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A League of Their Own: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, John Lovitz | Inspired by the Rockford Peaches and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954)


Geena Davis
Born: January 21, 1956
Wareham, Massachusetts, USA

Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek
Born: December 21, 1925
Birthplace: Norwood, Ohio, USA
Death: May 17, 2010, Palm Desert, California, USA
Bio: Outfield / First Base | Played for Rockford Peaches

Born: August 16, 1958
Bay City, Michigan, USA

Faye Dancer
Born: April 24, 1925
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA
Death: May 22, 2002, Los Angeles, California, USA (cancer surgery complications)
Bio: Center Field / Pitcher | Played for Minneapolis Millerettes, Fort Wayne Daisies, Peoria Redwings

This summer, Tom Hanks and the Rockford Peaches prove that a woman's place is at home...first, second & third. - Tagline, A League of Their Own, 1992

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

How many characters in the movie are based on actual players?

The A League of Their Own true story reveals that aside from Geena Davis and Madonna's characters being loosely inspired by real-life players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), most of the players in the movie are entirely fictional. A website dedicated to real Rockford Peach Dottie Green claimed that she was the real Dottie Hinson, who is portrayed by Geena Davis in the movie. Green was a catcher for the Peaches from 1943 to 1947. The website (now defunct) was designed by Doug Green, who we're assuming is her son or some other relation, leading us to question if Doug is the only one drawing the similarities. A knee injury forced Dottie Green to quit the Peaches, and she went on to work with the team as a chaperone. She is not widely considered to be an inspiration for the character.

Other sources claim that Geena Davis' character of Dottie Hinson was based on other real-life players, and according to the AAGPBL website, many felt that her personality closely resembled that of All-Star catcher Mary "Bonnie" Baker, who played for the South Bend Blue Sox. Baker's obituary states, "it has been said that Davis' character 'Dottie Hinson' most resembled Baker." Another cited inspiration for Dottie Hinson is catcher Lavonne "Pepper" Davis, who was a technical advisor on the Rockford Peaches movie. She is perhaps most recognized for co-writing the league's anthem, "Victory Song," with Nalda Bird Phillips in 1944, which is sung in the film.

According to the obituary of Rockford Peach Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek, her "career provided a portion of the basis for Geena Davis' Dottie Hinson character in the film." Kamenshek started with the Peaches in 1943 as an outfielder before moving to first base. Despite not being a catcher, she perhaps most accurately fits the label of "real Dottie Hinson," or at least has the most similarities with Geena Davis' character, especially given how talented she was and the fact that she was the face of the real Rockford Peaches. Kamenshek played for 10 seasons with the Peaches and was an all-star every year the league put together such a team. She was the AAGPBL's top batter in 1946 and 1947, and throughout her career, she was struck out only 81 times in 3,736 at-bats. She was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top female athletes of the 20th century.

Was the idea of featuring two sisters inspired by a real-life pair of sisters?

Yes. Kelly Candaele, who co-wrote the film's story, drew inspiration from his own mother, Helen Candaele (née Callaghan), and her older sister, Margaret. They were the first sisters to compete in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Helen started in the league as an outfielder with the Minneapolis Millerettes in 1944. Her sister, Margaret, joined the Millerettes that same year as an infielder. The sisters also spent several years playing together for the Fort Wayne Daisies. Helen won the batting title in 1945.

Helen and Margaret Callaghan (top) were the first sisters to play together in the AAGPBL.

Kelly Candaele also helped to create the 1987 A League of Their Own documentary, which inspired the movie and features his mother Helen. Kelly's brother, Casey Candaele, is a former Major League Baseball player for the Houston Astros and Montreal Expos.

What similarities does Madonna's character, Mae Mordabito, share with her real-life inspiration, Faye Dancer?

To start, Faye Dancer's nickname was "All the Way Faye," which inspired Madonna's character's nickname, "All the Way Mae." Both played center field, though Faye played for the Minneapolis Millerettes (1944), the Fort Wayne Daisies (1945-47), and the Peoria Redwings (1947-48, 1950), not the Rockford Peaches. Like Mae in the movie, Faye was not only one of the most talented players in the league, she was also one of the most colorful and entertaining players. She believed that it was her job to stir up the fans. A fellow player remembered, "You didn't dare Faye to do anything, because she'd do it!" She was known for being a stolen base threat and once held the record for stolen bases in a single season at 108 (she averaged 70 or more per season).

