They were the members of the All-American League; they came from cities near and far.
And their story—at least the fictionalized version told in famed director Penny Marshall's 1992 classic, A League of Their Own—was truly a hit. Starring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna as athletes in the real life World War II-era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (formed by chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley as a means of keeping parks such as Chicago's Wrigley Field filled with fans while MLB's stars fought overseas), it scored more than $107 million at the box office.
One of America's most beloved sports films, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012. And if you've seen it, there's no chance you haven't uttered the phrase, "There's no crying in baseball!" at least once or, more realistically, dozens of times, in your life.
The cast knew Tom Hanks' standout line as washed up former baseball pro turned manager Jimmy Duggan, "was hella funny," Davis told USA Today in 2017. "But I didn't know that was going to be a classic. That line is a signature, right up there with 'Hasta la vista, baby.'"
Frankly, though, she never would have predicted they'd knock it so far out of the park.
"When I saw the film, I thought to myself, 'That came out well,'" Davis, who led the team as catcher and "Queen of Diamonds" Dottie Hinson, shared in ESPNW's 2017 oral history. "It was a shock to see just how well it was doing. It's always one of the top sports movies of all time. It's exciting to have been part of something that struck a cultural nerve and lived on in people's minds. It seems like everybody still grows up having seen that movie."
Because for all the stand-out one-liners ("Lay off the high ones!" "I like the high ones!") it was the film's premise that, as the tagline said, "a woman's place is at home...first, second and third," that truly landed.
"Seeing girls take up not just baseball but other sports because they were inspired by the movie is just amazing," said Davis, celebrating her 68th birthday Jan. 21, of knowing she's pretty much required viewing for any adolescent girl with even a shred of athleticism. "It's hard to even calculate how many women were impacted by this film."
So step up to the plate, because we're celebrating this game-changer of a film by throwing up some striking facts about how it all came together, including an answer to the big question: Did Dottie truly drop the ball?
(Originally published July 1, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)