Love Letters to ‘A League of Their Own’ – The Importance of “Finding Your Team” Part 1

Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

Dear A League Of Their Own,

To end these letters with a statement like “thank you for highlighting queer female friendships” feels entirely too small. It barely scratches the surface of what you managed to accomplish in a single season and yet it does capture a large part of why you mean so much to me. 

When I was newly graduated and in my early twenties, one of the most miserable things I had to deal with was loneliness. I was a former high school softball player and college sorority girl (in a far from stereotypical sense as a masculine-presenting Black lesbian at a predominantly white institution) without a team or group to support me. This sent me into a long bout with my depression and anxiety lasting for well over a year. That longing for a team led to a Google search that helped me find the LGBTQ+ softball league that I’ve been a member of for the better part of a decade. From there I was also added to the roster of an all-women’s recreational league and it is in these spaces that I found some of my closest friends as I ventured into adulthood.

We’ve been there for wins and celebrations. For first dates and weddings. For heartbreaks and lost jobs. We got through the pandemic with socially distant brunches and holiday dinners on porches. They are who I march with every year at Pride. Most recently, they’ve helped me cope and heal as my mother passed away this past spring. They are some of my favorite people in the world and without them, I don’t know that there is a me. To see those people and what I am so indescribably fortunate to have reflected through you is what makes this series something that I can’t seem to walk away from.

Previously in Love Letters to ‘A League of Their Own’: The Epic Romance of Carson Shaw and Greta Gill, Thank you for Max Chapman and Thank You for Uncle Bert, Vi & ‘Stealing Home’

This gay baseball show set in the 1940s in so many of the best ways looks like my chosen family.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

Thank you for Greta and Jo. Their completely platonic yet deeply powerful relationship between butch and femme-presenting queer people was absolute perfection. Best friendships despite sounding juvenile can be equally as powerful as any romantic relationship and the connection these two share completely captures that.

Initially, I speculated whether or not Jo’s (Melanie Field) protective nature towards Greta (D’Arcy Carden) hinted at something leaning toward romantic jealousy. Then I was reminded of every single time I have shot a judgemental look or digging comment at anyone even remotely attracted to my femme-presenting and absolutely gorgeous best friend. I also have so much respect for showing the imbalance of Greta and Jo’s dynamic. Though the unintended star and sidekick setup we initially meet them with has helped them survive, it ultimately isn’t sustainable. Greta and Jo grow so much individually in their time with the Peaches, so when they are tragically separated they are able to do something they’ve never had to. Stand on their own.

Jo gets her chance to be in the spotlight in the way she’s rightfully earned in South Bend. With Vivienne’s offer in New York, Greta gets a shot at putting down roots somewhere with something actually real. But it’s also fully understood that no matter what, Bird and Joey will always have each other’s backs the minute the other is in trouble or in pain. Yes, all of the Peaches jumped in to get Jo around the bases in a scene that still reduces me to tears, but it’s Greta’s comfort and understanding of what all of this has meant to one of her favorite people in the world that sends me into ugly sobs. Because it reminds me of my best friend. 

Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

Thank you for Max (Chanté Adams) and Clance (Gbemisola Ikulemo) as they are one of the most beautiful examples of what unconditional support really looks like.

Aside from Max’s nearly perfect father, Edgar, Clance is one of the few people who doesn’t think she’s crazy for wanting to play baseball. Clance may not fully understand the game, but she understands her friend’s passion and that’s enough for her to hop a train to Chicago in the pilot to be at her side no matter the outcome. It makes the moment when Clance is the first to run to her in congratulations when Max closes the game for the All-Stars against the Rockford Screws even that much more joyful. And when Clance is heartbroken over Guy being sent off to war, Max comes to the realization that the most important person in her life needs her to help get by and be strong without him.

These two come with their conflicts as well. As I wrote in my first letter, Max’s journey of self-discovery is a beautiful one absolutely filled with love and Clance is a huge part of that. No matter how much Max slips up or is too distracted to acknowledge Clance’s feelings, these two manage to quickly mend fences with sincere apologies. But eventually, there was something that I thought might threaten that bond. As too many of my chosen family and so many of us know, coming out to the people you love most is absolutely terrifying no matter the conditions. And when those conditions are albeit good but God-fearing Black church folks the sentiment of unconditional love can suddenly feel well…conditional. That fear is what keeps Max from telling the truth about her Uncle Bert and exactly why Clance should give up on dreams of double dates with Gary and Guy. There’s no room for Max to start telling the truth when at the first sight of Bert, Clance uses the word “freak” to describe him in a truly heartbreaking scene.

