For any woman who played middle school or high school softball, watching the 1992 comedy A League of Their Own wasn't just a rite of passage, but a metaphor for our lives. The struggles of being young women flung out into new ventures while taking on opponents and facing the world resonated with me and the other young women on my softball team. As JV players, we didn't take ourselves that seriously, but we had a blast playing and we were pretty darn good. And, at the end of every season, we had a recurring tradition of sitting down to watch A League of Their Own together. After years of viewing, and loving, the film, I practically have it memorized. But each time I watch it, one thing becomes more and more clear: Kit Keller is actually the worst.
For those who haven't seen this glorious, Penny Marshall-directed film (and you really should), A League of Their Own tells a fictionalized story of the very real All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League, a league put together during World War II while many male players were off fighting in the war. Tom Hanks plays the washed-up former player Jimmy Dugan, who is hired to coach one of the women's teams. Kit Keller, as played by Lori Petty, is the kid sister of "Queen of Diamonds" Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), both baseball players. The sisters try out and land spots on the Rockford Peaches, and their own sibling rivalries heat up during a difficult and dirty first season. It's a fabulous and hilarious movie with memorable characters, inspiring moments, and great messages of teamwork and sisterhood.
That said, the character that the film makes out to be the "hero," Kit, is anything but. Kit is whiny and entitled, and although everyone knows that she's simply not as good of a ball player as her older sister — a fact Dottie never once throws in her face — she still has a huge chip on her shoulder. She constantly insists that she's looked down upon by her family or treated unfairly, even though Dottie never does anything to suggest that she thinks less of her own sister. Even Dottie's advice to "lay off the high ones" is misconstrued by Kit as criticism, twisted in her head until she rebelliously exclaims, "I like the high ones!" The sisters resort to name calling: "Mule!" "Nag!", and Kit swings at high pitches out of spite, striking out as a result.
Then, during one important game, Kit's hot-headedness fully comes out when Dottie informs their coach that Kit's run out of steam, leading to him pulling her off the mound. When Doris (a hilarious Rosie O'Donnell) cracks a joke about Kit being unable to finish the game, Kit actually attacks her, leading to a full out brawl on the field. It doesn't occur to her — or she doesn't want to admit — that Dottie was telling the truth, that maybe she did need to be taken out of the game. She simply acts out, and looks childish as a result.
Yet despite Kit's unsportsmanlike actions and constant bad attitude, Dottie still tries to find ways to make her kid sister happy. After the brawl, Dottie suggests to the manager that they trade her to another team so as to avoid any further conflict between the sisters. This request gets misunderstood, and it's Kit who ends up being traded. She's so pissed that she actually hurls a baseball at her sister's head, and even as Dottie attempts to explain, Kit has none of it. She refuse to believe that Dottie would actually just want to help her sister out, advance her career, or improve her ball playing, even though that's exactly what Dottie has been trying to do the entire freaking movie.
But Dottie doesn't give up on Kit, because Dottie, unlike It, is a good person. The older sister's most selfless action of all comes at the end of the film when she, at least in my eyes, intentionally drops the ball so that her kid sister can win the World Series. Although it seems at first like Dottie is in it to win it — as the Rockford Peaches and Racine Belles face off in Game 7, Dottie tells their pitcher to hurl "high fast balls. She can't hit 'em, can't lay off 'em" to Kit — Dottie wants to see her sister happy, and so makes some changes. When Kit gets a big hit, she hurls herself across home plate and knocks the ball out of Dottie's waiting glove, which allows the Belles to win the game and Kit to take all the glory. After all that Dottie's done for Kit — getting her on the train, getting her on the team, sacrificing herself and her life so Kit could play professionally — it's the last, and kindest, gesture she makes for her sister during their time in the League.
Dottie might get a sweet thank you from Kit at the end of the movie, and the two older ladies who play old Dottie and old Kit get along well, but that doesn't make up for the fact that Kit is a pain in the ass throughout the entire film. But hey, maybe that's just how younger siblings often are. Maybe what our older siblings do for us are things we'll never know about and never appreciate. Dottie literally dropped the ball for Kit (well, at least that's my theory), but in A League of Their Own, Kit dropped the ball on being a grateful person.
Images: Columbia Pictures, Giphy