Nostalgia for the 1980s and ’90s is with us in a big way, particularly when it comes to pop culture. But what do the movie stars of that era look like now? The reality may surprise you – especially if you’re accustomed to their in-character appearances. And A League of Their Own’s Megan Cavanagh – a.k.a. Marla Hooch – is a perfect example.
Those who remember the early 1990s may recall a Penny Marshall-directed film called A League of Their Own. The movie hit box offices in 1992 and featured a mixture of stars and relative unknowns. Tom Hanks, Madonna and Geena Davis already had their names up in lights, while Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Petty were among those yet to make their marks in Hollywood.
In addition to boasting a now-beloved cast, A League of Their Own had several other hooks that drew audiences in. For one thing, it’s a sports film based on one of America’s favorite pastimes – baseball – and for another, it centers around the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
Who are the AAGPBL? Well, in 1943 Major League Baseball was in danger of dying out due to World War II – when many young men were being called up to active duty. So, the owners of the Chicago Cubs franchise came up with a creative solution: an all-women league. And the teams they gathered – involving nearly 600 women – went on to attract crowds of thousands.
Based on these real-life events, A League of Their Own follows the struggles of one all-female team, the Rockford Peaches, as they compete in the league – and ultimately the World Series. The movie was, it’s worth adding, both a commercial and a critical success, applauded for its impressive cast and appealing characters alike.
And one character who swung her way into the hearts of movie fans is Marla Hooch. Played by actress Megan Cavanagh, ballplayer Hooch isn’t considered the most attractive member of the Rockford Peaches in the storyline. In fact, the movie’s scenarios often played on her disinterest in glamor as a source of comedy for the audience.
However, Hooch doesn’t let her shortcomings hold her back. She’s a skilled ballplayer – and her loyalty and dedication to her team won over viewers at the time. And even today, more than 25 years later, she’s still a firm favorite among fans of A League of Their Own.
But what about the real woman behind the beloved fictional Hooch? Well, Cavanagh was welcomed into the world in November 1960 in Chicago, where she grew up among four other siblings. Then later, she graduated from Dominican University – formerly Rosary College – and two years after that started her acting career.
To craft her acting skills, Cavanagh joined a theater company called the New Age Vaudeville – formally known as the Comedy Cabaret – in 1984. And though she did several stage performances in a professional capacity while with the troupe, two shows in particular attracted attention from critics.
Plays The TV Dinner Hour and An Evening with Elmore & Gwendolyn Putts, the Neighbors Next Door both showcased Cavanagh’s acting ability during the 1980s. And they each received high praise from the Chicago Tribune’s Rock Kogan, for one, who called them “among the most polished and clever productions of the season.”
As for Cavanagh’s work in Hollywood, although 1992’s A League of Their Own was her big-screen debut, it certainly wasn’t her last. Indeed, the actress would go on to appear in a number of other films, including cult classic Robin Hood: Men in Tights the following year and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous in 2005.
Cavanagh isn’t just known for her more typical acting performances, either; she’s also a gifted voice actress. For instance, the actress lent her vocal chords to animated movies Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and its subsequent TV spin-off. And she has voiced characters in multiple video games too.
It wasn’t just Cavanagh who would go on to have screen success after A League of Their Own, though. Several of her fellow former ballplayers are, of course, big stars even now. And while some of the cast were relatively unknown back then, others already had established careers. Take Tom Hanks, for example, who played the Peaches’ manager, Jimmy Dugan.
The aptly named 1988 film Big had arguably been Hanks’ greatest success prior to A League of Their Own. But although Big had put the young actor firmly on the Hollywood map, his meteoric rise to superstardom didn’t occur until a little later. In fact, the actor’s popularity subsequently took a hit as a result of some less successful productions.
Fortunately, though, Hanks’ performances proved solid. And after a series of underwhelming box-office efforts, the tide turned – and he saw a return to form following his role in A League of Their Own. Now, Hanks’ filmography boasts successful roles in such hits as Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and 2017’s The Circle.
Madonna, meanwhile, has gone on to have an illustrious career as an actress as well as a musician. In A League of Their Own, she starred as “All the Way” Mae Mordabito. And in the years following, she landed roles in a range of other movies, from 1996’s Evita to the James Bond film Die Another Day in 2002.
Madonna has, in fact, even directed two films herself: Filth and Wisdom in 2008 and historical drama W.E. three years later. And while her last film role was a voice part in animation Arthur and the Invisibles in 2006, she’s made a couple of TV show appearances since. However, Madonna is, of course, famous foremost for her singing, which earned her the title the “Queen of Pop.”
Another star to have risen from A League of Their Own is actress and television personality Rosie O’Donnell. She played Doris Murphy, Mordabito’s best friend. And as with Cavanagh, the role was O’Donnell’s Hollywood debut, although she had appeared on TV before landing her part in the movie.
O’Donnell’s introduction to TV fame came, in fact, in 1984 thanks to the talent show Star Search. And since then, she’s become a comedian and an author and even hosted The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which won multiple awards. But the star has another claim to fame too.
