A quarter century of ‘A League of Their Own’

Written by: Bill Francis

It was 25 summers ago, on July 1, 1992, that the much-celebrated film A League of Their Own was released in the United States. Based on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which began play in 1943 and lasted a dozen years, the Midwest circuit thrived during World War II and lasted until 1954.

The film, directed by Penny Marshall, focuses on the Rockford Peaches, one of four clubs that made up the AAGPBL in its first season. The fictionalized story deals with the combative relationship between team’s catcher, Dottie Hinson, portrayed by Geena Davis, and her sister, Kit Keller, the pitcher, played by Lori Petty. It also stars Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up former big league slugger turned skeptical team manager, and Madonna as Mae Mordabito, a street-smart and wisecracking outfielder.

Also cast in A League of Their Own as member of the Peaches was actress Anne Ramsay, who, in a recent telephone interview with the National Baseball Hall of Fame from her home in California, looked back on her role portraying first baseman Helen Haley.

“It was personally thrilling for me,” Ramsay said. “I’ve always been a champion of women and I always loved sports. So for me, this film, when I heard it was coming up, I got an audition. It was just like a perfect fit. And then to get the role and to be able to be a part of this rich history that I didn’t even know about. And thanks to Penny Marshall, everyone gets to know about these amazing women from that league. That was just a wonderful way to start a career for me.

“Also, the women themselves from the league, a few of them we would get to meet on the set as they were consultants and would help us all out to make it authentic. Just meeting them and getting to spend time with them and hearing their stories was just a rich experience, as you can imagine.”

The film A League of Their Own focuses on the Rockford Peaches, pictured above, one of four clubs that made up the AAGPBL in its first season. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Ramsay would add that the reaction to A League of Their Own from women of all ages was both gratifying and emotional.

“After the film came out, little girls would come up to all of us all excited because they finally had something that would represent them, that they could look up to,” Ramsay said. “Little girls and young women starving for that. It was amazing to be a part of. And still is, but to a lesser extent now. But I play beach volleyball with people younger than me and some of them are like, ‘Gosh, when I was in high school we would play that film to get psyched up for our games.’ It just brings tears to my eyes. It’s a beautiful thing that I got to be a part of and carry on that message of what those women did. Lucky me.”

While the audition process was daunting, Ramsay remains overwhelmed that she was able to take part in what many consider a film favorite.

“Every actress my age got an audition. Luckily for me, the athletic part, the sports end of it, was in me already,” Ramsay said. “I really wanted that film because of how the script resonated within me. Penny brought me in like six times to audition. She wasn’t sure where to put me. She had me read for all the different parts and then she ended up creating a part for me because she wanted me on the film. Then she found out I was left-handed and she was like, ‘You’ll play first base.’ I cried that night.

“I remember I was offered a limo ride to the airport when I was going to go off on location to start shooting the film, but I declined because my girlfriend offered to take me and I wasn’t going to see her for a long time,” she added. “And we get to the airport and I started crying and my girlfriend asked me why. I told her I knew I was going to be changed by this film. It was just something I knew was going to be a big deal. We went off and did the film and it was everything and more than I ever could have dreamed of. On the plane ride home after filming wrapped, I’m looking out the window and I’m crying because I didn’t want it to be over.”

With an estimated budget of $40 million, it has been reported that A League of Their Own has earned $107 million.

“I was thrilled with the reaction to the film. Honestly, I was surprised but I couldn’t be prouder that I’m part of a classic film. I thought it would be a great film but I didn’t know it would be this beloved,” Ramsay said. “It was just a magical experience. I’ll never be able to adequately articulate what it means to me.”

A working actress since the 1980s, Ramsay was also a regular cast member in the hit 1990s television series Mad About You, where she portrayed Lisa Stemple, Helen Hunt’s sister.

Mad About You, which I got cast in after A League of Their Own, both of those experiences are unparalleled in my career so far,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll have some more experiences on that level.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right skillset. The fact that I could be an actress and make a living off of it all these years is remarkable, but to be involved in A League of Their Own, about women, was meant to be I guess.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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