The storyline was inspired by the career of baseball legend Dottie Collins. During World War II, Collins played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and pitched seventeen shutouts during her six-year career.
During filming of the World Series games, stars took turns entertaining the unpaid extras. Tom Hanks did puppet shows over the dugout, Rosie O'Donnell did stand-up comedy; and various actors pretended to be Madonna and sang her songs after the singer balked at performing for the fans.
Geena Davis joined the production as a late replacement for Debra Winger, a few days before filming was due to start. Davis's character was supposed to be one of the greatest female baseball players in America, and the cast had been doing baseball training for months. Within weeks, Davis had mastered the game, and was regularly beating all her co-stars.
Tom Hanks gained thirty pounds in preparation for his role. He attributed the weight he gained to a nearby Dairy Queen. All during filming, Penny Marshall encouraged Hanks to keep on eating. Meanwhile, she also told Rosie O'Donnell to eat as little as possible.
Actresses auditioning for the film had to prove they could play baseball. All the actresses cast in the film, apart from Geena Davis, did their own baseball stunts. None of the performers wanted stunt doubles.
The film portrays the league as initially unpopular and unprofitable, until demeaning gimmicks are used to attract male audiences. In reality, the league was popular and profitable from the start, largely because it played in towns in the upper Midwest that had no way of watching a live baseball game. Eventually, the league grew into a ten-team two-division league. The advent of televised baseball games in the early fifties, however, would lead to the demise in the popularity of the league.
After league tryouts were completed, all of the players were sent to "Charm and beauty school". This is factual, as the real AAGPBL players were sent to the Helena Rubenstein Beauty Salon to be made over, and they attended Helena Rubenstein's Evening Charm School after afternoon practices where proper etiquette, hygiene and the leagues dress code were taught and reinforced.
Jon Lovitz had a more substantial role in the film's initial cut. During the extensive post-production editing and screening process, the filmmakers used only his meanest comments and most obvious punchlines and found the audience was roaring with laughter at everything he said. They decided to focus on those moments, cut out extraneous material, and ended up with one of the most popular elements of the final film.
When Rosie O'Donnell's character, Doris, asks "What are you a Genius?" to Dottie, Geena Davis actually has an IQ of 140. Having an IQ of 140 is actually considered the starting point for the "Genius" level.
The Racine Belles home games were filmed at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. They retrofitted the entire stadium to look as it did in that era. "Support the Racine Belles" signs are still on display. The stadium is now used by the Evansville Otters, a Frontier League baseball team, and the ball girls wear the Belles uniforms.
Brooke Shields was offered the lead female role, but after the writer's strike in 1988, Shields was written out, to be replaced by Debra Winger. However, Winger also backed out, and the part then went to Geena Davis.
When Jimmy first "meets" the Peaches, he strolls right through them and heads to the urinal for a bit of relief. The girls whisper to each other to time him; the actual time of the activity is 53 seconds.
The Peaches played at Beyer Stadium in Rockford, Illinois. No place in Rockford could be used for filming because of Beyer Stadium's state of disrepair. It was eventually condemned; all that remained for many years was the original archway and a sign about the Peaches. Since 2010, a community group "Friends of Beyer Stadium" has been rebuilding the site and renovating the field.
In Evansville, Indiana, where the Racine games and World series was filmed, Madonna was so rude to citizens, hotel and restaurant staff, and other locals, that her reputation is still tarnished there. She even spoke poorly of the city in interviews.
The soldier who did most of the dancing with Madonna in the bar scene was a recurring character on director Penny Marshall's Laverne & Shirley (1976) television show. The actor, Eddie Mekka, was Shirley's boyfriend and his occupation was a dance teacher.
While the film seems to suggest that both the American and National League had shut down during the war, this is far from fact. Both leagues filled their rosters by signing life long minor league players, and retired players, and in some cases, teams brought in high school players as well. The only leagues that were affected by the wars were some of the minor leagues themselves, many were forced to shut down due to lack of players (many that were still around had been declared 4f by the military), and the majority of the minor leagues never resumed play once the war was over.
According to a handwritten letter she wrote to photographer Steven Meisel, Madonna was miserable. "I cannot suffer any more than I have in the past month, learning how to play baseball with a bunch of girls (yuk) in Chicago (double yuk). I have a tan, I'm dirty all day, and I hardly ever wear make up. Penny Marshall, Lavern (sic), Geena Davis is a Barbie Doll, and when God decided where the beautiful men were going to live in the world, he did not choose Chicago. I have made a few friends but they are athletes, not actresses. They have nothing on the house of extravaganza. I wish I could come to N.Y."
David L. Lander, who has an uncredited role as a game announcer, is a real-life baseball fanatic, who later became a scout for the Anaheim Angels. He is also a veteran of Penny Marshall's Laverne & Shirley (1976) series.
