A moment of his own by
(49 Stories)

Prompted By Short Fuse

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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.

Steam rises

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.

Profile photo of Jim Willis Jim Willis
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."

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Great example of trying to control anger–you must have really related to the film to see it so many times. Congratulations on evolving. Many people know how to be in control when we have to, and then unload when it is “safe” on the poor people closest to us. Life can be better than that–as you and I both know.

  2. Thanx Jim, will pass your story on to my husband who has seen the film more than once but might have missed the lesson. He checks all the boxes – he loves movies, he loves baseball, has a short fuse!

  3. Using a movie scene as a jumping-off point for an essay is a very effective and persuasive approach. You did it very well, reconstructing both scenes in pithy detail for those unfamiliar or who (like me) saw it long ago.
    I used to give talks related to people with disabilities, and a few times, I described scenes from the movies “Rain Man” and “My Left Foot,” to make some key points. Thinking back, those were very effective and I should have done it more. I’ll think about that approach in responding to Retrospect prompts going forward. Identifying yourself with the character made it even more useful in this instance, but I believe it would have worked well (and could in a future hypothetical example) even without the personal back story,.

    • Jim Willis says:

      Thanks for the detailed and helpful response, Dale. I use this approach a lot in my teaching as well as my writing. Some people recall baseball games easily; for me it’s movie scenes and song lyrics.

  4. I remember him getting to be a better person when he stopped drinking alcohol.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    I, too, loved the movie, but not because I related to it like you Jim. Just for the great human drama is displayed. Here, I really enjoyed how you related it to your own struggles with temper, which you’ve worked so hard to overcome. Kudos to you for recognizing the issue and working to overcome it, just as you describe in that charming movie. Life imitating art. Commendable.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    My (alleged) maturation has been one long struggle to rein in the angry, caustic and bitingly sarcastic North Jersey stereotype that I became as a kid. I am glad to say that I have been quite successful. I have smiled and walked away from many conversations and situations that, in the past (“Long past? No, your past.” *) would have released my kraken.

    I think a watershed moment in that process was when I finally realized that I didn’t feel better after most of my tirades, and often felt worse. Especially, I felt guilty for having hurt someone else. I DETEST feeling guilty, which is why I try not to do anything that makes me feel that way.

    * Anyone recognize this line?

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Loved that movie. “There’s no crying in baseball” is a line we throw around at home.

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