Since its release in 1992, Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own has been a beloved film by the queer community. Not only does it star Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, but many of the women featured on the baseball league were queer. Last summer’s TV adaptation effectively cemented – and furthered – the story’s place in queer cinema history.

Journalist Erin Carlson’s latest book, No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of A League of Their Own: Big Stars, Dugout Drama, and a Home Run for Hollywood, is a fly-on-the-wall adventure through the making of A League of Their Own, 30 years later, complete with interviews with the film’s lead herself, Geena Davis, and first-person accounts of on-set memories and captivating stories from the original creators. 

In one particular chapter, Rosie O’Donnell reveals that director Penny Marshall “made a choice not to deal with the women’s sexuality. It was very interesting when we met [the players] and they all had partners . . . some absurd statistic percentages of those women were, in fact, lesbians.”

Check out this exclusive excerpt from No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of A League of Their Own: Big Stars, Dugout Drama, and a Home Run for Hollywood, available everywhere September 5, 2023.

While Rosie loved Penny, and vice versa, the two differed in their opinions of how Rosie should approach Doris’s short monologue revealing why she settled for her deadbeat boyfriend. Rosie read a queer subtext between the lines.

“None of the other boys ever, uh . . . always made me feel like I was wrong, you know?” Doris says. “Like I was some sort of a weird girl or a strange girl or not even a girl, just ’cause I could play. I believed them, too, but not anymore, you know? I mean, lookit: there’s a lot of us. I think we’re all all right.”

“We are,” Betty Spaghetti seconds.

Kit nods in agreement, and Doris takes her boyfriend’s photograph and rips it up, dumping the pieces out the bus window.

“Rosie, this is not a gay thing,” Penny said. “This is just, you know, that she-don’t-feel-normal, now-she-does.”

“Well, all I’m doing is reciting the lines, the words that they wrote, that’s what I’m doing,” Rosie explained. “I didn’t change one line.”

“No, but don’t do it like that,” Penny said. “Can you not do it like that?”

Rosie, who understood Doris as Penny could not, stayed true to her original delivery.

“So I did it again,” she tells me, “but I did it the same way because that’s what the speech meant to me: that here she was, this gay woman, at a time when you weren’t allowed to be gay, completely in love with this woman, Mae—and doesn’t even know what to do about it.”

Doris, she adds, “doesn’t even really know that it means she’s gay.”

Penny “made a choice not to deal with the women’s sexuality,” Rosie says. “It was very interesting when we met them all”—the real- life players—“and they all had partners . . . some absurd statistic percentages of those women were, in fact, lesbians. And that was kept silent and out of A League of Their Own.”

Some of those aging players had roommates, so to speak, and did not put a public label on their partnerships. Others had husbands, confusing observers who assumed all women who play baseball are gay.

When Penny, angling for a broad box office hit, chose to ignore the AAGPBL’s queer history, she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage. It was, as they say, a different time, with Penny unwilling to push boundaries and apparently uninterested doing so.

“[She] was playing in a boy’s club,” Megan Cavanagh says. “She was not gay.”

Nor was she “making a film about gay women,” Renée Coleman explains. “She was making a film about baseball players who happened to be women. If you were gonna make that film now, you would also absolutely include the fact that many of them had found a kind of safe space for the first time in their lives to actually be gay.”

On the last day [of shooting] in Evansville, hearts were heavy. Robin Knight cried her eyes out, and Madonna wiped Patti Pelton’s tears.

“I loved my lil’ sis, Lori Petty, and all our teammates,” Geena reflected in her memoir. “I have to think we were feeling something like what the original Peaches did, back in the day—bonded by this extraordinary experience we all shared. And we’re all still very close to this day.”

Affirms Sam Hoffman, who became a producer and director for film and TV: “When it ended, everybody was just convulsively sobbing. I’ve never been on a movie where, like, everybody just was so intensely connected to each other.”

The forced proximity forged lasting friendships. New York and LA were working towns, all about the hustle, but Indiana was like going off to college. It was really getting to know people, enough where you can be your whole self. It was bonding through hardship. It was analog, before the iPhone monopolized attention and free time. It was pure and libertine.

At the October 19 wrap party inside Marina Pointe, a bar and grill on the Ohio, George Bowers danced to Santana. While there was live music, Madonna only took the floor when a DJ spun. As parting gifts, she gave a vibrator to Lori, and for others: satin boxer shorts with the word “Peaches” on the cuff. She wrote a letter to each Peach.

“Don’t take any sh*t,” she told Megan, who had newly learned that she was pregnant. By that time, Hollywood was buzzing about her. Agents who wouldn’t look at her were showing sudden interest, based on early word of mouth.

Megan flew home to LA with costars while Rosie hitched a ride on Madonna’s private jet, which landed at Van Nuys Airport. Ro and Mo got into separate cars and rolled down the windows as they went over the hills.

“Bye, Ro,” Mo said.

After four long months with a glamorous new best friend, Ro felt that moment was like a movie—one that she, a humble daughter of Long Island, starred in. What had her life become?

Two giant trucks hauled Penny’s antiques westward, but she couldn’t go home yet, nor did she seem to want to. It was Cooperstown or bust.

No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of A League of Their Own: Big Stars, Dugout Drama, and a Home Run for Hollywood by Erin Carlson is available from Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc., September 5, 2023.

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