Alcohol More Important Than Life

As a baseball fan, I appreciate the film “A League of their Own,” starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell. It’s the story about the women’s professional baseball league, which was started because major League Baseball feared that the leagues would have to shut down because of World War II. The story within the story is about Tom Hank’s character, Jimmy Dugan, who was selected to manage the team. Jimmy was still young enough to be playing, but his career was cut short due to injury, sustained after a night on the town.
We are first introduced to Dugan before the ladies’ first game. He bursts into the clubhouse, bypasses every player and goes right to a urinal to relieve himself. Madonna’s character, Mae Mordabito, is impressed by the length of this activity that she starts timing him. Jimmy, of course, is oblivious. He spends the entire game on the end of the bench, asleep. Wallowing in self-pity, Dugan is completely disinterested in the team. His behavior is abhorrent. League general manager, Ira Lowenstein, played by David Strathairn, confronts him by asking, “If we pay you more money, can you be more disgusting?” Finally, team owner Walter Harvey, played by Garry Marshall, lectures him on his behavior.
There is one particular scene, when Dugan is hitting balls from a pitching machine, where we get a look at the real Jimmy. He was a star player and judging from the way he was winging the bat, if it weren’t for his bad knees and alcoholism, he’d still be a good player. The alcohol had taken over his life and the tragedy is that we are introduced to the alcoholic, not the ball player. We wind up asking ourselves, “What would have happened if Jimmy took care of himself.”
Jimmy comes to his senses and begins to engage the team. He asserts his baseball knowledge in a comical battle of signs with Dottie Hinson (Davis). He begins to see himself as a baseball manager, and begins to look at the ladies on the team not as women, but as ball players. We see this transformation of identity.
Identity is at the core of alcoholism. In the throws of addiction, people are seen as alcoholics. But what is their true identity? Who are they as people? Jimmy Dugan lost his identity as a ball player because of alcohol, but found redemption in baseball as a manager. What’s more, we find that Jimmy is really a pretty good guy. He realizes that Harvey had given him a second chance in life, and rather than accepting a position as a minor league manager, he chose to stay with his women’s team for another season, out of respect for the players.
Alcoholism robs people of their identity. It interrupts life. It becomes the focal point of existence, stripping away dignity, opportunity and fulfillment. But there is redemption. There is treatment and hope of a restored life and people need not suffer and be forever captive to the disease. Jimmy Dugan found a new life. You can too.

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About The Author, Ned Wicker
Ned Wicker is the Addictions Recovery Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center He author’s a website for alcoholism support:

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