When Consequence asked the question, “Who plays the Black woman who throws the baseball back in A League of Their Own?” earlier this month, we suspected that doing so might help the answer emerge. We maybe didn’t expect it to happen so fast. Within two hours of publication, thanks to social media and Evansville, Indiana station WEHT, a name emerged: DeLisa Chinn-Tyler.
Thus, days after being told that searching for her would be a “needle in a haystack,” Consequence was able to speak directly with Chinn-Tyler via phone about her life, her experience making the film, and the sport which brought her to on-screen immortality.
Chinn-Tyler’s journey to the screen begins with her seeing an ad in an Evansville paper about tryouts for the film. “I was just ecstatic, and I called up a bunch of girls that I grew up playing softball with,” she tells us. “I said, ‘Hey, they’re going to shoot a movie, and they’re having tryouts.'”
The other women told her that “they don’t want Black women. You’ll be wasting your time.” But she went to the tryouts anyway because, she had decided, “They’re going to have to tell me that they don’t want any Black women.”
Chinn-Tyler was 32 when A League of Their Own came out in 1992, and 31 when filming took place. (She’ll turn 62 this August.) She played softball competitively starting in 1971, at the age of 11, even playing on the Little League boys baseball team across the street from her childhood home for a few years: “They would always have boys baseball, but nothing for the girls,” she says, but she and another girl she knew from softball “were pretty tough. So we joined that team.”
As a softball player, she got to travel and compete all around the US, including Nashville, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Milwaukee, because “Women’s softball was kind of big at that time, and we got invited to tournaments and we just traveled on the weekends.”
Chinn-Tyler clearly had skills. However, at the A League of Their Own tryouts, she was in fact informed that Black women wouldn’t be cast as members of the teams, as during the time period in which the film was set, the league wasn’t integrated. But director Penny Marshall was present for the auditions, and saw Chinn-Tyler play.
“With my athletic ability in softball, I was really outshining the rest,” she says. “So she asked me if she could talk to me, and she was telling me that she was impressed with my arm and my abilities. And she said that she had discussed with some of the other people that were helping her direct the movie, and she had decided to rewrite a part and wanted to know if I was interested — she told me it would be me picking up a passed ball and throwing it to Geena Davis.”