Penny Marshall left mark on Huntingburg


Photo by Chrystyna Czajkowsky/AP
Director Penny Marshall in December 1990

HUNTINGBURG — Penny Marshall’s interest in League Stadium led to its revitalization.

She liked the stadium, and thus decided to use it in her 1992 movie, “A League of Their Own.”

“She was a very nice person,” said Connie Nass, who was mayor of Huntingburg at the time. “I liked her from the beginning. She was nice, but stern. She could take control if she needed to. We kinda matched up, in that respect.”

Marshall, a beloved actress and director of several movies, including “A League of Their Own,” died Monday night. She was 75.

Marshall starred in the television comedy “Laverne & Shirley” with Cindy Williams from 1976 to 1983. She directed several episodes of the show before moving on to movies.

She directed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” starring Whoopi Goldberg, and “Big” with Tom Hanks, “Awakenings” with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, “The Preacher’s Wife” with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, and “Riding in Cars With Boys,” with Drew Barrymore.

“A League of Their Own” brought Marshall, Hanks, and actresses Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell to Huntingburg in 1991.

Nass’ first encounter with Marshall was that same year at a secret meeting she had with her and Dennis Benatar, the location manager for the movie. Nass had heard about producers looking for a vintage baseball field. She, admittedly, crashed a meeting Evansville officials were having with the Indiana Film Commission to promote her city’s stadium.


A large yellow lighting gel was carried past a set of lights just outside the stadium during filming of the movie. (Herald file photos)

“After that, Marshall, (movie location manager) Dennis Benatar and I met secretly,” Nass said. “We met under the grandstand. Penny really liked the trees and the stadium. I told her about the history of the stadium and showed them lots pictures, which they really liked.”

League Stadium was selected as the home field for the Rockford Peaches for the movie.

The two had a solid working relationship, Nass said of her and Marshall. They were intricately involved in negotiating the details for the stadium’s use and remodeling. And Nass was around for a lot of the filming, and remembers a few incidents from when the crew and actors were there.

One incident forced Marshall to stop filming for a day. “She was angry with the people in the stands because they wouldn’t be quiet; they kept talking and laughing,” Nass recalled. “I went up and asked someone why they wouldn’t be quiet.”

What she found out was that Madonna, one of the actresses in the movie wasn’t wearing anything under her short baseball skirt. “When she came up to bat and bent over to put some dirt on her hands, she was basically mooning everyone,” Nass said. “Of course I told Penny. And she was not happy about that. But I mean, how could they not laugh in seeing that?”

Another incident involved the city pool, which had been shut down during the filming. One evening, Nass was called for an emergency at the pool.

“When I got there, I found Penny, Tom Hanks, a few other people and a couple of dogs swimming in the pool,” Nass said. “Shutting down the pool was part of the negotiations earlier. The filters had been shut off. It had to be nasty in there. I remember wondering if Tom Hanks’ hair was going to turn colors.”

That riled Nass’ feathers.

“I yelled at them to get out and told them that I didn’t want to see them in it again,” she said, “and they did, immediately. I was so angry.”

"Harold's Naildrivers" worked into the night to complete renovation of Huntingburg's stadium for "A League of Their Own." Two new wings were added to the renovated 1894 grandstand.

Overall, the relationship Nass and the city had with Marshall was good, she said.

“Penny liked antiques,” Nass recalled. “That’s why Huntingburg ended up with so many antique stores suddenly, like 13 or 14. We kept many of those stores for a long time.”

Marshall even purchased items locally. Lovie Werne, whose late husband ran the antique store Good Things at that time, remembered Marshall buying from the store. Good Things was already established well before Marshall and the movie crew arrived in town.

“I believe it was furniture,” she said. “It was a truckload of antiques.”

Lovie’s husband handled the store’s transactions, so she didn’t know what all was in the load, she said.

Huntingburg also learned that the film crew liked cappuccinos. But no place in the city had them. So Nass turned to the cafe restaurant Fat N Sassy. “I went to Rosie Rosenblatt and told him that we don’t have a place that has cappuccinos. So he got a cappuccino machine,” she said.

Marshall’s impact on Huntingburg is still noted today. The city is still recognized for its part in “A League of Their Own.” And the stadium is well utilized.

“The stadium remodeling changed Huntingburg tremendously,“ Nass said. “And it still is vital to our community.”

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