If you haven’t seen the movie A League of Their Own, please go out, buy it and then come back and read this post. In the meantime, feel a lot of shame for yourself. For those of you who have seen it, the following debate may be all too familiar to you. I’ve had this argument with my buddies many times since college, and it’s always the same. I am adamantly on one side of the conversation and they are adamantly on the opposite side. We simply cannot agree, and we probably never will. At the end of the movie, when Kit Keller barrels into her sister Dottie at home plate while trying to score the winning run of the AAGPBL World Series… Does Dottie drop the ball on purpose to let her sister finally beat her at something?
A little background information for those of you who haven’t seen the movie: It’s World War II and most of the male baseball players have gone off to fight the Nazis and the Japanese. Baseball owners, looking for a way to recoup the losses they are experiencing from not having baseball in their stadiums, create a baseball league for women. Although the characters in the movie are made up, the league really did exist, so this movie gets the old “based on true events” tag. Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) are two small town sisters who get invited to a national tryout in Chicago by a league scout (John Lovitz). Kit has basically lived in her older sister’s shadow all of her life, and things are no different once they both get signed to the Rockford Peaches. Dottie emerges as the face of the league (the female Lou Gehrig), while Kit is just known as “Dottie’s Kid Sister, Kit.” Everything comes to a head one day and, when Dottie realizes how much it hurts Kit to be in her shadow, she demands to be traded. The Peaches, of course, decide to trade Kit to the Racine Belles instead. Inevitably, Dottie and Kit’s teams face off in the World Series.
This brings us back to the moment in question. In the last game of the series, Kit comes to the plate in the bottom of the 9th as the winning run. Dottie, who had just given the Peaches the lead in the top of the 9th with a crushing 2-run single off of Kit, tells the pitcher, Ellen Sue Gotlander (Freddie Simpson), to throw Kit high fastballs because she knows that’s the one pitch Kit can’t hit, but will always swing at. Kit is quickly down 0-2 after two high fastballs, but muscles up and crushes the third one over the center fielder’s head. The tying run scores ahead of Kit and the third base coach tells her to hold up at third with a triple. To the surprise of everyone, especially Dottie, Kit runs through the stop sign and right at Dottie. The relay throw comes home and Kit slams into Dottie at full strength just as she catches the ball. The two crumple to the ground and the ball comes free as Dottie’s hand hits the ground. Kit is called safe, and the Racine Belles win the World Series.
There’s evidence for both sides of the argument. Those who say she drops it on purpose to give her sister a much needed win, have lots to go on. First of all, Dottie is possibly the best female player ever. She hits like Gehrig, catches like Berra, and is as tough as they come. Like Pudge Rodriguez in the 2003 NLCS, there’s no way Dottie is going to drop that ball unless it’s on purpose. Kit couldn’t knock the ball out of her vice grip with a Mac truck. They also point out that Dottie doesn’t even like baseball that much. She quit once right before the playoffs when her husband came home from war, and she retired right after the season despite being in her prime as the best player in the league. Why would she deny her sister a chance to win when she doesn’t even care about the sport? Also, Dottie knows how badly her sister hurts every time Dottie beats her at something. She sees her sister emotionally crushed on the mound after her big hit in the top of the 9th. She then sees Kit crying in the dugout during the break in between the top and bottom of the 9th. You can see that Dottie feels terrible for her sister. When Kit runs through the stop sign at third base, Dottie has a look of fear on her face like we didn’t see the entire movie. Maybe she’s afraid because she is the only thing that stands in the way of her sister’s success? There’s the way the ball comes loose. Dottie holds onto the ball all the way until she hits the ground, then her hand hits the ground, and then she opens it and releases the ball. If she were going to drop it, it would have come loose right away. Lastly, Dottie is shown with a proud half-smile while watching Kit get carried off the field by her teammates. When her manager, Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks), looks at her, the smile disappears…
As convincing as that seems, it’s impossible for me to think that Dottie drops this ball on purpose. First of all, along with being the most talented, Dottie is one of the most competitive players in the AAGPBL as well. She’s proud to be a baseball player. She likes being the best. She even embraces being the face of the league, making flashy plays (she does a split while catching a pop-up earlier in the movie). She even manages the team while Dugan spends the first half of the movie drunk in the dugout. When Dottie leaves the team in the wake of her sister’s trade, she comes back because she wants to win the World Series. She doesn’t want to let her team down by quitting on them. Why would she purposefully lose the World Series for them? As I stated earlier, Dottie crushes a single that almost takes Kit’s head off to give the Peaches a 2-1 lead in the top of the 9th. Why didn’t she just swing lazily and ground out? Sure she feels bad that her sister is devastated after the big hit, but that doesn’t stop her from sliding into the dugout to catch a pop-up for the 2nd out of the 9th. When Kit comes up to hit, Dottie tells Ellen Sue exactly how to get Kit out with high fastballs. She coldly says the words “can’t hit ’em, can’t lay off ’em” as she gives Ellen Sue the scouting report on her kid sister. When the throw comes in to home plate, Dottie catches it and braces herself perfectly for the hit. There’s no loosey goosey grip on the ball. She’s ready for contact. Kit simply hits her hard enough to jar the ball loose.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dottie is happy for her sister. Kit finally has her shining moment, she can escape Dottie’s shadow. Anyone would be happy to watch their sibling have a moment like that. I just don’t think Dottie would give Kit that moment for free. Kit earns that moment for herself. If Dottie drops the ball on purpose, then there’s no redemption for Kit. She’s still in Dottie’s shadow, and only wins because Dottie let her. That robs Kit of her moment, and it robs the viewer too. We secretly want Kit to have her moment too, just like Dottie does, but it only works if it’s legitimate.
Whatever side of this argument you’re on, you have to admit one thing, and that’s that this is a solid sports movie. A rare hybrid between sports movie and chick flick that appeals to both men and women. I’d rank it up there as one of my favorite sports movies. The baseball action is very realistic, and Tom Hanks steals the show with his portrayal of Jimmy Duggan. Solid acting, solid sports action, and even a little emotion thrown in for the ladies. Go out and get this one today if you haven’t seen it.
Judge for yourselves… On purpose or not?
Featured image courtesy of: http://www.themoviedb.org
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