In 1992, Penny Marshall introduced audiences to A League of Their Own, one of the most fascinating tales from the storied history of baseball (and the best sports movies) and how America’s pastime continued even while the country’s men were off fighting World War II. Since then, the movie, for lack of a better term, is in a league of its own, thanks to the empowering story, a lineup of phenomenal characters, and the dynamic shared by Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and her kid sister, Kit Keller (Lori Petty). The sisters’ relationship is a narrative thread that ties the whole movie together and gives us an emotional (and debatable) moment during the A League of Their Own ending.
For nearly 30 years now, people (including members of A League of Their Own cast) have debated what actually happens during the final game of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League World Series, and whether Dottie dropped the ball on purpose, or if Kit really got the better of her when it mattered most. Below we will break down both possibilities, the reasons for each, and what those involved with the movie have to say. Let’s play ball (just don’t drop it)!
What Happens During The Final Game Of A League Of Their Own
In the final act of A League of Their Own, just before the playoffs are set to kick off, Dottie Hinson threatens to quit the team so that she can stop overshadowing her kid sister, who is actually the person who wanted to play baseball from the jump. But, instead of trading away the best player and essentially the coach of the Rockford Peaches, AAGPBL general manager Ira Lowerstein (David Strathairn) trades Kit to the rival Racine Belles. Distraught about the whole situation, Dottie ends up quitting the team before the start of the postseason and heads back to Oregon with her recently returned husband Bob (Bill Pullman).
The movie cuts to the deciding Game 7 of the World Series with the return of Dottie who tells her fellow Rockford Peaches she got as far as Yellowstone before turning back to finish the season. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Racine Belles down a run, Kit proves her sister wrong and hits a pitch Dottie thought her kid sister couldn’t touch and scores the tying run. Not happy with that (and defying the third base coach) Kit runs home and knocks Dottie to the ground. Just as Dottie lands on the ground, the ball falls from her hand and Racine wins the World Series.
Why Dottie Would Drop The Ball On Purpose
If you fall in the camp that believes Dottie dropped the ball on purpose at end of A League of Their Own, the movie does a great job of providing you with evidence to back up that claim. There are multiple examples of this peppered throughout the movie, but one of the first comes to us in the beginning of the film when an older Dottie is getting ready to head off to Cooperstown, New York to join the rest of her teammates at the unveiling of the AAGPBL exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just before leaving, Dottie calls over the older of her two grandsons and says:
Although we haven’t yet been transported to 1940s Oregon, where the younger versions of the Dottie and Kit are playing baseball on the family dairy farm, this little piece of foreshadowing tells you everything you need to know about the dynamic between the two sisters. And, when we actually meet the two a few minutes later, we see that even though Dottie was the better athlete and a more desirable player in the eyes of Jon Lovitz’s scout, Kit is the sister who actually wants to play and has to convince her older sister to go along with it.
Dottie wanting to help out her sister comes up again later in the movie when she demands to be traded so that she’ll no longer steal her sister’s thunder, a plan that ends up backfiring. Then there’s the pained look on Dottie’s face after dropping the ball in the final game of the World Series. She doesn’t look like she’s upset that her sister got the better of her, but because of how she let it happen.
Why Dottie Wouldn’t Drop The Ball On Purpose
There are also those people who fall into the camp that believes Dottie didn’t drop the ball on purpose, and that Kit actually got the better of her older sister once and for all. Right after an older Dottie tells her grandson to give his younger brother a shot in the opening scene of A League of Their Own, she pulls the kid brother over and gives him a two-word demand:
You could argue this is also another piece of foreshadowing to come for the eventual ambiguous ending, and like the other side of the coin, this argument is just as solid. Throughout the movie it is shown time and time again that while Dottie is the better ball player and athlete in general, Kit has the greater desire and motivation to be there and outshine her older sister. This is brought up during the first game the two play together on the farm before going to Chicago, then again throughout the season, and finally when Kit is traded to Racine before Dottie walks away from the league. She has that “kill him,” or “kill her,” mentality all along.
Kit gives the word determination a whole new meaning in the final game of the AAGPBL World Series when she goes against her team’s call to stop at third and possibly force the game to go into extra innings. Instead of stopping and letting someone else do what she believes she’s destined to achieve, Kit throws caution into the wind and makes one last dash at home plate and her sister, once and for all.
What The Stars And Inspiration For A League Of Their Own Say About The Ending
Penny Marshall never gave an answer to the debate surrounding the ending of A League of Their Own, at least not publicly, before her death in December 2018, but some of the film’s stars and even the inspiration for the Dottie Hinson character have been vocal about the ambiguous ending over the years, but even then it’s hard to know who we should believe or if we should just file this in the category of “unanswerable movie questions.”
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed written shortly after Penny Marshall’s death, Kelly Candaele, who came up with the story that would become A League of Their Own, wrote about the film, its legacy, and yes, the ending. In the piece, Candaele wrote about his mother, Helen Callaghan, who was one of the real-life AAGPBL players who inspired the Dottie Hinson character, enjoying the movie when she first saw it, but added:
Lori Petty, however, doesn’t see things the same way. In August 2018, Petty, who played Kit Keller in A League of Their Own, found herself in a Twitter exchange, when she commented about a customs agent in Los Angeles asking her if Dottie dropped the ball on purpose. When pressed on the issue, Petty said Dottie “did NOT” purposely take the loss for her sister.
As for Geena Davis? Well, she told The Athletic she knew the answer to the question but promised to never, ever reveal what actually happened.
The Debate About A League Of Their Own’s Ending Is Just That, A Debate
You would think a continuous conclusion like the one in A League of their Own would have a definitive answer, but like so many other controversial movie endings, as with Inception, it appears there is no right or wrong answer and it’s part of the plan. It makes sense when you think about it. What better way to keep people talking about A League of Their Own than by having an open-ended finale that forces you to go back and watch the movie again and again to pick up clues and other things you may have missed?
This especially seems to be the case with Geena Davis’ comments about never, ever shedding light on the details, as well as the fact that Penny Marshall never publicly went one way or the other. Until then we’ll have to keep debating like we’re Dottie and Kit bickering in the clubhouse after the latter disregarded the former’s signs while pitching.
Well, what do you think about the A League of Their Own ending? Do you fall into the camp that thinks Dottie dropped the ball on purpose or do you feel like Kit finally got the best of her sister when it mattered most? Make sure to fill out the poll down below to let us know, and don’t forget to check out our list of 2021 movies while you’re here.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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