By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – Although Tom Hanks, as Rockford Peaches Manager Jimmy Dugan, established in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own,” that there is “no crying in baseball,” actress Megan Cavanagh proved otherwise.
Cavanagh, who played less-than-glamours slugger Marla Hooch in the movie, was in town last weekend for Rockford’s Penny Marshall Celebration but hasn’t spent much time watching the film. In fact, she saw it in its entirety for the first time in June during a public showing in Glendale, California. It’s not that she’s had any qualms. She’s just remained focused on her career, one that has now spanned nearly 40 years.
“I cried,” Cavanagh said of the first time she saw the film. “It was amazing watching it 27 years later. We are now the same age as the women who were coaching us for the movie. It’s bizarre going from our late 20s to our late 50s and seeing a whole new generation of young, baseball-playing women who are coming up and are so good.”
Those women, Cavanagh said, are part of a foundation “A League of Their Own” laid for a movement, a juggernaut in the world of modern sports.
“It helped create leagues and teams and more and more young girls who want to play baseball – not softball,” she said.
As fans of the film know, and perhaps discovered in 1992, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), was a real thing. Formed by Philip K. Wrigley, it operated from 1943 to 1954 and aimed to keep baseball popular in America while men were away in World War II.
The Rockford Peaches, also real, played their home games at Beyer Stadium and were the AAGPBL’s most successful team, winning four championships.
But the AAGPBL was more than just a port in the storm during the war. It provided ground-breaking opportunities for more than 500 women – a chance to step out of the stereotypical domestic roles of the time and play professional baseball on the national stage. Nearly 50 years later, director Penny Marshall came calling with a similar boon.
“The film gave me my career,” Cavanagh said. “It was my first movie, and I haven’t had a job other than acting in many different venues since.”
Cavanagh has had TV and film roles in “Friends”, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, “Junior”, “Home Improvement”, and “ER”. She’s been the voice of Judy Neutron and Sasha Vortex in “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” since 2000 and has toured with “Menopause: The Musical” for the past 15 years.
“I’ve been lucky to do television, film, theater and voiceover, and it’s all because of this movie,” the Chicago native said. “It’s been amazing.”
It turns out there is crying is baseball.
Proceeds from the three-day Penny Marshall Celebration will benefit the International Women’s Baseball Center, a project planned across the street from Beyer Stadium.