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

Three strikes

Penny Marshall
Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own is being revived … Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

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
… Robert Redford was a ballplayer in The Natural … Photograph: Alamy

“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.

Cornball

Kevin Costner
… Kevin Costner loves a baseball movie … Photograph: Getty Images

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
…and was in the 1991 Madonna documentary … Photograph: Alamy

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
… Rosie O’Donnell (left) starred alongside Madonna in A League of Their Own and is slated for a return in the new series … Photograph: Allstar

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).

The Guardian

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