Geena Davis is a very appealing actress. This makes it harder to discern what an awful person her character in this movie is. But at the very beginning of this movie we are given a strong hint. Dottie, played by Davis, is going on a trip and admonishes her young grandchildren thusly: to the older one she says, you’re older so be kind to your little brother; to the younger, referring to the basketball game they are playing, she says “kill him”. This passes quickly, but it should give the viewer a warning.
For context, this movie takes place during World War II, when Major League baseball was curtailed as many of the players were drafted or enlisted. To fill the void, girls’ teams were recruited. (I call them girls, although they were grown women, some of them married, because that’s how they are called and treated in this movie, even being required to wear, not normal baseball uniforms, but very short skirts like cheerleaders.) We follow the teams, and especially Dottie and her younger sister Kit. We see, as does everyone in the movie, that the sisters have a troubled relationship, Kit intensely jealous of her older sister because Dottie is taller, prettier, a much better athlete, and married to a very good looking young man (he’s abroad in the Army).
In my reviews, I take great pains to avoid spoilers, but reviewing the most significant parts of this movie requires spoilers. So if you have not yet seen this movie, and intend to, please don’t read further until you have seen it.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Dottie is the star catcher and hitter for her team. Kit pitches but doesn’t hit so well. Their team, the Peaches, does well enough to reach the World Series. By that time, Dottie has left for home with her husband who has been discharged due to injury, and Kit has been traded to another team. In the World Series the games are tied 3-3, so we see the final deciding game. As the Peaches are taking the field, Dottie turns up suited to catch. The manager, Jimmy (Tom Hanks), is totally surprised, but says, OK, she can catch.
Now right here, the film both becomes ridiculous and loses its moral compass. In organized baseball at any level, the number of players allowed to a team is fixed and published. Dottie, who did not play in the first 6 games, is obviously not on the roster. If Jimmy wants to add her to the roster, he cannot just allow her to take her position, he must inform the lead umpire of the change – that is, who is being removed from the roster, and who added. This will then be announced over the PA system so people in the stands can correct their programs. Jimmy does not do this. He just lets her catch; not possible.
But consider the moral issue. What happens to the girl who was scheduled to catch? Undoubtedly her family and friends have traveled from afar to watch her catch the seventh game in a World Series. How does she explain the change to them? At this point, one can only conclude that the manager is a monster – but Tom Hanks can’t be a monster, so what is happening?
Even worse, Dottie’s sister, Kit, is pitching for the opposing team. Will Dottie, knowing Kit’s inferiority complex, be willing to hit a home run against her, making her removal likely? If Jimmy wants to add Dottie as a potential pinch hitter or perhaps substitute if the scheduled catcher is injured or otherwise needs to be replaced, and can spare someone else, perhaps this would make sense. But as it is done, it is not only outrageously unfair and unfeeling, it is virtually suicidal. I have coached baseball teams in summer camps, and I would never allow anything like this to happen, and neither would any of the coaches on the teams we opposed.
Then we come to the ultimate absurdity, meant to manipulate our heartstrings, but rather exploiting them. It is the end of the last inning with the score tied. Kit is the batter. It is of course the job of the catcher to help the pitcher get the batter out, and if the batter should get a hit, to cover home base if needed. At this point, Jimmy surely must replace Dottie as catcher; and unless Jimmy has taken his scheduled catcher off the roster, she is available. Instead, he allows Dottie to catch. Kit gets a long hit, and then there is the play at the plate – Dottie has the ball on time and tags Kit but then drops the ball so Kit is safe and her team wins and Dottie’s team loses. The sisters now are reconciled and hug in the lolcker room and say how much they love each other.
I should add that at several points in the movie, Dottie is shown catching balls with her bare hand, which astonishes her teammates; Dottie never drops a ball. In other words, to save her sister’s feelings, Dottie throws the game, betraying her teammates and their families and friends in the stands, and the manager and owner of her team, and anyone who has bet on the outcome. There is no greater crime in sports than throwing a game, no matter what the incentive. The final scene is many years later, when the girls are all invited to the baseball Hall of Fame. Dottie is greeted with hugs and smiles; not remotely credible.
The first half of this movie is quite good, some scenes even moving. But this ending totally spoiled this movie for me. I shouted at the TV set and was tempted to throw it out the window, but I own the set and the window, so all I did was fume for several hours and then write this review.