Reel Thoughts: ‘A League of Their Own’ is a baseball show that finds its beating heart off the field


Illustration by Anna Souter

“A League of Their Own” was released on Amazon Prime in August.

Jacob Fulton and Isabel Funk

Content warning: This article contains references to homophobic violence. 

This article also contains spoilers.

A first kiss in the back room of a bar. Holding pinkies in a dark bus. Stolen minutes in an abandoned shed. A date disguised as dinner between teammates. 

History will say they were best friends, but fans of Amazon Prime’s “A League of Their Own” know better.

An adaptation of the 1992 film by the same name, “A League of Their Own” takes the same basic plot points as the original movie — following the members of the 1940s professional women’s baseball league — and turns them on their head. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the show’s characters are significantly more diverse than its predecessor’s in race, sexuality and gender, while the longer format allows for in-depth exploration of multiple emotional arcs. 

The show centers around Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson), a catcher from Idaho whose husband is away at war, and Max Chapman (Chanté Adams), a Black woman from Rockford, Illinois who is desperate to pitch for a baseball team. At tryouts, Carson runs into Greta Gill (D’Arcy Carden) and Jo DeLuca (Melanie Field), and the three bond instantly (and Carson hopes this doesn’t awaken something in her). The trio successfully makes the league, setting out for northern Illinois to join the Rockford Peaches. 

The show doesn’t shy away from embracing the league’s queer history — or its racism. While it isn’t always safe for the characters to be open with their identities in the show, they are able to find community in each other. The show shines in its moments of shared understanding and the comfort these queer women brought each other. At the same time, Max faces the added challenge of playing a “man’s sport” as a Black woman barred from joining the “All-American” league and (initially) unable to work at the men’s factory or join its baseball team.

Unlike many of the queer stories being told today, “A League of Their Own” is created by queer people — and therefore feels like it’s meant for a queer audience. Director and star Jacobson walked the show’s red carpet hand-in-hand with her fiancé Jodi Balfour, cast member Roberta Colindrez is openly queer and Rosie O’Donnell even makes a cameo as the owner of a gay bar. 

The show has already had real-life impacts, including on original league player Maybelle Blair, now 95, who consulted on the show. During the show’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, Blair came out publicly for the first time.

Early in the show, Greta discovers Carson is struggling to tell her husband that something feels wrong with their relationship. The day after they get drunk together to write him a letter (which Carson can’t remember), Greta kisses her, prompting Carson to reflect on what might be the central flaw in her marriage. The pair’s relationship develops throughout the rest of the show as Carson begins to “come in” to the queer community and embrace a new side of herself. 

In later episodes, the show dives deep into the importance of queer communities, as well as the risks of being openly queer that existed at the time. In the fifth episode, viewers are introduced to a member of Max’s extended family: her transmasculine uncle, Bertie. 

As Max explores her own sexuality and gender expression, she receives support from her uncle. Still, she is apprehensive about the stigma that comes with his identity, though she begins to embrace herself after meeting a girl at a party thrown by her uncle’s friends. 

The following episode, Carson follows two of her teammates as they sneak out of the Peaches’ shared house. Instead of the collusion with opposing teams Carson expects to find, she stumbles into a secret gay bar — and a rich and thriving queer community. That image, however, is soon torn down. Reality seeps in at the end of the episode when the bar is raided after Carson returns with Greta and Jo. Though Carson and Greta escape, Jo is violently beaten and arrested.  

The original movie may have centered strongly on baseball, but the sport is the premise — not the heart — of the television adaptation. Instead, the characters’ personal lives and emotional journeys drive the show, making it compelling and accessible for baseball fans and non-athletes alike. 

As the show’s first installment comes to a close, so does the baseball season, with the Rockford Peaches taking to the field for the championship game. The eighth episode concludes neatly, tying up the emotional arcs the show began in a satisfying way, but the possibility of next season gives characters and viewers alike a promise of hope. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacobnfulton

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabeldfunk

Related stories:

Reel Thoughts: ‘Heartstopper’ captures the importance of found families within the queer experience

Liner Notes: Maggie Rogers took me to church with “Surrender”

Reel Thoughts: “Do Revenge” ushers in a new age for teen comedies