Movies & TV Shows

A League Of Their Own: True Story Inspiration Explained

Here’s the fascinating truth behind A League of Their Own, including the short skirts, the required etiquette classes, and the real Dottie Hinson.

A League of Their Own is more than a classic comedy about cute skirts and home runs — the film is based on the true story of how women saved baseball. During World War II, America’s favorite pastime was lying dormant–with the men gone—until the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was created in 1943. A League of Their Own‘s true story inspiration was this particular era in the history of baseball. Three hundred women flooded the league tryouts in the spring of 1943 from all over the United States and Canada. Five years after its inception, the AAGPBL had grown to nearly one million fans. The real struggles of these female athletes served as the molds for the cast of A League of Their Own.

In A League of Their Own, the plot surrounds the sibling rivalry between sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit Hinson (Lori Petty). Recruited from a dairy farm in rural Oregon, the sisters attend the league tryouts and become two of the ten Rockford Peaches—one of four original teams from the real AAGPBL. The older sister, Dottie, far outshines the younger, Kit, and becomes the darling of the entire league. The plot climaxes when Kit, having been traded to the Racine Belles, plows her sister down to win the League Championship.

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A League of Their Own tells the story of a turning point in the history of women and sports. Indeed, similar to other sports drama movies like Bruised and Warrior, A League of Their Own takes inspiration from the real-life stories of athletes who gave it all for the one sport that they love. As A League of Their Own was released back in 1992, and also stars both Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, the movie was instrumental in popularizing the sports drama genre, revealing how fictionalizing crucial historical events can make them more palatable to modern audiences.

A League Of Their Own’s Story Is Historically Accurate

All-female baseball team celebrating together on the baseball field

Although fictional, much of the plot is historically accurate. Women were recruited from farms and brought into the spotlight. Many had surprising talent. Even the injuries in the film were authentic. Players in the AAGPBL were required to wear skirts both off and on the field, despite severe injuries called “strawberries” from sliding into bases like the one suffered by actress Renee Coleman (from Quantum Leap) when playing her character, Alice Gaspers.  A League of Their Own is a movie built on truth, like the inspiration behind Dottie’s character, Dorothy Damenshek; the League’s influential owner, Philip K. Wrigley; and the image women had to uphold to be part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Only Dottie Is Based On A Real Baseball Player

Most of the players in A League of Their Own are works of fiction, created from an overall concept of the team members from the historic league, except for Dottie, who was based on the real-life player Dorothy “Kammie” Kamenshek. Kamenshek played for the Rockford Peaches as an outfielder, not a catcher, but, like her movie counterpart, she held an astounding batting average: Out of 3,736 times at bat, Dorothy struck out only 81 times. She was named to the league’s all-star team every year of its existence.

In the film, the tycoon-on-the-scene is chocolatier Walter Harvey, a character played by Garry Marshall (writer of Pretty Woman) and based loosely on Philip K. Wrigley, of Wrigley’s chewing gum. With his team, the Chicago Cubs, away at war, and his stadium lying vacant, Wrigley saw an opportunity. Nicknaming the league “the lipstick league,” Wrigley went to great lengths to highlight and distinguish the femininity of the team, requiring that all players attend charm school classes similar to the ones featured in the film.

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What A League Of Their Own Changed From Real Life

Dottie and Jimmy in the dugout in A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own changes a few key details from the real-life events that inspired the movie. While it’s true that the Racine Belles took the championship in 1943, it wasn’t the Rockford Peaches that they beat. In real-life, it was the Kenosha Comets that lost to the Belles, while the Peaches finished last during that year. Notably, A League of Their Own also excludes a real-life AAGPBL team with a name that, apart from being unacceptable in 1992, certainly wouldn’t fly in the modern #MeToo era – the Milwaukee Chicks. Another piece of history that’s missing from A League of Their Own is player Pepper Paire Davis, who once punched an umpire in the face for calling her out at the last second, knocking the umpire down on his back – a far more violent moment than Kit bowling over Dottie for the win. Lastly, the overhand pitching shown in the movie didn’t become commonplace in the league until 1948, prior to which the underhand pitch was mostly used, as most female athletes crossed over from softball.

A League of Their Own may be fiction, but it did a great service to the true stories of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by bringing many of the true elements of the league’s history into the public interest. Moreover, in 1992, A League of Their Own paved the way for more women being cast in action roles in subsequent movies. By the league’s end in 1954, the AAGPBL had hosted over 500 women whose sportsmanship had filled America’s stadiums and hearts, and they did it all in skirts. While the movie’s plot and characters are loosely based on reality, A League of Their Own‘s true story is really how it shone a spotlight on the year female athletes saved America’s pastime.

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