Center fielder Faye Dancer (left) was the inspiration for Madonna's character, Mae Mordabito (right).

Is Tom Hanks' character, Manager Jimmy Dugan, based on a real person?

In answering the question, "How accurate is A League of Their Own?" we learned that while Tom Hanks' character Jimmy Dugan is fictitious, he was loosely inspired by two real-life baseball players from that era, Jimmie Foxx and Hack Wilson. Similar to Hanks' character, both men drank themselves out of their careers. Foxx was a three-time MVP who won two batting titles. However, his career went into decline in his mid-thirties, partly due to alcohol. He ended up managing the Fort Wayne Daisies for a season. It's no accident that Hanks' character seems to be taking a nearly identical path in the Rockford Peaches movie. However, we're pretty sure Foxx never uttered the line, "There's no crying in baseball!"

When did the League exist?

While researching the A League of Their Own true story, we discovered that the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) existed from 1943 to 1954. Initially, there were only four teams. Then they increased it to six and had as many as ten at one point.

Did a Chicago candy-bar mogul really initiate the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League?

No. Chewing gum mogul Philip K. Wrigley, who had inherited the Chicago Cubs baseball organization from his father, was responsible for initiating the creation of the Girls Professional Baseball League. He did so fearing that Major League teams would disband as the players went off to war.

Chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley (left) was the inspiration for Walter Harvey (Gary Marshall) in the movie. Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum / Columbia Pictures

What were the ages of the players?

The majority of the players were in their early twenties, but several players were in their teens with some as young as 15 years old.

Did the women really wear skirts and have to take etiquette classes?

Yes. The A League of Their Own fact-check confirms that the women players did have to wear skirts to play, and they were actually required to take etiquette classes. You can read the text of their Official Charm School Guide (here), which is part of the collections of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

Which is more accurate, the Rockford Peaches' uniforms worn in the movie or the Amazon Prime series?

The logo on the front of the Peaches' uniforms in the movie is easier to read but less accurate. As pointed out on the AAGPBL Facebook page, the uniforms used in the 2022 A League of Their Own series on Amazon Prime are more accurate, including the logo and the darker buttons. The Rockford Peaches tunics in the series were modeled after the uniforms worn during the 1945-46 season. Uniforms commonly sold as Rockford Peaches costumes are based on the less accurate uniforms from the 1992 movie.

When compared to the real team (bottom), the Rockford Peaches uniforms worn in the Amazon Prime series (top) are more accurate than the tunics worn in the movie. Photo: AAGPBL

Did playing in skirts result in more injuries?

Yes. Obviously, there is an increased risk of injury when bare skin is exposed, especially when sliding into bases. The "strawberry" that Alice Gaspers (Renée Coleman) receives in the Rockford Peaches movie (and Tom Hanks' character takes a picture of) is not Hollywood makeup. Actress Renee Coleman (pictured below) really did sustain the bruise while sliding into a base during filming. Pictured on the left below is Faye Dancer (the inspiration for Madonna's Mae Mordabito) getting a strawberry patched up in real life. Players also recalled plenty of banged-up knees.

Faye Dancer gets her strawberry patched up in real life, and Tom Hanks takes a picture of Alice's strawberry bruise in the movie. Photos: AAGPBL / Columbia Pictures

Did the Racine Belles beat the Rockford Peaches for the championship in 1943?

No. In researching how accurate is A League of Their Own, we discovered that while the Racine Belles did win the championship in 1943, they didn't beat the Rockford Peaches. They beat the Kenosha Comets for the title that year. A fact-check reveals that the Peaches actually finished last in 1943, though they would go on to win championships in subsequent years.

Were there any black players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League?

No. Sadly, the A League of Their Own true story confirms that there weren't any black women in the AAGPBL. Like men's Major League Baseball, the 'girls' professional baseball league was informally segregated. The closest a black woman got to joining the league was when 17-year-old Mamie "Peanut" Johnson went to a tryout in 1951 but was turned away because of her skin color. Johnson was one of at least 12 black women who played in the Negro Leagues and was the first female pitcher. She earned a spot with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953.

