SPRINGDALE -- The bond among the stars from A League of Their Own remains strong almost 25 years after the film was released.
"It's 20 years later and we're still playing," said Patti Pelton, who portrayed Marbelann Wilkenson in the film, which chronicled an all-women's baseball league established in the 1940s. "It's great to be here. It's a gift that keeps on giving."
Pelton, joined by other cast members, area executives and high-profile athletes, capped the second annual Bentonville Film Festival with a reunion softball game Sunday afternoon at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale.
"This event was so popular last year that we decided to do it again," said Geena Davis, co-founder of the festival. "And I'm so thrilled to have six of my Rockford Peaches castmates attending the game this year."
The five other Peaches -- the team portrayed in the film -- were Marla Hooch, played by Megan Cavanagh; Shirley Baker, played by Ann Cusack; Betty "Spaghetti" Horn, played by Tracy Reiner; Helen Haley, played by Anne Ramsay; and Ellen Sue Gotlander, played by Freddie Simpson.
Davis portrayed catcher Dottie Hinson in the movie. Davis didn't play this year, but she managed the blue team.
The game was a rout. The blue team, blessed with athletes like former Arkansas Razorbacks running back Peyton Hillis and former professional soccer player Cobi Jones, won 20-4.
Hillis hit two inside-the-park home runs. On the second, he jogged home backward from third base.
When the game started to get lopsided, Cavanagh -- manager of the red team -- stormed the field, tossed her hat and kicked some dirt on the home plate umpire.
ESPN reporter and espnW.com columnist Sarah Spain served as play-by-play announcer. When the blue team opened a large lead over the red team, composed mostly of local executives and cast members, Spain questioned whether the two teams were playing "slaughter ball" instead of softball.
Spain drew more laughs from the crowd when she started ticking off potential names for the red team. They included Bleeding Hearts, Seeing Red and The Team Wal-Mart Paid to Beat.
In the later innings, Gina "Chirpie" Casey made a plate appearance. Casey was 13 when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League formed in 1943. She played for the league's minor-league affiliates in the 1950s.
After a handful of practice swings, Casey belted an inside-the-park home run. She was mobbed by her team at home plate as the crowd burst into cheers.
Despite the lopsided score, Steven Shryock said everyone "had a wonderful time."
"It was a fantastic event," said Shryock, a senior national account manager for Mars Chocolate who played for the red team. "It's a great thing for the community as well as [the film festival]."
After the game, Davis thanked the fans for their hospitality during the six-day festival and promised an even bigger event next year.
"We've had the best time," she said. "Everybody loves Bentonville. Obviously we'll be back again next year. And it's all because of your incredible support."
Metro on 05/09/2016