Here I thought this was a baseball show, and yet somehow I’m on my couch silently weeping over this man heading off to war! I did not sign up for this! There’s no crying in baseball!
But there is crying in A League of Their Own, and in this episode, that is thanks to the wonderful, heartbreaking Clance-and-Guy scenes. Guy is terrified about heading off to war and can barely pick himself up off the floor at times. Clance is doing everything she can to hold him together (while also trying to hold herself together, mind you). She tries to distract him, she pushes him to cook because it’s his happy place, she tells the story of how she fell in love with him, and when all else fails, the night before he’s due to leave, she sits down on the floor next to him and asks him to talk to her about what he’s really afraid of. The first thing he says is losing his glasses. If that doesn’t just smash your heart into 1,000 pieces, I don’t know what will. He has trouble getting out the words to say he’s scared of dying. What can she say that will offer any comfort? She holds him and does what she does best: She invents a comic-book character for him. She tells him a story about Lieutenant Victory — whose fears only make him stronger — a man who has so much to fight for, a man who comes home. Anyone else crying just thinking about it? Cool, me neither.
There is additional heartbreak out there in Rockford, Illinois, too. While it might not be on the shipping-off-to-a-deadly-war level, watching what happens to Max in this episode is pretty gutting. Max is beside herself with excitement when she hears that the factory-team pitcher has left, and she finagles her own pitching tryout with the coach later that week. Just get this girl on the field and let her show everyone what she can do, you know? Well, her dreams are dashed when Guy lets slip (he is the biggest blabbermouth — we know this) that the coach has already made Gary the new pitcher. Oh, buddy — Max and Gary have it out. Max knows she’s better than him and that this is all bullshit, and even he, a guy who also claims that baseball is his dream, just can’t wrap his head around a woman who is only interested in playing this sport.
He is not the only one. Toni’s mom has never been a fan of her daughter’s interest in baseball, but she’s especially agitated these days. Part of that is obviously because Max ditched her job at the salon to work at the factory. But mixed into those feelings of betrayal is something a little more complicated. We get a quick shot of Toni arguing with someone who then rides off on their motorcycle. When Max questions this, Toni and Edgar explain that Toni’s sister, Bertie, is back in town but Toni wants nothing to do with her. Later, Max overhears her parents arguing, and it becomes clear that Toni hates this baseball stuff because she thinks Max is gay. Max reminds Toni of Bertie, who I guess is also gay, and that caused the rift between them. Surely we’ll get more details on that situation later. For now, even though Edgar stands up for his daughter, Toni’s words sting. They’re still floating around in Max’s head when she heads to the factory baseball field to demand she get a pitching tryout. Gary pleads with her to stop, but she refuses to be deterred. She bets two weeks of her pay that she can outpitch any man on the field.
And then she chokes. Big time. It is hard to watch, honestly. Her one shot to finally be taken seriously blows up in her face.
Meanwhile, the Peaches are off on their own emotional roller coaster. Things start out great: Thanks to the night practices, the team is on a hot streak, and thanks to Carson’s newly unearthed insatiable horniness, she and Greta are secretly making out all the time. Everyone’s pretty happy except for Lupe, who is upset about getting benched but possibly even more upset that Dove has found a new favorite in Carson. That tension is simmering, babes — keep your eyes on it.
Finally not in last place, the team heads off to Kenosha for a few away games. Carson uses the bus ride to orchestrate a situation in which she gets to room with Greta. Dove uses the bus ride to grab all of Carson’s extensive game note cards right out of her hand. Other Peaches use the time for group sing-alongs, as I imagine all professional baseball players do.
Finally alone in a bedroom together — sure it’s a bedroom in a convent, but a bed is a bed — Carson wants to take things to the next level with Greta, but things get awkward fast. They decide not to rush it and instead have a conversation in which Greta finally explains her actions the night of their first kiss. She has a set of rules she follows when she’s in a relationship with a woman in order to “keep [herself] safe.” One of those rules includes being “seen on a man’s arm.” Carson wants to know how many of these types of relationships she’s been in, and it seems like quite a few. “Were the other women also married?” she asks. Greta thinks it actually helped those women in their marriages, but Carson doesn’t buy it. She’s grappling with the thought that if she crosses a certain line, she “won’t be able to go back.”