Lavonne Paire Davis, who died in February 2013 at age 88, served as an uncredited consultant to Penny Marshall, and was one of several real-life female ballplayers who helped inspire the fictional Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis.
The bar scene, where the girls sneak away for a night on the town, was originally going to be filmed at The Hornet's Nest, a bar/restaurant in Evansville, Indiana. The owners of the Hornet's Nest did spontaneous renovations in preparation for filming. The producers decided the changes didn't fit with the setting they were going for, and found a new location.
When announcing the game the Peaches announcer (David L. Lander) uses the phrase "Oh Doctor!" during an exciting play. This phrase was made popular by 1940s and 50s Brooklyn Dodgers announcer Red Barber.
Debra Winger was originally going to star in the film, but backed out when Madonna was signed. Winger also had suffered a back injury that forced her off the film. Lori Petty was cast with her resemblance to Winger in mind. When Geena Davis took over the part of Dottie, Petty's hair was dyed to match Davis' to make them look like sisters.
New York state trooper David Harding played one of Kit's adult sons in the Hall of Fame scene. Within months of the shooting, he was indicted for falsifying evidence in several cases, including a 1989 multiple murder in Ithaca.
The famous line, "There's no crying in baseball" has some basis in fact. According to author Daniel Okrent, Rogers Hornsby (to whom Tom Hanks refers) was chewing out a line of minor league hitters he was instructing, when Ron Santo (toward the end of the line) was quoted as saying, "If he says that to me, I'll cry."
The Rockford Peaches home games were filmed in Huntingburg, Indiana. The stadium was completely renovated, and named League Stadium after the movie crews left. In the movie, a barn is in the background. It is two-sided, and covered a water slide.
The AAGPBL uniforms were originally designed by Mrs. Wrigley, art director Otis Shepard and softball star Ann Harnet. The uniform consisted of a one piece flared skirted tunic with silk shorts, knee high baseball socks and a baseball cap. The uniforms were based off figure skating, field hockey and tennis costumes of the period. The new uniform was later modeled to the new league players by Ann Harnet herself who was signed as the first player to join the league.
Only a few weeks before the movie was to begin filming in June 1990, 20th Century Fox studio chairman Joe Roth withdrew its funding. Columbia subsequently picked up the movie, and filming began in July 1991.
Harvey's house in Illinois, is an actual house that was originally owned by Robert R. McCormick, a colonel in the Big Red One, the first Infantry, in World War I. He was also the owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune for decades. His home is now a museum, along with a museum dedicated to the Big Red One.
As the Peaches leave the locker room for the final game of the World Series, Jimmy says to the replacement catcher, "You're killing me, Alice, you're killing me." Tom Hanks is paraphrasing one of the most famous sports quotes, "They're killing me, Whitey, they're killing me," said by Denver Broncos coach Lou Saban to an assistant. (Saban actually said, "They're killing me out there, Whitey," but the quote is frequently repeated with "out there" omitted.)
Kelly Candaele was one of the writers for this movie. His mother played in the league portrayed in the movie. Also, Kelly's brother, Casey, was a major league infielder from 1986 through 1997. His best season was 1991 (right before the movie was released) when he collected 121 hits and 50 RBIs for the Houston Astros as their usual starting second baseman.
When Mr. Harvey is offering Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) a job, he tells Jimmy he would still be playing if he "would have laid off the booze", hinting at Mickey Mantle's career, even mentioning a knee injury was to blame, as Mantle suffered.
Jon Lovitz asks the girls when they're milking cows, "Doesn't that hurt them?" "Well it would bruise the hell out of me." A hilarious coincidence saw Jon Lovitz star in The Benchwarmers (2006) later in his career, in which he shows his highly bruised nipples after suffering a 'tittie-twister' from an old bully.
During the final scene in the film at the baseball hall of fame, older Dottie walks past a billboard honoring Jimmy Dugan. It reads, "Jimmy Dugan Hits 58 Home Runs in 1936. When Jimmy Dugan hit his 58th home run, he set a new record for his beloved Chicago Cubs. The club had not seen a similar hitting streak for two decades and Dugan's thrilling performance that season helped invigorate the team and set a new attendance record at Harvey Field as well. Jimmy Dugan's greatest year was also marked by his appearance at 3rd base in the 1936 All-Star Game, where he hit a low slider out of the park driving in the winning run. Born 1906, Died 1987."
In the film's climactic World Series game seven, there is an egregious strategy error: When the Peaches have runners on second and third with two outs, Dottie Hinson (the best player in the league) strolls to the plate. In any professional baseball league, the opposing team would intentionally walk the best player to load the bases and pitch to the next batter. Instead, Racine opts to pitch to Hinson and she delivers a go-ahead, two-run single up the middle.