Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A League of Their Own's Terrible Managing

During some free preview recently, I recorded the 1992 film "A League of Their Own" starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks. I've seen this movie about Davis' Dottie Hinson, her sister Kit (Lori Petty), the Rockford Peaches, and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League countless times, but I thought my kids might enjoy it. So on Sunday night, we watched it as a family. And by watch it as a family, I mean that I watched the film while my kids paid partial attention to the television while also playing on their tablets or with some other toys or games.

I can't believe that I'm writing this, but there are a lot of spoilers in this post. I mean, this movie is 28 years old and was selected in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2012, so if you haven't seen it, go see it.

During this viewing, I paid a little closer attention to the in-game decisions by Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan (Hanks) and the Racine Belles manager Charlie Collins (Don S. Davis) in game 7 of the league's championship series. And yes, I had to look up both the name of the Racine manager and the actor who played him. They both made some shockingly poor decisions that deserve criticism.

For a little background, Kit and Dottie were teammates on Rockford, but Kit was traded to Racine near the end of the season. (Feel free to read this Bustle article about why Kit was the worst.) The two teams meet in the championship series, and it goes to a game seven despite or maybe because Dottie misses the first six games of the series to go back home with her just returned home from World War Two husband played by Bill Pullman.

Anyway, in game 7, Kit seemingly pitches an amazing game for Racine giving up no runs and only 3 hits through 8 innings. I mean this is incredible pitcher's duel as Ellen Sue Gotlander only gave up one unearned run (on a terrible, terrible, terrible throw by right fielder Evelyn Gardner in the bottom of the 8th) and three hits herself. The only game 7 performance I can think of that even comes close to this pitching mastery is the 1991 World Series where the score was 0-0 entering the 10th inning. Maybe the screenwriters were inspired by Jack Morris and John Smoltz?

In the top of the 9th, "All the Way" Mae Mordabito (Madonna in her best acting performance) leads off with a routine ground ball to short. Madonna, who turns out to be as fast as Vince Coleman, Billy Hamilton, or Florence Griffith Joyner, beats the throw by several steps. I don't understand the lack of urgency by the Racine shortstop here. It's a 4-team league, so you'd think that the shortstop and the manager would know that you have to hurry to throw out All the Way Mae Usain Bolt here. Have the shortstop play in a few steps. Doris Murphy (Rosie O'Donnell) then follows with a single giving Rockford runners on first and second with no outs. Does the Racine manager come out to talk to Kit? No. Does he have another pitcher warming up? Again no. This is game 7! Racine already seemed to qualify for the playoffs before acquiring Kit, so they must have had at least one other strong pitcher. You're telling me that Racine was going to ride or die with Kit?

Now it's time to criticize Tom Hanks. With All the Way Mae Carl Lewis in scoring position at second and the go-ahead runner at first, Hanks has Evelyn Gardner sacrifice completely wasting an out, but allowing Madonna and O'Donnell to move to third and second respectively. Kit then gets Helen Haley to ground out to first. Despite having All the Way Mae Marion Jones on third, Hanks doesn't have her run on contact.

So now it's runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs and Dottie Hinson coming to the plate. Dottie is clearly the league MVP. She's Mike Trout or Willie Mays, but she also plays catcher. She's Josh Gibson! Why not intentionally walk her in this situation with first base open? Look how focused she is as she stares down Kit walking toward the plate.

Plus, she knows how to beat Kit better than anyone after being her catcher for years. Dottie is clearly in Kit's head. You see that picture of Kit above? That's immediately before she throws a pitch to Dottie. YOU MUST WALK DOTTIE IN THIS SITUATION!!!

Oh, Tom Hanks isn't getting off the hook here. Assuming that Madonna is the lead off hitter, why is Dottie batting 5th? The only plausible explanation is that he worried that she would be rusty after missing 6 games when she left the team. Even then, she's Dottie Hinson! You don't bat her 5th!

Naturally, Dottie hits a 2-run single to give Rockford a 2-1 lead. Kit gets the final out but is a complete mess in the dugout. So much so that she's crying and doesn't even go into the on-deck circle when she is the next batter up. Why doesn't the Racine manager pinch hit for her? The Racine manager was Matt Williams before Matt Williams not knowing what was happening in his own dugout with a fight between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon!

Look, I understand that there were only 16-woman rosters, so both managers had limited bench options. I mean, Rockford already lost Marla Hooch when she got married, it's unclear who they got back in the Kit trade, and Dottie missed the first 6 games of the series. (She should have never started driving back to Oregon with Lone Star right before the series!)

I'm not going to get Kit's at-bat at the bottom of the 9th and whether Dottie intentionally dropped the ball. (Anne T. Donahue says no in a terrific Cosmopolitan article.) I'll just wrap this up by stating that the managerial decisions made in such a crucial game are maddening and absurd. I can't imagine what sports radio in both Rockford and Racine are saying after this game.

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