I sat in the Beetle and cried.
It wasn’t an ugly cry or an evil cry. Emotion had bubbled to the surface and, like an unstirred pot on the stove, boiled over.
“I like your Grover mask,” said a little girl to me when I was leaving the ballpark, and what followed was the perhaps the most interesting face-to-face conversation I’ve had in six months.
She sat on a bench inside the gate with her grandmother, though fidgeted is closer to the mark than sat. I paid them almost no mind as I approached them on my way to leave — except to note that neither was wearing a mask — and it was after I’d passed them that I heard the little girl.
“I like your Grover mask.”
I stopped. I turned. I took them both in.
“I’m glad you like my Grover mask,” I said. “Did you have a good time tonight? Did you enjoy the movie?”
“No,” the little girl said. “I hated the movie.”
“She was bored by it,” the grandmother said. “I liked it, though.”
I nodded sagely. “That’s fair.” There were technical difficulties with the video board for the first forty minutes, and A League of Their Own is a quiet film so some of the dialogue was too quiet for the stadium PA system to be clear. A League of Their Own is also very episodic; there’s a narrative throughline in the relationship between sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty), but there’s also a lot of side-story stuff to fill time and keep it going. None of this, of course, did I say. None of it needed to be said.
“I like your Grover mask,” the little girl said again.
“I like it, too. I’ve been a great fan of Grover since I was your age.”
“I’m five,” she said.
“Oh,” I said in a tone of surprise, though I wasn’t surprised at all. “In that case, I’ve been a fan of Grover since I was younger than you. I watched Sesame Street all the time. I still have my copy of The Monster at the End of This Book from all the way back then.”
She didn’t know it — or she didn’t recognize the title, being only five — and I described it. How Grover’s quite agitated, how there’s a monster at the end of the book and he doesn’t want you, the reader, turning pages because that only makes the monster come closer. And how there’s a big surprise at the end, which I did not spoil.
Her grandfather arrived during this explanation — he’d been the same place I’d come from, the restrooms on the main concourse — and the family gathered up their things and made ready to leave.
“It was very nice meeting you,” I said.
“I really like your Grover mask.”
“Perhaps I’ll see you at a Senators game next summer.”
“Will you have your Grover mask?”
“I’ll wear it just for you.”
I left the ballpark, and behind me I could hear the little girl, aged five, still talking about my Grover mask.
It was dark and quiet, the air was a little damp, and Mars glowed in the eastern sky over the city. There weren’t more than a dozen cars still in the parking lot.
For six months the in-person conversations I’ve had have revolved around COVID, or work, or politics. All of these conversations were important, and none of them had the same joy, the same life, the same vitality as a brief conversation with a five year-old girl about Grover.
Last night, the Harrisburg Senators held another of their Summer Movie Nights, this time for A League of Their Own, the 1992 Penny Marshall film about the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that stars Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O’Donnell. The day the tickets went on sale I bought one.
Unlike The Sandlot, an earlier entry in the Summer Movie Nights series, I genuinely like this film. I’ve bought it on DVD three times, the third time because it came with baseball cards of Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), Mae Mordabito (Madonna, who famously did not enjoy making the film), and Dottie “The Queen of Diamonds” Hinson (Geena Davis).
Sure, it’s cheesy and episodic. No, I don’t like how Tom Hanks gets top billing in what’s a supporting role. But it’s also charming, fun, and very quotable.
The story of A League of Their Own, for those unfamiliar with the film, is based on the early history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. During World War II, as baseball players are being called up to fight in Europe and Japan, the candy magnate owner of a Chicago baseball team (the Chicago Cubs, thinly disguised) conceives of a plan for a women’s baseball league. Two wowen in Oregon — Dottie (Geena Davis) and her sister Kit (Lori Petty) — are scouted (by Jon Lovitz) while they play for a local industrial fast-pitch softball team, and soon enough they’re on a train to Chicago for tryouts. Both sisters make the cut and join the Rockford Peaches, “managed” by ex-ballplayer and fall-down drunk Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks, loosely based on Hack Wilson and Jimmie Foxx). Because Dugan can’t stay sober enough to actually manage the team — he thinks managing a team of women is beneath him and is in it purely for the paycheck — Dottie effectively manages the team until, one day, Dugan wakes from his drunken stupor, realizes he has actual ballplayers, and takes charge. Against this various comedic dramas play out, one player learns her husband died in action in the war before a game, Dottie’s own husband (Bill Pullman) returns from Italy due to wounds and Dottie quits the team to return to Oregon, and it all culminates in a dramatic game seven in the Women’s World Series between Rockford and Racine (to whom Kit was traded mid-season) (In reality, Rockford was the league’s cellar dwellers that year. Hey, it’s a movie!) And it’s all wrapped in a framing device set that the opening of an exhibition on the women’s league at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It was a lovely evening. It was about seventy degrees, and there was a nice breeze through the ballpark off the Susquehanna. It became a little damp as the evening wore on, though I didn’t need my hoodie until the end of the film.
I couldn’t judge the size of the crowd, but it felt smaller to me than the crowd for The Sandlot last month. There was even a giveaway; Giant, the local grocery store chain, gave out red blankets. I’m probably going to keep mine in my car as an emergency blanket. I bought a box of popcorn, an ice cream sandwich, and a Pepsi.
There were technical issues early on — parts of the video board would cut out or get out of sync, and the audio mix wasn’t always clear. Nothing that prevented me from enjoying the film.
The next movie night is Hocus Pocus in about two weeks. I’m unlikely to attend; I know I’ve seen it, but I also have no feelings for it one way or the other.
Some photos from last night.