When Evelyn, an outfielder for the Rockford Peaches women’s baseball team, misses a throw to the cutoff player, manager Jimmy Dugan unloads on her in a string of very vocal invectives.
Screaming, “Who’s team are you playing for?!” he reduces the young woman to tears. Evelyn’s reaction leaves a stunned Jimmy bellowing, “Are you crying?!” He follows it immediately with one of the classic lines of filmdom:
“There’s no crying in baseball!”
A problem guy
Dugan, a lead character in the film, A League of Their Own, is a case study of a guy with a short fuse. quickened even more by frustration and alcohol. Happily, for his players, he learns to lay off the booze and get a handle on his anger.
The scene where he first does the latter nearly causes him to implode. It also provides one of the funniest moments of this classic movie.
When Evelyn makes the same throwing error again, he signals with a summoning index finger for her to see him as the inning ends. Evelyn is full of trepidation, and Jimmy is trying mightily (yet visibly) to keep his emotional volcano from exploding. His entire body is in a state of tremor.
He begins his speech in a wordless manner as his hands do the talking while he twists his face into a pained smile inches from her face. Then he says in a forced, hushed tone, “You … missed … the … cutoff … again. Is that … something … you could work on? Thank you.”
His faux smile and the lack of vocal vitriol makes a genuine smile come to Evelyn’s face as she realizes Jimmy is trying to be nice. She knows she has just dodged a hand grenade and merrily runs back to the dugout.
I’ve seen this movie at least 10 times, and each time I realize how hard it was for Jimmy Dugan to tame his inner tiger at that moment. Once done, however, it seemed easier for him to handle the team of professional women baseball players he had been handed. And to win more games to boot.
A real struggle
As one prone to anger in his younger years, I understand the process Jimmy was going through. It was a painful, belated, growing-up experience for him. It’s a process that doesn’t work for all anger-prone adults, and it took time for me to get on the other side of it.
Still, as was the case with Jimmy Dugan, the resulting life just seems more peaceful without the pyrotechnics.
And, who knows? Maybe that peace helps keep crying out of baseball.
I am a writer, college professor, and author of several nonfiction books, including three on the decade of the 1960s. Several wonderful essays of gifted Retrospect authors appear in my book, "Daily Life in the 1960s."