League of Their Own: 30th Anniversary–Geena Davis Looking Back

League of Their Own: Penny Marshall’s Movie Celebrates 30th Anniversary: Stars, Writer on Studio Battles, Ending, Sequel

Geena Davis and screenwriter Lowell Ganz discuss a kiss scene that was cut, on-set injuries, sequel script, and the upcoming Amazon reboot.

 

Director Penny Marshall, coming off of Big (1988) and the Oscar-nominated Awakenings (1990), had watched a PBS documentary about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which launched in the 1940s.

She then sent the docu to Lowell Ganz, co-creator of her sitcom Laverne & Shirley, and baseball fanatic on his own right.

Marshall, who died in 2018 at age 75, was interested in a  fictionalized story of the AAGPBL players.

“I don’t know how enthusiastic the studios were about doing a movie about women’s baseball, but they were enthusiastic about Penny,” says Ganz, who co-wrote with Babaloo Mandel.

 

(L-R) Harper Vivienne Ann Lockwood, Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, Riley Keough, and Finley Aaron Love Lockwood attend the Handprint Ceremony honoring Three Generations of Presley's at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 21, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

 

Geena Davis played league standout Dottie Hinson, catcher for the Rockford Peaches, alongside co-stars Tom Hanks, as manager Jimmy Dugan, and Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell as teammates.

The Columbia film earned $132.4 million worldwide ($275.8 adjusted for inflation).

Its line–“There’s no crying in baseball!”–became memorable and is now among AFI’s 100 greatest movie quotes.

But debate lingers over a pivotal scene: did Dottie intentionally drop the ball at home plate to let her sister score in the final game? Davis loves the mystery: “I’m never going to tell what I think happened.”

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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN COLUMBIA PICTURES/COURTESY EVERETT COLLECTION

LOWELL GANZ: Debra Winger was cast in the movie for a while. She wasn’t completely content with some things that were going on.

GANZ: Geena had no confidence she could play ball. But she’s actually quite athletic, and the coaches worked with her for a day said, “It’ll be OK.”

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Editing

GANZ: Our script was too long. I take some responsibility, but Penny added a lot — some of which stayed in the movie, some of which didn’t. There was a four-hour cut, and the problem is you panic. We wound up cutting things that were really good that came back in the movie six, seven screenings down.

The whole scene of the dad saying goodbye to Marla at the train station was cut. We said, “It’s a four-hour cut. We can’t have this in.” We finally got the movie down to its right time, and Penny said, “Let’s put back the train station scene and see how that plays.” We put it back, and it plays fantastic, and to me, it’s one of the highlights of the movie.

Tom Hanks and Geena Davis Kissing?

DAVIS There was a scene that got cut that we shot where Tom’s character and I have a private conversation at night on the pitcher’s mound and then end up kissing. I believe that the movie was tested with that scene in it and that audiences really didn’t like that to happen.

GANZ: That’s a sore point because we didn’t like that idea, particularly. It was the studio that said, “You have these two very attractive movie stars. The audience is waiting for sparks.” Babaloo and I are good soldiers, and Penny’s a good soldier, too. We said, “Well, they may be right.” We wrote in a couple of scenes that  explored that, and we shot them, and we ran them for an audience. And we really didn’t like it at all. Nothing against Geena and Tom — they were excellent — but we just thought, “Boy, this just really feels like we’re trying too hard,” and also the movie was too long. She was never unfaithful to her husband.

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DAVIS: I heard that the original players, many of whom were involved with the movie as advisors, felt that that was just not right: “No way should you say that we were sleeping with coaches because that was not the case.”

GANZ The whole movie had better pace without it. You couldn’t just do it and then say it didn’t happen. When she left to go back with her husband, and Jimmy abraded her for being a quitter for walking out on the team, it wasn’t as good because it was polluted with what had gone on between them. We were just so relieved to get it out of there.

DAVIS There’s a scene where a girl shows an enormous bruise on her thigh from sliding into home, and that was real. Penny decided we have to actually get a shot of this because it was unbelievable. It was enormous and purple, and it lasted forever.

Hall of Fame Scene:

GANZ: The studio wanted us to cut the Hall of Fame thing at the end of the movie. They just wanted to end with Dottie getting on the bus and the bus driving away after the last game. But Penny was determined to put in the Hall of Fame thing. They screened it for an audience without the ending, and if the scores had been higher than for the version with the Hall of Fame, I think Penny would’ve given in. But they weren’t higher, and so she kept it, and we wrote a new opening scene and did a re-film of older Dottie and her daughter leaving for Cooperstown, so that there would be context for it.

PETTY [on debate over Dottie dropping the ball] I mowed her over! Are you kidding? I took it. There’s no way she would have given up the World Series for her sister. But it’s cool that it’s left open.

GANZ Babaloo and I never thought that Dottie dropped the ball on purpose. But after enough people said it, we said, “Maybe we don’t know our own character as well as we thought we did. Maybe we’re wrong.”

DAVIS I know what I think happened. I had to decide for my character, but I’ve never told anybody what I think it was. It’s fun that people constantly still are talking about that and having heated conversations over whether you think she dropped it on purpose or not. I decided I’m never gonna tell what I think happened.

“Crying” Line’s Legacy

GANZ: We always thought it was a fun line. I was there the day they shot, and I was thrilled the way Tom and Bitty (Schram, as Evelyn) put it over. You went, “Whatever this line is, he got it to 11.”

He more than fulfilled my expectation of what it would be, but that’s all I felt about it, was that writer’s feeling of, “It went perfectly.” Not to the extent that, “This is like, ‘I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’” We just thought it was a good, smart, funny line because it perfectly summed up Jimmy’s distance from what he was watching and experiencing, trying to coach women.

Amazon Series:

DAVIS: The Amazon series’ producers reached out to just connect with me and let me know it was happening. I told them I was very excited about it. I can’t wait.

GANZ: It’s a weird feeling to have the series coming out. I’m not speaking from a place of resentment. I’m just speaking from a place of, I doubt that I will watch it because it will feel too strange to me. I can’t imagine I will enjoy the experience. I didn’t watch the Parenthood series either, and I’m sure it was very good because everybody said it was very good. But to me, those characters are mine.

PETTY I did reach out to them and offer any help I could give them. They really wanted to make their own thing, which is great. And I hope it’s a huge hit.

Sequel to the 1992 Hit

GANZ: We actually wanted to do a prequel sequel–we wanted to do a movie about Jimmy. It was going to talk about his career before he got involved with the women’s league, and then it would sort of skip over that, and the last act was going to be his career afterwards, where he got a job managing a men’s baseball team and actually did a favor for an older Black player that he had met in the prequel part, to give him one last shot. This would be a year or two after Jackie Robinson. Tom was interested, and we couldn’t get Columbia to agree.

DAVIS: I heard about that, but that sequel was not going to include the women.

GANZ: They paid us to write a script. As Tom put it, it was when he was still young enough to be believable as ballplayer.

Columbia wanted to do another movie about “the girls.” We had nothing else to say about that because we felt like another movie about them would be The Bad News Bears Go to Japan. We were not seeing eye-to-eye with Columbia. They wanted Tom Hanks. But they wanted all the ladies as well in a story about what they went on to do. But Babaloo and I, and Penny, couldn’t think of one. So it just fell apart.

DAVIS: I came up with an idea for a sequel, and I wish it could still happen someday–we might be getting too old–but it would be called Little League of Their Own. The woman that my character was based on had sons who became Major League ballplayers. The idea would be that she has sons who are in the Little League team, and then they won’t let a girl join.