The movie pays tribute to Mamie "Peanut" Johnson in the scene where a black woman impressively throws a loose baseball back toward Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), rocketing it over Hinson's head to pitcher Ellen Sue (Freddie Simpson). In 2006, the AAGPBL Players Association formally acknowledged the injustice to Mamie Johnson. The association's board of directors voted to grant Johnson an honorary membership. Johnson died on December 18, 2017.

Mamie "Peanut" Johnson (center, inset), who was turned away from an AAGPBL tryout, inspired DeLisa Chinn-Tyler's character in the film who rockets a loose baseball over Dottie's head to pitcher Ellen Sue.

Why did the league become extinct?

Though it was a success in its heyday, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded due to the men returning home from the war and due to the advent of television. Fans no longer needed to fill their baseball cravings by going to ballparks. Major League Baseball could be fed via TV right into the living room.

Was there a 1990s television show that was based on the movie A League of Their Own?

As a result of the film's popularity and box office success (earning over $107 million domestically in North America), a television spin-off was launched by CBS in 1993. Penny Marshall produced the series, and both Penny Marshall and Tom Hanks each directed an episode. The short-lived show starred Carey Lowell (Law and Order) as Dottie Hinson. Nearly thirty years later in 2022, another series under the same name was released on Amazon Prime Video.

Are there any professional women's baseball teams playing today?

At the moment, there are no professional women's baseball teams in operation. The Colorado Silver Bullets, who were a promotional team for the Colorado area brewing company, disbanded in 1998. They mainly played against "Double A" men's professional baseball teams, and were not part of a women's league.

The "Ladies Professional Baseball League" that was formed in 1997 under the title of "Ladies League Baseball" expanded eastward from the U.S. West Coast in 1998 to include teams in Buffalo NY. and Augusta NJ. The league played 16 games of a 56-game schedule before disbanding due to rising insurance costs, low attendance, and expensive stadium rent fees.

Are there any women who have played baseball with men professionally?

There seems to be no record of a woman ever playing on a Major League Baseball team. However, women have played with men professionally in the minor leagues, and in 2003, former female UNLV softball coach Kendall Burnham (left) gained notoriety by signing with the San Angelo Colts, where she played alongside her husband, San Angelo Colt Jake Burnham. "We're on the same team and we've got a common goal, to help this team win," Jake told the San Angelo Standard-Times. "And if there's anybody who knows how I play, it's her after working out with me all winter. Maybe she can give me some advice."

(User Question): I heard that a girl struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gerhig in a baseball game. Is this true?

This somewhat little known fact is actually true. At age 17, Jackie Mitchell signed a contract to play with the Chattanooga Lookouts. Her chance to prove herself came on April 2, 1931, during an Exhibition game against the New York Yankees when she pitched against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, striking both out before walking Tony Lazzeri. She was then pulled from the game, which the Yankees finally won. Unfortunately, the commissioner of baseball canceled the teen's contract shortly after, claiming that the game was "too tough for women." Thus, we'll never know the full impact that Jackie Mitchell could have had on the sport. -School Library Journal

Read the Official AAGPBL Charm School Guide:

The real women behind the A League of Their Own true story were required to maintain a certain code of conduct. Below you can read the Official AAGPBL Charm School Guide, which specified appropriate beauty routines, clothes, and etiquette. The text was taken from the charm school guide located in the collections of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

Official Charm School Guide

 There's No Crying in Baseball Scene - A League of Their Own Quote

This humorous scene from A League of Their Own features one of the most popular movie quotes in film history. Coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) lectures the Rockford Peaches' right fielder Evelyn Gardner (Bitty Schram). When Dugan sees that Gardner has begun to cry, he delivers the quote, "There's no crying in baseball!"

 A League of Their Own Trailer

Starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna, A League of Their Own was inspired by the real-life Rockford Peaches team and the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The movie tells the story of a group of women who found their calling on the baseball field while their husbands were off fighting in World War II. The AAGPBL helped to fill the void left by the Major League Baseball players who were serving their country.

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