O’Donnell earned a reputation as a philanthropist after founding the charity For All Kids. Dubbed the “Queen of Nice” for her selfless work, she is also a passionate supporter of LGBT rights, having come out in 2002 a couple of months before her chat show went off air.
Geena Davis, meanwhile, played the role of Dottie, catcher for the Rockford Peaches. And unlike O’Donnell, prior to appearing in A League of Their Own, Davis had already made quite a name for herself. Fans had seen her in films including 1986’s The Fly, Beetlejuice two years later and the iconic Thelma and Louise in 1991.
Meanwhile, since starring in A League of Their Own, Davis has enjoyed a steady career in both TV and movies. She recently starred in 2017’s Marjorie Prime and played herself in Don’t Talk to Irene. And fans of TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and The Exorcist will also no doubt recognize the star.
Lori Petty, who plays Dottie’s sister, Kit, is another familiar face from both the small and big screens. Having debuted in the 1988 short film …They Haven’t Seen This…, she also starred alongside Robin Williams in 1990’s Cadillac Man and Keanu Reeves in Point Break the following year.
Petty also landed the starring role in 1995’s post-apocalyptic movie Tank Girl. And her list of TV appearances is even more diverse, including both voiced and regular roles. Her most notable recent appearance, though, has perhaps been as inmate Lolly Whitehall in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
But what about Megan Cavanagh? Well, it’s been over 25 years since she portrayed homely fan-favorite character Marla Hooch. And given how much things have changed for her A League of Their Own co-stars over the years, is Cavanagh still recognizable as Hooch?
Well, the answer to that question is both yes and no. For starters, she’s far more of a social butterfly than her character, Hooch, is. And she doesn’t share the baseball player’s distinct lack of style, either.
Cavanagh in fact appears very confident and upbeat, which is quite a step from her movie alter ego’s withdrawn disposition. Apparently, though, it’s still not a good enough disguise to fool some avid A League of Their Own fans.
Cavanagh is, you see, still approached by Hooch supporters to this day. “I don’t have a problem with being recognized. It’s very humbling,” the actress told The Buffalo News in October 2017. And she feels she owes a lot to her debut role.
“I feel so unbelievably blessed to have played this part,” Cavanagh elaborated. “I feel loved by so many people I don’t even know. They want hugs. That character touched them.” But the humble actress has had other roles that have left their impression on the arts too.
After playing Hooch, Cavanagh eventually returned to her original performance medium: theater. More specifically, she took to the stage in an informative, tongue-in-cheek stage show called Menopause: The Musical. The show had opened Off-Broadway in April 2002, with Cavanagh joining two years later.
Menopause: The Musical not only talks about the titular subject matter, but it does so through song. The show’s list of hits in fact span over three decades, from the 1970s onwards. And the musical also addresses a theme that wasn’t often approached when it first hit theaters.
“Menopause wasn’t a topic that was talked about very much,” Cavanagh told The Buffalo News. “And I think that women are really glad to know they’re not going crazy.” The actress also explained that there’s no reason to be uncomfortable when talking about the issue.
Cavanagh continued, “Menopause is not a bad word. We all have bodies, we all bleed, and we all urinate and break bones. Our bodies are here for just a limited amount of time. And what [they] go through is being honored with this show.”
“It wasn’t honored in the past,” Cavanagh added. “It was shunned, and women are [now] refusing to accept that. We have so many more years to contribute and so much more left in us.” Some people, however, were hesitant at first to accept a show about a subject that was perhaps still considered taboo by some.
“I think that there’s less shock now because the show has been around for so many years,” Cavanagh continued. “When we were doing this in 2004, we would go to a city, and some people would walk out because it was too shocking, although it’s not at all – but to some people it was.”
Yet while Menopause: The Musical has been running for such a long time, its subject matter remains relevant. “It’s amazing to me that it still resonates,” Cavanagh explained. “There are more and more women coming into menopause every day.”
“This show really brings [women] to a place that celebrates that your best years are not behind you. You are fabulous the way you are,” Cavanagh told The Buffalo News. “You can still enjoy and laugh and have a great time.”
And although Menopause: The Musical and A League of Their Own obviously cover very different topics, there are some parallels between the two characters played by Cavanagh. For one thing, both characters are strong, independent females fighting for empowerment in their respective fields. But is this link simply a coincidence?
Well, according to Cavanagh, the connection wasn’t intentional. As she told The Buffalo News, “I have not put them together. It’s funny because [A League of Their Own] was my first movie, and I was young. I threw all my own balls. I was really an athlete.” Then, however, the actress had a moment of clarity.
“Recently, I was watching [A League of Their Own] at a ballpark,” Cavanagh continued. “I was making an appearance. And I [looked] at the older versions of our characters, who are my age now, and I thought, ‘Oh how sweet; they’re so sweet.’ But I am the older person in the story now. Inside, I’m 25. I can’t believe I’m the same person.”