Penny Marshall’s 1992 “A League of Their Own” movie introduced the world to a group of women who fought their way onto a baseball field, but it only featured women who were straight, white, presentable.
The new series, which premiered Friday on Prime Video, does much more.
“Our intention here is to tell the stories that the film overlooked and did not focus on and really open up the lens to a generation of women who played baseball and who played it so f—ing well,” co-creator Abbi Jacobson, the 38-year-old actress who also stars as Rockford Peaches catcher Carson Shaw, told the Daily News.
“The reality is that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, there’s so much that we love, but it’s so important that we show the flaws of that institution. We’re not trying to critique the film, but we’re examining and critiquing the time.”
The series sets itself in the same world as Marshall’s film: the AAGPBL, founded in 1943 when the men went to fight abroad in World War II. A group of men, including chewing gum manufacturer Philip K. Wrigley and Branch Rickey, who broke MLB’s color barrier when he signed Jackie Robinson, founded the league. But the series branches out from between the lines, with the luxury of eight one-hour episodes and freedom to tell a wider story.
“There was a much bigger story to tell about this generation of women who wanted to play ball,” co-creator Will Graham told The News. “That story has the same humor and heart and fun and flawed characters as the movie, but it’s telling the story of a whole generation.”
Now, “A League of Their Own” has expanded its team. There are gay women, including first baseman Greta (D’Arcy Carden). There are Hispanic women, including Izzy (Priscilla Delgado), a young prodigy who left Cuba and landed in the Illinois cornfields to play baseball without speaking a word of English. Roberta Colindrez, who plays another Hispanic player, says she grew up watching the movie and picturing herself in the story, “even though I didn’t have any business really seeing myself in there because they didn’t have Latin people.”
That, the cast says, is the beauty of their show.
“For Penny Marshall, for a woman filmmaker to make stories about women, it was an impossible act, a huge feat in 1992,” Kelly McCormack, the 31-year-old actress who plays outspoken pitcher Jess, told The News. “All props to Penny Marshall, who was probably up against stuff that we will never understand and never know. The industry is so male-dominated that even just making a movie as a woman is impossible, but women are always change-makers. We’re always the ones who make room for progress.”
“We’re the ones who are going to make the show that’s more diverse, that’s telling the truth about segregation at the time, telling the truth about diversity,” McCormack added. “We’re just happy to be another notch in the belt of moving things forward.”
Carden, the “Good Place” alum who plays Greta, echoed the same sentiment: Marshall’s work was “revolutionary,” she told The News.
“Looking back on it, you can say, ‘Oh, I wish they explored this or that,’ but they really did a lot for the time,” the 42-year-old actress said. “And now we are able ... to really tell the story.”
That truth opens the new “A League of Their Own” to a darker side of the time period than the movie showed, one rife with sexism, racism and homophobia. Maxine Chapman (Chanté Adams), a Black woman with a pitching arm to die for, isn’t even allowed to try out for the AAGPBL because of her skin color. A secret gay nightclub is raided by police, brutally and violently. The women are expected to look right, with their dresses and heels and hair and makeup.
“A League of Their Own” doesn’t want to hide that, but it doesn’t want to focus on it, either.
“This story is about finding joy and falling in love with the person you want to fall in love with or doing the thing that you want to do when the world doesn’t want you to,” Graham told The News.
“That’s heroic and it’s hard. But like Tom Hanks says in the movie, the hard is what makes it great.”
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