Adapted from the movie of the same name, A League of Their Own is a period sports comedy drama developed for TV by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson.
Set across the midwest United States during the height of WW2, A League of Their Own stars Abbi Jacobson, D’Arcy Carden, Chanté Adams, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roberta Colindrez, Kelly McCormack, Priscilla Delgado, Molly Ephraim, Melanie Field, and Kate Berlant as one of the league’s most successful teams, the Rockford Peaches.
Much like the film, the TV series A League of Their Own is a fictional retelling of the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and follows the four-time league winning team the Rockford Peaches. Created as a temporary substitute for the major league while the country’s able-bodied men were away at war, the AAGPBL recruited 600 women from across the midwest and neighbouring countries in North and South America to play. Disbanding in 1954, the AAGPBL helped to spur on the creation of several professional league sports for women across the nation.
The series begins with Carson Shaw (Jacobson), a married woman from a small Idaho farm town, running off to Chicago to try out for the league while her husband is on the warfront. Maxine (Adams), a black woman living in Rockford, Illinois, dreams of being a professional ballplayer but faces barriers of race and gender at every step.
At the tryouts, Carson meets a band of other league hopefuls and together they form the Peaches, while Maxine is met with immediate rejection. Just as the real-life players were, Carson and her ragtag Peaches are sent through charm school classes and put in completely impractical uniforms in what is essentially an on-field beauty pageant. Maxine, struggling to get her break, takes up work at a screw factory in an attempt to make it onto their mix-race team.
A League of Their Own has some nice call-backs to the Penny Marshall film, like a jazzy training montage that even includes a player diving into the splits for a catch (fans of the film will remember Gina Davis doing the same to get the attention of the on-field reporters) and a curmudgeon coach from the major leagues, though Offerman’s “Dove” Porter is a lot more palatable than Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan. Similarities aside, Graham and Jacobson’s A League of Their Own is a unique story with a lot of heart, lovable characters, and incredible styling.
No doubt an unspoken concern at the time of the league’s creation is the conversation of sexism and misogyny in the world of sport. On the surface, the AAGPBL was an initiative for equality and championing female athletics, however it was an uphill battle for those women to prove their worth as athletes. Outside of the charm school and hyper-feminine uniforms, the players are constantly met with sexist remarks and catcalling during the early games in addition to being constantly underestimated by their coach, their male peers, the public and the creators of the league, who only intended to keep the league active until the war ended.
A League of Their Own is an easy and comfortable show to settle into and where it shines brightest is in its deviations from its source material.
Graham and Jacobson’s series makes the hidden queer community of the time a central theme, exploring the fluidity of female sexuality through many of the series’ core characters. Carson’s affair with her teammate Greta (Carden), Maxine’s journey to self-discovery with the aid of her trans uncle Bert, and the underground bars that were a safe haven for the community; Graham and Jacobson also include the culturally significant term “friend of Dorothy” that was commonly used to covertly uncover someone’s sexuality. A League of Their Own is overflowing with diverse queer representation, putting a gentle spotlight onto the community to showcase both its pride and struggles, which gives the show an incredible authenticity.
In tandem with the conversations around queerness and femininity is the issue of racism. A League of Their Own uses Maxine, and to a lesser extent the Peaches’ two Latino players, to facilitate these conversations in meaningful and compassionate ways, like Maxine’s inability to try out in Chicago, her difficulties buying goods at a predominantly white grocery, and Mexican-American pitcher Lupe (Colindrez) being dubbed the “Spanish Striker” as it was deemed to be more acceptable. While many strides have been made to combat discrimination in sport, A League of Their Own is a gentle reminder that these opinions are not old and still present at home and abroad.
In and amongst these weighted topics is, of course, some incredibly choreographed baseball games. Much like the real-life AAGPBL players, the fictional Rockford Peaches are incredible athletes determined to earn the respect and admiration for their skills that they know they deserve. The baseball sequences are filled with as many heartfelt and nail-biting moments as you’d expect from a real game, providing a great balance to the more dramatic elements, and watching the Peaches gain confidence and recognition as the season progresses is incredibly satisfying.
With the unique dual perspective of league underdogs vs. a side-lined dreamer and a healthy dose of cultural and political commentary, Graham and Jacobson’s A League of Their Own is a fresh offering to the world of sports drama, full of great shows of athleticism, friendship and self-discovery that is sure to be enjoyable for sports fans and non-fans alike.
A League of Their Own is streaming on Prime Video now.