The first Kenosha game seems to be going well — the Peaches are dominating — but then something strange happens. Dove, who has been oddly in a great mood for the entirety of the game, starts arguing with Marshall and then, suddenly, Dove is nowhere to be found. They’re instructed to finish the game without him, and soon after, Beverly informs them that Dove will be gone for a few days and one of the ladies will need to lead the team. In a very public display of camaraderie, Greta votes for Carson to take over, and much of the team agrees since she’s the one already making game notes. Carson balks at first, so Lupe volunteers; she says she knows the way Dove thinks the best anyway. No one is into it. Beverly decides Carson and Lupe will coach together. Remember: simmering tension.
Things are great at first. Carson is so turned on by Greta’s confidence in her, and Greta is so turned on by Carson’s, well, confidence that they finally have sex. During the Peaches’ night game against Kenosha, Carson and Lupe (with an assist from Shirley) figure out that Kenosha is cheating by way of turning off some of the lights when their team is up but blinding the Peaches when it’s helpful, and from then on, the two of them work amazingly well together. We get sort of the inverse of that great scene in the movie when Jimmy (Tom Hanks) and Dottie (Geena Davis) battle it out in the dugout with conflicting signals for the team — here, Lupe and Carson are exactly on the same page and give the signals out in unison. Their first outing as co-coaches goes swimmingly. The team heads back to Rockford on a high.
Things go downhill fast. At their next game, Lupe wants back in. She’s rested enough; she’s ready. Carson doesn’t think it’s a great idea and wants to wait for Dove to come back before they put Lupe back into the rotation. Well, Lupe’s pissed — especially when Greta once again comes to Carson’s defense. The team will be siding with Carson; it’s all very clear. And so all of that co-coaches-on-the-same-page attitude is completely out the window. Carson calls a couple of bad plays; the pitcher, Terri, is spent but Carson still doesn’t want Lupe out there; and finally we get to what we’ve been headed to all this time: Lupe and Carson have it out. There’s a bench-clearing fight. Beverly declares that the Peaches are forfeiting. And to rub a little more salt in their wounds, the women learn that Dove has quit — he took a job coaching the Orioles.
It’s a real low for everyone but especially Carson. In the locker room, she tries to pull Greta aside to chat, but after Greta got a reminder from Jo about “the rules” and how obvious Greta and Carson are being, Greta gives Carson the cold shoulder.
Carson doesn’t have too much time to spiral about it because waiting for her outside is Max Chapman. And she’s here to blackmail Carson into doing her a favor.
Dirt in the Skirt
• Beverly may not have a fun bone in her body, but she has a real affinity for the Peaches. When the Kenosha chaperone comes over to inform her that their coach is very unhappy to see the Peaches breaking the coaches’ “gentleman’s agreement” about not stealing, her response is “Maybe that’s the problem, Deborah: We don’t seem to have any gentlemen left.” And she says it with a smile. Take that, Deb!!
• Oh, Shirley. This episode really reveals just how sheltered Shirley is. She is freaked out not only over the thought of Jo being gay (she tells Carson, who, for obvious reasons, is not thrilled with Shirley’s line of questioning), but when the team first learns that it needs a replacement for Dove, she’s adamant it’s a man, because it has to be! Even the guy who runs the scoreboard could work for Shirley. Carson’s eye-rolling reaction to that idea speaks for us all.
• Maybelle doesn’t seem too concerned with Jo being gay when Shirley brings it up, but she does think it could maybe be true: “She does talk an awful lot about Katharine Hepburn and pants.”
• Clance fighting with the neighborhood kids about comics (she thinks Speed Jaxon is much more interesting than Captain America) brings me endless joy.
• Here for the physical comedy on the sidelines, in particular Abbi Jacobson spitting out that dip immediately. More of these types of shenanigans, please.
• Clance on how she knows Guy is really down: “He’s not even clipping his toenails, and he usually loves that.”