What links A League of Their Own to Chadwick Boseman and Madonna | Down the rabbit hole

What links A League of Their Own to Chadwick Boseman and Madonna?

With a new series based on the cult baseball movie about to strike, we chase a team of celebrities down the rabbit hole, including Kevin Costner, Rosie O’Donnell and Brad Pitt

Three strikes

Penny Marshall

Penny Marshall’s 1992 comedy drama A League of Their Own was so well received it instantly spawned a CBS TV spin-off. The tale of a second world war-era women’s baseball team seemed irresistible, but the show swiftly struck out. Now stepping up to the plate is a revival on Prime TV. The new series (from 12 August) is co-created by and stars Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson.

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The players

Robert Redford

“America’s pastime” has a rich history on screen. Jimmy Stewart was a ballplayer in 1949’s The Stratton Story; Robert Redford played The Natural in 1984. Chadwick Boseman’s breakout role was as Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013). When Fever Pitch was getting a US remake, football fandom was flipped to baseball with Jimmy Fallon in the Nick Hornby-ish role. On the niche end of the scale is the little-seen Don DeLillo-scripted Game 6.And Richard Pryor starred in 80s comedy Brewster’s Millions: it’s not about sport, but he is a pitcher for a team so down-at-heel, they have a train line running through their ballpark.


Kevin Costner

In an irresistibly corny moment last year, Kevin Costner echoed a famous scene in Field of Dreams when he led the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox through a cornfield and on to a recreation of the movie’s farmyard diamond ahead of a Major League Baseball game. “Is this heaven?” he asked the crowd. Kev loves a baseball flick (and sports films generally), having starred in Bull Durham and For the Love of the Game.

Desperately seeking Kevin

Madonna 1990

A lesser-heralded moment in the Costner oeuvre is his cameo in the 1991 Madonna documentary Truth or Dare. The singer is hanging out after a show in LA with then boyfriend Warren Beatty (!) when celebrities drop by, including Costner in a fetching blazer and mullet. He describes the show as “neat”, Madonna instantly takes the piss out of him. An immaculate connection.

Extra innings

Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna

The documentary came at the height of Madonna’s imperial phase, which included a role in A League of Their Own (one of her better acting efforts), alongside Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Rosie O’Donnell, who featured in the original, is slated for a return in the new series. And that’s the ballgame.

Money ball cover

Pairing notes

Read/Watch Michael Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball about how data analytics revolutionised baseball is partly responsible for your brother-in-law wanging on about Expected Goals when you watch football, but, regardless, the excellent Brad Pitt-starring 2011 adaptation gets on base.

Eat Snacking is arguably America’s true pastime and Thrillist has ranked every Major League Baseball stadium for its food offering: the Seattle Mariners win the pennant with everything from lobster rolls and wontons to ice-cream sandwiches. Take me out to the ballgame (for a big dinner).