June 25, 2019
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A Film of Our Own

Two decades ago, a movie about America’s pastime became a local obsession
Justin Scheller with Tom Hanks

When fans head to Bosse Field this summer for Evansville Otters baseball games, they won’t see athletes in skirts, but they will see a painted message that urges the crowd to “Support the Racine Belles.” The slogan hearkens back to A League of Their Own, a $40 million movie starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna.

For the fictionalized portrayal of a World War II-era women’s baseball league, Columbia Pictures officials wanted a down-home, Midwestern setting. They found it in Southwest Indiana. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the filming, which pumped $10 million into the local economy and captivated the Tri-State during the steamy summer of 1991.

Local landmarks are visible throughout the movie. The film’s featured baseball team, the Rockford Peaches, played home games at League Stadium in Huntingburg, Ind. Evansville’s Bosse Field (1701 N. Main St.), built in 1915, was home to the Peaches’ rival team, the Racine Belles. The Ribeyre Gymnasium in New Harmony, Ind., was a batting practice location; a historic Henderson, Ky., home at 612 N. Main St. served as home to the Peaches; and the north-of-Evansville Hornville Tavern was the destination for the team’s night out on the town.

Plenty of local faces, too, made it to the big screen — most were extras in crowd shots. Justin Scheller, a Wadesville, Ind., native, was cast as Stilwell Gardner. Scheller was just 5 years old when his mother saw an audition notice and took him to try out. To the family’s surprise, the kindergartener beat out hundreds of other children for the role of a ballplayer’s bratty son. He spent six months filming the movie, being tutored on set in between scenes. “I remember stupid stuff a 5-year-old would remember,” Scheller says — games of catch with Tom Hanks, gourmet food spreads with flown-in Maine lobster, swimming in Lake Michigan while filming in Chicago.

Despite his early success, Scheller — now a social studies teacher and football coach in French Lick, Ind., who turns 26 this year — didn’t pursue a career in acting. His parents, he says, “just wanted me to have a normal childhood.”

For more information on Bosse Field and a 2011 game schedule for the Evansville Otters, a Frontier League baseball team, visit www.evansvilleotters.com. General game admission is $5.

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