‘A League of Their Own’ series finally puts Black women on the baseball field
There’s a famous scene in Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” movie: a Black woman, in a dress and hat, picks up a loose ball in foul territory and whips it past Geena Davis’ Dottie right into the waiting glove of Ellen Sue.
She nods, but doesn’t speak. That’s all she gets. She’s not even listed in the credits (local media identified her last year as Delisa Chinn-Tyler). One throw and she was gone.
For the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the women’s league founded while the men were fighting World War II, Black women were just as invisible. But they were still there. So in Prime Video’s new “League of Their Own” series, which premiered Friday, co-creators Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham made sure that those same Black women finally got their time on the diamond.
At the center is Maxine Chapman, a Black pitcher with an arm that could rival — and often beat — any man. But the Rockford Peaches won’t give her a second glance. Instead, she has to get a job at the factory so she can join their team.
“She has to find her own way and her own team. That’s what Black women had to do at that time period,” Chanté Adams, who stars as Maxine, told the Daily News.
“My character is based off of Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson and Connie Morgan, three women who found their team in the Negro Leagues and played baseball at a professional level. We do not know their names, as a society and as a world. If you are a baseball fan, you should be able to name these three women, and that is not the case. We’re hoping that, through this show, we are able shed light on their history and their story.”
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, a “Women in Baseball” exhibit is shoved into a second-floor corner, celebrating the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and the Negro Leagues, where Stone, Johnson and Morgan were among barely a dozen women allowed to compete. Effa Manley is the only woman inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Major League Baseball, to this day, is still marking “firsts” in hiring: Alyssa Naken, the first woman on-field coach, Kim Ng, the first woman major league general manager, Rachel Balkovec, the first woman manager in affiliated ball.
While Maxine is fighting her way onto the field, “A League of Their Own” also allows her to have fun: first love, her best friend, a new catching partner in Jacobson’s Carson Shaw. There’s racism, but there’s also joy.
“Anything around this era, as a Black person and as a Black artist, can be a little scary because usually a lot of work is trauma-heavy,” Adams, 27, told The News.
“What’s so special about this show is that we’re also highlighting what it means to experience Black joy, especially at this time period. Black beauty and Black love, that is all more on the forefront than Maxine’s trauma.”