“There’s no crying in baseball.” That’s the famed line Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan memorably shouts in Penny Marshall’s original 1992 movie A League of Their Own. A dramedy about female empowerment and sisterhood in the 1940s, this fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) proves its classic status time and time again. Even still, Prime Video’s latest reimagining — a series of the same name created by Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham — sets out to widen the cherished classic’s original storytelling lens, offering new stories of queerness and the Black experience that the original movie didn’t have space to tackle. In doing so, A League of Their Own delivers a profound homerun.
Whereas the original film centers the relationship between sisters Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Hinson (Lori Petty), the new A League of Their Own series introduces an entirely new ensemble. At its heart, there’s Carson (Jacobson), a married woman who hurries out of town while her husband’s away at war. She ventures off to Chicago to pursue her lifelong dream of playing professional baseball in a brand-new league designed to continue generating profit now that MLB players are all overseas fighting Hitler. Right away, she meets Greta (D’Arcy Carden) and Jo (Melanie Field) a best friend duo with Mae Mordabito (Madonna) and Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) vibes, but in truth, a flavor all their own. As Carson begins her journey as catcher for The Peaches, Carden’s Greta says to her, “As long as we’re here, let’s do this, let’s rob the bank.” What Darcy’s encouraging Carson to do is to swing for the fences and make the absolute most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they’ve been granted to play the sport of their dreams alongside women and folks who share their passions. And much like the players of the AAGPBL do, A League of Their Own robs its own bank, packing its 8-episode freshman season full of profound stories of sisterhood, identity, race-relations, and queerness.
What truly makes this series sing is how A League of Their Own presents a dynamic landscape of queer stories. Throughout the series, pursuing dreams of playing professional baseball lead to players falling in love, familial bonds being tested, and folks’ identities and gender expressions coming into sharper focus. As the series progresses, each member of this powerful ensemble explores a different facet of what it means to be a person who is in some way, shape or form forever changed by women’s baseball in the 1940s. The series matures the sisterly and platonic loves of the original movie, and fearlessly excavates the queerness of the time. Co-creators Graham and Jacobson did extensive research to fill this show with as many dynamic stories as they could, and that shows. And while the moments on the field are incredibly powerful, it’s the vaster amount of screen time we get to spend with players off the field that gives these relationships substantial space to grow.
While the original movie focused exclusively on the Peaches’ story, with this series, Graham and Jacobson color outside the lines. They take a single throw from the original film — a moment when Black bystanders toss a ball back to Dottie — and extrapolate it into a good half of the entire A League of Their Own series narrative. At the center of those storylines is Max (Chanté Adams), a life-long baseball fanatic desperate to prove she deserves her shot in the big leagues. When this new AAGPBL refuses to let her even try out, the rejection lights a fire in her. Max will stop at absolutely nothing to realize her dream and finally live her truth — even if that means disobeying her mother Toni (Saidah Arrika Ekulona), a prospect that utterly terrifies her.
Max’s friendship with her BFF Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) is a particularly profound expansion from the original narrative. Max is desperate to play baseball. Being a top-notch pitcher has been her identity forever. Her best friend Clance is a comic book nerd and devoted wife. Max and Clance unconditionally support each other’s quirks and push one another to honor their authenticity and aspirations. Watching the ways these two build each other up is a profound lesson in vulnerability and teamwork. As consequences of the war descend upon them — be that presenting new employment opportunities, chances at their dreams, or terrifying requirements — the way Max and Clance lean on one another, trust each other with their insecurities, and ultimately go to bat for each other elevates this entire series. Max’s is a 1940s baseball story we never got to see the first time around, and Clance is her ultimate teammate.
While the original movie stuck to explorations of female friendship, this new series does overtly explore inter-team romance. Getting to see depictions of the romantic love merely hinted at in the original feels liberating and beautiful. Beyond the storylines of sexuality, A League of Their Own also offers a variety of different characters exploring their gender expressions. While the genderedness of a woman’s baseball team was absolutely embedded in the original movie’s narrative, in this new series, gender is treated with more depth and nuance. This isn’t just about female friendship anymore, or women getting the chance to do less quintessentially womanly things. This show takes the premise of a group of people passionate about an activity that’s inherently a subversion of their traditional gender roles, and explores all sorts of different kinds of people with different kinds of gender expressions who might be interested in that sort of thing. (And I’m not just talking about a token trans character.) A League of Their Own gives voice to countless characters presenting their own gender expressions across a vast spectrum. This new series transcends the binary, treating gender expression as it should be — as, as unique and authentic as each human being. From stories about being fined for wearing pants to conversations about hair, from conversations about what it means to be an unmarried Black woman in this world, to explorations of what it means to be a wife and also a baseball player, we get to see a spectrum of different gender experiences, each delivered with individuality, respect, and grace.