Here’s where you got me again because I forgot that this is CLANCE MORGAN we’re talking about here. When Max finally does find the courage to tell Clance the truth, she does so with confidence, but also with full awareness that she could be met with disapproval. Max comes so far at this point in the story that to take another step without her best friend knowing her truth feels incorrect. So Max has to stand up for Bert and herself and when she does, Clance’s love is proven to be truly unconditional. Watching them say goodbye so that Max can fully live her dream leaving a completely supportive Clance in Rockford is also an easy way to activate my tear ducts. Max found a way to play baseball, but in Clance she’s always had an incredible team.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

The bro-like relationship between Lupe Garcia and Jess McCready along with the kid sister they unofficially raise in Esti González is a stellar example of a found family we discover pieces of ourselves in and how quickly that can feel like home in the best ways…even if we resist it. The connection they share is built on finding different ways to communicate and express yourself from the way you were raised. The directions Lupe (Roberta Colindrez) is pulled in throughout her story arc are some of the most complex. While Jess (Kelly McCormack) and Esti (Priscilla Delgado) are more than characters to serve her story, together they provide some truly heartfelt and dynamic moments.

Lupe is chasing her dream of playing professional baseball but she’s also doing that while sacrificing her home and as we learn later a relationship with her daughter to be everything she truly is. In her attempt to strike it out on her own and get something she truly wants, she is nearly immediately paired with Esti who is a near-constant reminder of what she had to leave behind to get it. While it of course becomes impossible to deny the youngest member of the Peaches the support she needs, it’s also an unfair position to put Lupe in as the only one who can translate for her. Rather than pretend she’s fine with taking on the responsibility of official translator and keeper for Esti, you let her be frustrated and human about it.

While Lupe thought she needed to protect herself from caring for Esti, letting that wall down only gave her more love not only from Esti but in the forgiveness and acceptance for doing what she needed to do. While I would like to know more about the life Lupe left behind and more about who Esti is beyond her speed and how she damn well better get a trip to the movies in season two, we were still given yet another beautifully crafted relationship that came with complications where two people learned to love, communicate, and advocate for themselves.

Of course that’s not the only meaningful relationship these two gained. After all, they wouldn’t truly be complete without Jess McCready.

Beyond her impeccably handsome style and skills on the field, the Peaches shortstop serves as an additional older sibling for Esti and “hermano” to Lupe. I quickly want to specifically talk about Jess because her character also serves as another brilliant moment in learning to become a better ally when privilege blinds you to how others around you are mistreated.

Jess comes with her own burdens to bear in having to adorn femininity to pass as palatable to male spectators and those ready to get rid of the league as the very concept of a woman in pants is a direct threat to womanhood itself. Connecting with Lupe and being able to find a sense of “same” with another person gives her a confidant and partner in crime that reflects the importance of finding those relationships in the queer community. That relationship is tested when Jess misses the point of Lupe’s anger and frustration when Carson is rewarded with respect, care, and additional responsibilities over the team while she is constantly regarded as a hothead and ostracized for simply having a differing opinion in their confrontations.

Lupe has to sit and take that all while enduring the blatant racism of the league slapping her with the moniker of Spanish Striker as the notion of her being European is more appealing to white fans than the truth of her being Mexican. When Lupe asks Jess to simply open her eyes and realize why she’s treated so differently, Jess doesn’t need some big moment to show that she understands what she’s heard. She simply hears the problem and then acts in support. The bond these three share is an asset to the team on the field in their ability to speak in Spanish. It’s an asset to the Peaches house for a sense of family.

And it’s an asset to our tv screens as it’s a friendship between fictional characters that I’ll never really get enough of.

More to come in Part 2.

Ashley Durham (she/her) is a writer and communications manager from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Westminster College with a BA in Broadcast Communications and has worked in the Steel City as a media specialist in recent years. She continues her love of journalism as a blogger with a focus on television and film.