This summer marked the 20th anniversary of The Sandlot – one of my all-time favourite movies. The Sandlot encompasses all of the greatness of being a kid. It’s simply crafted, hilarious, moving, and undeniably entertaining. As was the trend in the 90’s, it’s a coming of age story told through sports. It reminds me, and a whole generation of grown-up kids, of summers spent getting into trouble with a gangly group of friends.
The Sandlot is a rare kid’s movie that aged well. No special effects necessary – just a great story about a neighbourhood legend. The story really stands out. Even on the first viewing, the movie feels nostalgic. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a narrated flashback movie, or that it takes place in the 1960’s. It’s a movie that feels personal – like an inside joke, or a family tale passed down through generations. It’s always felt like a tradition. The jokes never get old, and you never feel too old to watch it. It’s a rare and beautiful thing when you can connect to a movie that way. Whether it’s the sports, the story, the summer or the characters – there’s a lot to love in The Sandlot.
The Line Up
We meet The Sandlot crew through Scotty Smalls. The new kid – having moved to a new town at the start of summer vacation, with no friends and no hope. The entire movie is a retelling – the grown up Scotty Smalls reminiscing about the most important summer of his life.
Smalls gets the summer adventure he’s been waiting for when he stumbles upon the guys at the sandlot. They play baseball for hours, no keeping score, no teams – just for the sake of playing. Neighbourhood baseball-god, Benny Rodriguez, takes Smalls under his wing, teaches him baseball, stresses the significance of Babe Ruth, and introduces him to our lineup…
Smalls comes off as a dweeb, a nerd, a square…an L-7 weenie. No athletic skill. No idea how to play baseball. Thinks Babe Ruth is some lady named “Baby Ruth”. Intimidated by his distant stepfather (played by Dennis Leary!). Book smart – not street smart.
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez
I will forever have a crush on Benny the Jet. Cool guy. Talented baseball player. Runs faster and jumps higher than any other kid. Nice guy. Leader of the team. All around dreamboat.
Hamilton “Ham” Porter
Back-catcher. The obligatory fat kid. Hilarious. Loves to eat. Great at talking smack (more on this later).
Alan ‘Yeah-Yeah’ McClennan
Fast-talking idea-man. Runs like a duck. Starts every sentence with “yeah, yeah….”
Big shot. Ladies man. Story teller. The source of most of the drama. Absolute loud-mouth. Future Mr. Wendy Peffercorn.
Kenny “The Heat” DeNunez
The Pitcher. Famous for his heater fastball pitch. You definitely remember this actor (Brandon Adams) from every kid’ sports flick in the 90’s…. also coined the phrase “Cake Eater” in the Mighty Ducks.
Bertram Grover Weeks
Weird kid. Doesn’t say much… every team has one of these.
Timmy and Tommy Timmons
Carbon Copy Brothers. Poor Timmy is subjected to his mimicking mini-me brother Tommy. Anyone with a younger sibling relates to our man Timmy. SHUT UP TOMMY!
The best thing about these kids is that they talked like real kids, fought like real kids and complained like real kids. They were the regular kids. We get a real summer with these guys. This oddball gang gets into a lot of trouble over the course of a few short weeks.
The Sandlot Crew vs. The Neighbourhood Pee-wee Team. An epic showdown. This was the source material for a lot of our neighbourhood trash talking. I still use these insults to this day.
Most people who didn’t have the luxury of a private pool (or a friend that had one) were subjected to the public pool. On the hottest day of the year, our pals get into some more trouble down at the pool when Squints’ hormones get the best of him.
Boys of Summer
Even with the over the top antics, the movie still feels like a typical summer that we’ve all had: with trips to a carnival or theme park, sleepovers, camp outs, smores, barbeques and baseball. One of the most beautiful scenes in the movie occurs during the annual 4th of July night game. Being a kid and playing any sport under a night sky and artificial lighting always made me feel like I had hit the big time, entered the big leagues. It was like playing in a stadium packed full of fans. It was magic. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a movie that better captured that feeling than The Sandlot.
The real trouble comes when Smalls hits his first official homerun…normally, a cause for celebration – except, this time the ball has been hit into the territory of the fearsome “BEAST”. This yard is the place where baseballs go to die, the point of no return. The beast is a mythical giant-dog-creature I won’t ever be able to explain this story better than our friend Squints.
Another big (potentially life-ending) problem…the homerun ball… it just happened to be Smalls’ stepfather’s prized baseball, you know, the one signed by BABE RUTH?! Thus begins our epic quest to retrieve the baseball from the clutches of the BEAST. Of course, to adults, the Beast is just a dog, but to a kid, it becomes an insurmountable monster. It’s hilarious and exaggerated. They have so much fun trying and failing to get this ball back. The guys pull out all the stops, using vacuum cleaner contraptions, mission impossible type antics, and remote controlled robots. Its exactly the kind of solutions that any kid would come up with. Finally, when all of their bright ideas have been exhausted, Benny has an epiphany in the form of his hero – Babe Ruth. Benny decides to face the Beast.
Heroes and Legends
Heroes and legends are a big theme in this movie. Each one of the kids has their moment of glory – a time to have guts and face their fears. For Squints, its finally kissing Wendy Peffercorn (the lifeguard), for Smalls – its standing up to his stepdad, for Timmy and Yeah Yeah its when they come up with crazy ideas to get back the Babe Ruth ball, its Kenny’s heater fastball, Bertram’s chewing tobacco, and Ham’s insults. Each one of these kids is a legend and a hero.
While Babe Ruth is Benny’s hero and a baseball legend, Benny is the hero to every single member of the Sandlot crew. He’s the leader, the coach and the star of the team. Benny paves his way from hero to legend in an incredible showdown against the BEAST.
“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die”.
Even if you’re not a baseball fan, it’s a great little flick – with big laughs and quotable scenes. It fits with movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me. It’s bittersweet, it’s about growing up and how your friends change you.
“We all lived in the neighborhood for a couple of more years-mostly through junior high school-and every summer was great. But none of them ever came close to that first one. When one guy would move away, we never replaced him on the team with anyone else. We just kept the game going like he was still there.”
– Scott Smalls
I grew up as a sandlot kid. I lived across the street from a sandlot, played ball with the kids on my street until the sun went down, bought a pair of PF Flyers (which I still own), had a neighbourhood ghost story, and got into trouble. The Sandlot hasn’t aged a bit. I still laugh at every joke and I still have a bit of a crush on Benny The Jet. It will always remind me of what it’s like to be a kid in summer. I will love this movie FOR-EV-ER.