Perhaps it’s no big surprise that the Peaches lose in the final game of the championship, since that loss so defines them in the movie and also because in real life, the Peaches didn’t win either (they didn’t even play; the 1943 season has the Racine Belles and the Kenosha Comets duking it out for the title, and Racine took it in three). And yet, weren’t you rooting for them to win so badly? Didn’t you think, for a second, they had a chance? I know, me too. Once again, the Peaches story is not about the final game, but how they get to that game. As a team. Is that cheesy as hell? Good!! It’s supposed to be!!
At the top of “Perfect Game,” the Peaches are already down two games in the five-game series against South Bend. Morale is low. Carson doesn’t know what to say to her team. When she gives them a little speech that Charlie gave to her, about already being winners because Charlie, clearly, does not understand how serious this is, the team is like … okay, and? Greta, especially, has a tough time swallowing this new Carson. Or rather, old Carson. As Greta points out when she tells Carson to get her shit together, it’s like Carson has retreated back to who she was when she first showed up since Charlie is there. That speech was Charlie talking; it wasn’t Carson. Greta didn’t “give up” running away to California and she certainly didn’t give up Jo for this lame-ass shit. “Find a way to show up.”
And so Carson tells her sweet little clueless husband that he needs to go back to Idaho: “I keep feeling you when I need to be feeling me.” At first, Charlie feels useless and discarded (boyfriend, you have no idea), but he also supports his wife 100 percent and tells Carson that he’ll go and he’ll see her once she wins the championship.
Carson also has one last meetup with Max before Max hops on the All Stars bus and heads off into her dream life. It’s Max who reminds Carson of how this feeling of finally getting what they want, whether it’s being able to love a woman or playing baseball (or both!), might be fleeting and it might come with risks, but it’s worth it. “I would rather have five minutes of what this feels like right now than a whole lifetime of before,” says Max.
Only now is Carson ready to be the coach the Peaches need. (Have we all noted how wild it is that they never replaced Dove? They make it a point to note that Carson couldn’t even open her own bank account without her husband in 1943, but there’s no further discussion from Baker, king of candy bars and misogyny, about Carson being a head coach.) Ahead of Game 3, Carson gathers the troops and reads from a novel Greta handed her early on in the season: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The main character in the novel, Francie, is symbolized by that titular tree, one that grows and thrives in the unlikeliest and sometimes harshest conditions — just like the Peaches, Carson says. But here they are. They all know that South Bend is the better team on paper, but that doesn’t mean the Peaches can’t win. Carson has them all sign their names on a post in the locker room to cement this moment in history, and she tells them that even if they lose, “let it be fucking epic. Let them write poems about how we went out!” It’s … a lot (and, you know, an interesting choice of phrase for someone in the 1940s), but it also does the trick. The Peaches go on to win the next two games and tie the series.
That’s called a comeback, baby. Across town, Max, too, is attempting to make a sort of comeback before she leaves on her big baseball adventure: She finally goes to see her mom. It does not go well! At first, Toni mostly ignores anything Max (who has brought Clance along for moral support, naturally) says about baseball, but eventually Max cannot ignore her mother ignoring her. All Max wants is for her mother to be proud of her, but Toni can only be scared for her daughter. She tells Max that she’s always known she’d “never have a husband” — which is about the only way Toni can comment on Max’s sexuality — and that’s why she wanted to set her up with the salon. She knows how hard it is in this world for a woman, especially a Black woman, and with her own business at least she’d have some power in an unkind and unfair world. Toni’s heart is sort of in the right place? But she’s still unable to give Max what she needs.
Max goes to see the person who can love her fully as she is — her uncle Bert. He’s sad to hear about how Toni took the news but wants to push his niece to enjoy every moment out there. Max will need to be careful, of course, but she also needs to live. It’s very sweet. But that’s not all Bertie does for Max. He goes to see his sister. We learn that the reason Bert left — Toni feels abandoned more than anything — was because although Toni was accepting(ish) of him, she was the one telling him to “give up a little piece of himself to make things easier.” Toni needs to let Max go; she needs to stop holding her back from who she is.
And so Max goes. But not without the most loving, tearful good-bye with Clance, who writes out pre-addressed envelopes so Max has no excuse but to write to her and makes her promise not to find another best friend. Max tells her she could never forget her — the All Stars might be who Max is playing baseball with, but Clance is her team. She thanks Clance “for getting [her] here.” I am but a puddle!
