While on the road with the A's a few years ago, reliever Huston Street arrived early at Baltimore's Camden Yards and stumbled across one of the greatest players he'd ever seen.
"Oh, my god,'' he said. "It's Dottie Hinson."
Technically, it was the actress Geena Davis, who was on location filming another project. But the ballplayer naturally associated Davis with the power-hitting, rocket-armed catcher from the baseball film "A League of Their Own."
That movie turned 20 years old this month. The story of the bygone All-American Girls Professional Baseball League premiered in the summer of 1992 -- and there has been no crying in baseball ever since.
Starring Davis, Tom Hanks and Madonna, "A League
Hanks' line -- "There's no crying in baseball," as uttered by boozy manager Jimmy Dugan -- was rated No. 54 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest movie quotes, in 2005. (Much to the chagrin of Street, who told me before the All-Star Game earlier this month that he prefers one of Dugan's other lines: "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.")
The film's anniversary might have gone unnoticed, even by die-hards like me and, apparently, All-Star closers, if not for a recent obituary: Doris Sams, a star from the women's professional baseball world
The story on Sams' death appeared in The New York Times on July 1, precisely 20 years to the day after the "A League of Their Own" premiere.
Sams hit a league-record 12 home runs in 1952, when she played in 109 games, according to the Times account. She was the league's player of the year in 1947 and 1948.
Sams was, in short, a lot like Hinson -- arguably the most dominating ballplayer in cinematic history. But as it turns out, the actress who played Hinson was anything but a jock growing up. Geena Davis was tall and gawky and uncomfortable in her own skin back in high school.
"My fondest dream,'' she said, "was to take up less space in the world. I had a profoundly bad self-image."
Davis, now 56, reflected on her career, including her role as Dottie Hinson, during a speech at Cal State Northridge in April.
I happened to be in the audience that night. And by "happened to be in the audience,'' I mean I circled the date, bought third-row tickets and sped off with the blessing of my wife, who was oddly confident that I'd be coming back.
As a sportswriter who loves baseball and Geena Davis with an equal, if decidedly different, passion, it's safe to say I've seen the movie a few times. (Davis has what the baseball scouts in "Moneyball" would call "the good face.")
From the Northridge stage, Davis recalled that Debra Winger was originally tapped as the hard-hitting catcher for the Rockford Peaches. But Winger bowed out, allowing to Davis to swoop in for the role that would change her life.
It was during a crash course on baseball fundamentals that one of the college coaches noticed how quickly Davis caught on as a catcher.
"He said, 'Wow, I think you have some untapped athletic ability,' " Davis said.
Davis wound up hitting so well that the crew requested they stop using real baseballs. They took hacks at squishy replicas instead so that nothing got broken, such as a camera lens or an arm.
Those long home runs off the bat of Dottie Hinson?
"The prop guys with a gigantic slingshot,'' Davis explained.
Having discovered her inner jock, the woman who once yearned to take up less space in the world began pursuing physically demanding roles. For future movies, she learned ice skating, fencing, horseback riding and tae kwon do.
While learning to shoot a pistol for "The Long Kiss Goodnight," she discovered a knack for zeroing in on a target. Within three years, she had advanced to the Olympic trials in archery.
"Playing sports dramatically changed my self-image,'' Davis said. "This was a whole new world for me. I was 36. And it was like a rebirth."
Having experienced the transformative power of power, Davis has launched a campaign for more Dottie Hinsons.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, founded in 2004, works with the entertainment industry to increase the presence of female characters, especially in movies and television shows aimed at children.
"If girls see it, they can be it,'' Davis said. "Unfortunately, they're not seeing it."
In conjunction with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, her institute concluded that from 2006 to 2009, 80.5 percent of all working characters in G-rated family films were male, while 19.5 percent were female.
Even in crowd scenes, only 17 percent of the faces were female.
Part of the reason Davis rarely appears on screen herself these days is that there aren't many roles for formidable independent women over 50.
"Frankly, I haven't run out of money yet,'' Davis joked. "If you read that I'm playing Sean Connery's kidnapped wife, you'll know I'm broke."
That seems like an unlikely scenario for an ex-ballplayer whose prowess left an imprint 20 years ago, even on future major league All-Stars.
"Yeah, Dottie Hinson. That character was strong -- strong," Street said. "And she wasn't going to let her little sister win, either. That is an important lesson: There are no freebies in this life, in this game, in this world.
"That's kind of what that movie was about: You have to earn it."
Dan Brown is a sportswiter for the Bay Area News Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at @mercbrownie.
How does Hinson stack up against other notable fictional cinematic sluggers?
Because of my inherent bias, we'll stick to the stats: Mercury News stats whiz Mark Smith helped serve as my unofficial scorekeeper as we reviewed a handful of popular baseball films:
nRoy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in "The Natural" goes 18 for 25 with 13 home runs and 21 RBI. He also strikes out seven times.