This story about the production design of “A League of Their Own” first appeared in the Comedy Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Production designer Victoria Paul knows how much people love Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own”—a film that 31 years later, fans still relish quoting: “There’s no crying in baseball!” and “And how about Marla Hooch…what a hitter!” So when the production designer (who has worked on everything from “My Cousin Vinny” to “Breakdown” to “Bones”) was hired for Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the 1992 movie, she realized the best way forward was to take her cues from Marshall’s film. “We were all in awe of the movie,” Paul said. “It’s a classic, and we didn’t shy away from looking at how they did (their sets). We weren’t trying to disassociate ourselves from the movie at all.”
The movie set up camp in Pittsburgh, a city that you could say has a passing interest in sports. “I’d never been to Pittsburgh, and the look was just fabulous,” Paul said. “I’m a Philadelphian by birth and it did remind me of Philly in so many ways—cities built in the late 1800s, brick and all.” That backdrop worked well for the urban scenes, but not so much for the ball games. All the baseball stadiums in the area were fully modern, many decades removed from the wooden joints of the 1940s when both the movie and the series take place. “There is no period stadium there within easy reach,” Paul said. “It’s a baseball show where we were required to be on a ball field for many days. So we realized we’d have to build our field.”
The team settled at Boyce Park adjacent to the Community College of Allegheny County. “It had a field and enough room around the field for me to build the infrastructure to build the stadium,” she said. “The biggest mandate was to make it era correct. Those older wooden baseball stadiums all around the country, they’re built the same way, they look the same, they have the bench, they’re super iconic. So there’s no reason to mess with that. (With) that kind of iconography, (you have) to do it very, very well. Which is what I hope we accomplished.”
Paul also wanted to incorporate into her design the migration of Black families during that time and how the players’ socio-economic backgrounds differed wildly. For instance, the old Victorian house where the Rockford Peaches team lives stands in stark contrast to the home of Chanté Adams’ character, Max, which in turn is bigger than the modest dwelling of her friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo). It was, Paul said, all about “trying to give back story through the visual details.”
The series also explores the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the baseball world. For this, Paul drew from history to create a speakeasy where Rosie O’Donnell, who starred in the 1992 film, works as a bartender. The girls’ locker room set was built inside a local Pittsburgh studio, designed to look like it was nestled under the baseball stadium, as they were in those days. One of the most striking real-life inspired locations in the show is the aircraft-parts factory where Max works, a nod to the Rosie the Riveter assembly-line jobs that American women took up during WWII.
“We did a lot of research on women entering the workforce and found a lot of wonderful photographs, including this series of photographs of women welding on round airplane fuselage with their hair all wrapped up in little bandanas and the sparks everywhere,” Paul said. “I knew exactly what this factory had to look like then, and every question was answered in that one research photo.”
Sadly, Penny Marshall never got to see the series before she died in 2018. But she was aware of it and had even given her approval. “The creators (Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson) met with Penny Marshall before her death,” Paul said. “They laid this project out to her, said what they wanted to do and got her blessing.”