A League of Their Own is an Amazon Original series created by Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham based on the 1992 film of the same name and the real-life All-American Professional Women’s Baseball League. The series tells two parallel tales of dreaming, love, and self-discovery as Carson Shaw (Jacobson) and Max Chapman (Chanté Adams) fight for their chances to play professional baseball.
It turns out, there is so much crying in baseball because A League of Their Own is one of the best, most heartfelt, most inspiring, and most unexpected shows of the season. At the absolute most basic level, it’s a story about two women who want nothing more in life than to play baseball. Carson comes from a tiny town in Iowa. While her husband is off fighting the war, she ditches town to go try out for the inaugural season of the All-American Professional Women’s Baseball League, a league formed at the height of WWII to keep baseball running and Americans entertained while men were going off to war. Max is deadset on joining the league too. Only her hopes of being the greatest pitcher folks have ever seen are dashed in an instant on account of her being Black.
The heart of this show is foremost its characters. It takes just slightly longer than I wish it did to develop them all, but boy do we get some amazing characters with some incredible acting. Jacobson plays nervous to a tee. Adams is incapable of having a scene that doesn’t leave you either smiling from ear to ear at her complete and utter charm or clutching your heart over how upset she can make you. Her best friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo) deserves an entire spinoff show of her own, she’s hilarious and you can’t tell me that a show about her coming up as an amazing cartoonist wouldn’t be superb. Then we’ve got Greta (D’Arcy Carden), played with a resounding nonchalance. Even if she’s the character that interested me the least among the Peaches, she stands as an irreplaceable pillar in the team’s makeup.
And, each of the ball players acts out playing baseball pretty darned perfectly. There’s a moment or two where I felt like things looked a tad off, or they had an awkward cutaway. But for the most part, every moment of baseball play looks like you’re watching pro ball players do their thing and do it well, which adds a ton of fun and an important layer of variety to each character as they all have their own distinct styles of play and athleticism you’ll quickly become fans of.
Other teammates like Jo (Melanie Field), Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), Jess (Kelly McCormack), Esti (Priscilla Delgado) whose physical acting is particularly hilarious in the series, Shirly (Kate Berlant), Maybelle (Molly Ephraim, and so many other supporting characters round out the show with emotional moment after exciting moment. No second of screen time is wasted as every person who appears in front of the camera is amazing and watching this cast grow their characters together over the course of these eight episodes is all you could ask for.
What I couldn’t imagine asking for, because I maybe just didn’t know I could, was how incredibly queer A League of Their Own is. It’s as central to the show as baseball is, frankly. And that’s not me reading into it or doing wishful thinking. It’s as constant in the plot and the characters as their sport. I won’t get too into many specifics, because like the course of the baseball season the ups and downs of the characters’ love lives are a journey well worth taking for yourself.
A League of Their Own is perhaps the most expansive, diverse, exciting, and fulfilling queer period piece ever made, let alone pieces of television period. The queer characters we meet all look differently, act differently, dress differently, and express their genders and sexualities differently from one another. There are moments that feel like long over-due homecomings for the queer representation that has been so missing from a story that is so intrinsically connected to queerness. There are moments of exploration, discovery, overwhelming joy, and ugly-crying sorrow, reaching every end of the spectrum of queer emotional existence.
And the issues the show tackles and questions its characters ask feel extremely real to the lives of queer folks in 1943. Truly, it’s full of some of the most blissful queer scenes I’ve ever watched with one particularly satisfying cameo to top it all off. Of course, it’s not all joy and good tidings, there’s plenty that goes as wrong as you can imagine. But ultimately, what goes right for all of our characters takes center stage and I am completely living for it.
The most challenging part of A League of Their Own for me is the fact that we’re basically watching two different parallel TV shows at once between Carson’s story and Max’s. They may have complete matching themes, but besides a few crossover moments between our two main protagonists, they may as well take place in two completely separate worlds. There are two ways we can look at this schism. We can see it as a frustrating parallel to the segregation we see on screen—which I often felt whenever Max’s victories constantly seemed to pale in comparison to Carson’s. But I think, looking at the show as a whole, that’s not an entirely fair assessment of what either Max or Carson goes through. Carson gets to play baseball the whole time, but where does that leave her? She fulfills the one thing she always wanted but her journey is really about her finding out what else she was missing.
Meanwhile, Max gets to go on a journey that fulfills her in quite truly every way possible: friends, family, love, and baseball alike. Even if they’re on different, absolutely racist terms, and I struggle to separate the racism of the real-world situation the show emulates from the means by which they decided to tell this story, there’s no denying that Max’s story is the more interesting, complex, and fulfilling of the two. I just wish they’d bucked what the show clearly considered the constraints of realism and found a way to bring their two stories together more completely instead of keeping them nearly totally separate.
That said, A League of Their Own is incredible. It’s both one of the best sports stories and one of the best queer stories I’ve enjoyed. I hope it gets at least another season so it can bring even more joy, teamwork, strife, and yes, crying to our screens.
A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is incredible. It’s both one of the best sports stories and one of the best queer stories I’ve enjoyed in some time. I hope it gets at least another season so it can bring even more joy, teamwork, strife, and yes, crying to our screens.