On August 8, 1992, “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Madonna’s Golden Globe-nominated single was the theme song for the movie “A League of Their Own,” a film in which she co-starred with Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, and Rosie O’Donnell. Directed by Penny Marshall, the film is based on the real-life story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and the oft-forgotten story of a time in American history when women were recruited to play baseball while men fought in World War II. Of course, the film also gave us one of the most memorable movie lines, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
“A League of their Own” begins around 1943 when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was created to fill an expected void in Major League Baseball as men were sent overseas to fight the Axis powers. Similar to other industries traditionally relegated to men, women were encouraged to temporarily leave the domestic sphere for the workforce. Women partly took over America’s favorite past time until the war’s end.
Filming for “A League of Their Own” was already completed when Marshall approached Madonna to contribute a ballad for the film. Madonna was busy in the studio working on her fifth studio album, “Erotica.” However, she worked with her then-producer Shep Pettibone over a two day period to come up with “This Used to Be My Playground.” Madonna wrote the heartfelt lyrics about childhood, but the deeply personal sentiment of Madonna’s song works with the nostalgic storyline of “A League of Their Own.” The film begins in 1988 with the characters reflecting back on the time when they were recruited to trade in their oven mitts for baseball gloves.
When the war ended in 1945, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League survived for almost another decade. Gradually women were encouraged to go back to the kitchen. However, that brief moment when women were allowed to play in men’s “playgrounds” helped lay the groundwork for the 1960s women’s rights movement.