very special sports comedy-drama made history when it became the first movie directed by a woman to make a profit of over $100 million at the box office. With a budget of $40 million, director Penny Marshall managed to gross more than three times that amount when the film was released in 1992, making a total of $132,440,000.
Also, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2012, and Tom Hanks’ famous quote in the film, “There’s no crying in baseball!”, was listed in the American Film Institute’s “Most Famous Movie Quotes” list in 2005. A lot of reasons to be proud of this epic film.
The Real-Life Mansion of Walter Harvey
It’s thanks to Walter Harvey that the Women’s Baseball League gets another shot in the movie, and the actor who plays him, Gary Marshall, does an incredible job. Of course, the wealthy owner of the Chicago Cubs had to have a jaw-dropping mansion for a home. And that’s exactly what the director found.
In “A League of Their Own,” Walter Harvey’s luxurious mansion was actually the former home of Robert McCormick, owner of the prestigious newspaper ‘The Chicago Tribune.’ It was recently turned into a museum, so now anybody can go walk around the house’s grounds much like a drunk Jimmy Dugan did in the film.
There Was an Unsuccessful 1993 TV Series Based on the Film
After its release in 1992, “A League of Their Own” saw so much success that almost immediately after, a TV series of the same name started development. By April of 1993, the sitcom premiered on CBS, featuring Tracy Reiner, Sam McMurray, Megan Cavanagh, Carey Lowell, and other popular actors of the 90s. Unfortunately, the series only lasted a few weeks because audiences didn’t take to it well.
Despite the fact that two actresses from the original movie (Reiner and Cavanagh) were recast for the show, it seems that wasn’t enough to jumpstart the sitcom. As for Sam McMurray, he was absolutely hilarious in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and a slew of other films and TV shows of the 90s, but playing Jimmy Dugan, not so much.