Speaking of strong female friendships that might make you weep — let’s go back to the baseball stuff! Ahead of the final game of the season, the Peaches gather together outside of their house and Esti begs Jess to “sing the song.” You know the song, guys. Now, do we think all of the actors just bawled their faces off as they got to sing “Victory Song” in a Peaches uniform, or is that just me? Don’t answer that!
From that song we run onto the field with Heart’s “Barracuda” blasting in our ears. Is that anachronistic? You bet. Do I care? Nope. Play ball, baby. The game is a close one. Jo and Greta will still barely look each other in the eyes. At one point, Lupe seems to be completely out of steam. Carson gives her teammates one last push with a speech about owning this moment. It’s time to “rob the bank,” baby. Suddenly, they’re back in it. Esti and Lu work together for a double steal. Shirley rips one into the outfield. They tie the game in the top of the ninth. If they can hold South Bend, it’ll go to extra innings. Who walks up to the plate but De Luca the Bazooka. It’s over before you know it. Jo hits a home run off of Lu.
But wait. As Jo’s rounding first base, her knee, injured from the raid at Vi’s bar, gives out and she snaps her ankle. She can’t walk. It’s obvious that the Blue Sox won, but the umpire says that if Jo can’t touch all the bags without any help from her teammates, the Blue Sox forfeit. Of course, Greta and Carson look at one another and realize that they aren’t Jo’s teammates and there’s nothing in the rules about the opposing team helping someone around the bases. And so, they have her put her arms around their shoulders and they walk her all the way to home plate. Before long, all of the Peaches gather together and walk Jo home. Everyone is crying, even the Baker candy bozos in the stands. Jo De Luca hit the game-winning run and South Bend takes the title.
It’s not the way the Peaches wanted to go out, but it was certainly, as Carson would say, one “fucking epic” way to do it. And there will always be next season, right?
The team … celebrates, I guess, back at the house. At least it is a loss they can feel okay about before they all say good-bye. Greta starts to ask Carson to come with her to New York — Vivian the Charm School woman offered her a job after confessing that she, too, is “a bit too much” — but before they can figure out how that would actually work, they get interrupted by teammates. The next morning, Carson races out to find Greta before she leaves to catch her train. She pulls her over to the side of the house and kisses her one last time. She can’t go with her to New York, but she’s also not going to go back to Idaho. “You changed my whole life,” she tells Greta. Greta, too, thanks Carson for helping her to open herself up again. Carson watches Greta go, not knowing when she’ll see her again.
And then she turns around and finds Charlie standing on the porch with a bouquet of flowers for her. He just saw the entire thing. It looks like Carson might be having that awkward conversation with her husband much sooner than anticipated.
Dirt in the Skirt
• At Max’s first stop, she calls Clance immediately. Their conversation is short and mostly just the two of them telling each other they’re fine. When Clance hangs up, however, we find out that Toni is sitting there with her, reminding Clance that she cannot tell Max she’s pregnant (!). If Max knew her best friend was having a baby, she’d give up everything she’s worked for to be back home with her. Neither Clance nor Toni want that.
• In a reversal of Max and Clance walking into the factory defeated after Guy shipped out and Max choked on the mound, the two ladies saunter into that factory looking cool as hell after Max is featured in the local paper for her pitching. They are queens. And no, Mr. Coach of the Screws, Max is not interested in practicing with the team. She has a much better offer, thank you so much.
• Carson does finally get through to Shirley, who at first is angry and betrayed to discover that Carson’s gay. Carson, however, is past feeling ashamed for who she is. She tells Shirley that she needs to stop “running away from everything [she’s] scared of” and that includes her gay teammates and also botulism, apparently. Shirley needs to start living her life. Later, Carson finds Shirley eating food out of a whole bunch of dented cans, thrilled to discover she hasn’t died yet. She kisses Carson and isn’t sexually attracted to her. “That’s not how it works,” Carson tries to tell her but also knowing she should take the win. Shirley feels unshackled. Shirley is finally living.
• The perfectly unhinged way Kate Berlant says “I’ve been eating from dented cans!” will stay with me forever.
• After the final game, Beverly pulls Jess aside and gives her back all the money she’s been collecting from her as a “fine” for wearing pants in public (Jess did not care about this rule at all). Jess is moved: “No one’s ever done something like that for me before,” she tells Beverly. “We have to take care of our own,” Bev tells her with a wink.
• I’m surprised none of the other 1992 Peaches showed up.