What’s more amazing/disturbing, that The Sandlot is turning 20 years old or that it didn’t open in the summertime? One generation’s beloved celebration of baseball and coming of age opened on April 9, 1993. That’s a couple weeks from now, but we figured we’d highlight the occasion early because a special anniversary Blu-ray hits stores this Tuesday.
Let’s look back. Unforgiven had just won Best Picture. We were more than a month into the Waco siege. Snow’s “Informer” was pushing through its first month as the #1 single in America. While the adults were off watching Indecent Proposal the same weekend, their children were seeing The Sandlot, yet it really built its audience on video and through constant TV play over the two decades that followed.
How has it struck a chord with so many people when it’s really just a rehash of Stand By Me with a more family friendly plot and James Earl Jones playing a character a little too reminiscent of his role in Field of Dreams? Below are some of the scenes that have stood out for us all these years, and we invite you to share your own favorite moment from the movie down below.
The most memorable part for us doesn’t have anything to do with baseball, except that the kids’ outing at the pool happened because it was too hot for most of them to run around a field. It’s this sort of scene that makes The Sandlot more than a sports film. It’s a summer film. It’s a going through puberty film. It’s a games and pool and camp outs and fireworks and carnivals film. And it’s totally Squints’ film. He steals the movie, and it’s good to know actor Chauncey Leopardi is still working. Not only did he transition to become recurring bully Alan White on Freaks and Geeks but he then reprised the role of Squints in the direct-to-DVD sequel The Sandlot: Heading Home. He’s also in the new movie Coldwater, which just debuted at SXSW.
This movie had two scene stealers, of course, the other one being Patrick Renna, the overweight freckly redhead punk who made a short career out of being … the overweight freckly redhead punk. This will always be the first and best for his shtick, though, and nothing is more memorable than this little bit of smack-talking. Obviously this movie is set way before it was known that girls can play baseball. It would be another decade and a half before Tatum O’Neal would show the boys what’s what in The Bad News Bears. It is kind of funny that this movie also came out less than a year after A League of Their Own. Not that any kids were thinking about that when Ham delivers his winning insult. In fact, kids like him are probably still provoking other kids with the claim that they play ball like a girl.
Chaw at the Carnival
You can’t be a Stand By Me knockoff without a puking scene. Actually, around this time, you couldn’t be a movie for adolescents without a puking scene. And isn’t it great that it taught young men the dangers of tobacco? Normally films like this would have a scene with the boys trying cigarettes for the first time. But because it’s a baseball-themed coming of age story, it’s gotta be chaw. Specifically, Big Chief… “The Best!” Why couldn’t they just pretend with wads of Big League Chew? The chaw-like gum wasn’t around for another 18 years. You know what, though? The Trabant amusement ride wasn’t around yet either. The first were made in 1963. The following clip features some fans’ vocal redub and different soundtrack, but it’s the clearest of clips of this scene available, and it goes to show how much people love this movie (also see the “For-Ev-Er” meme).
Who’s Babe Ruth?
If you’ve ever been a kid that was clueless about something, this scene’s for you. Sure, it’s hard to believe a boy Smalls’ age wouldn’t have at least heard of Babe Ruth, but that’s not entirely the point even if it does provide a good MacGuffin. It couldn’t have just been any famous, yet not so famous, baseball player or it wouldn’t have an impact. Actually, it probably needed to be Babe Ruth, someone every single kid in the audience is familiar with to really drive home the issue of the kid’s naivety. It’s just like the scene earlier when he doesn’t know what a s’more is. Who doesn’t know what a s’more is? Well, that provided a really cheesy Vaudevillian sort of routine between Smalls and Ham (“how can I have s’more of something I haven’t had yet?”) — reminiscent of the Pepsi Free/Tab bit in Back to the Future mixed with the slumber party scene in Grease, by the way. And this one provides a silly little word play thing with Ruth’s name. Then, of course, the matter of the name is built upon by showcasing all his nicknames spouted by the whole gang. Well, not all his nicknames. Check out all those listed in this article at Grantland. Our favorite is probably “the Infant of Swategy.”
Benny Vs. the Beast
One way to top Stand By Me is to have a big junkyard-type dog chase one of the kids, but extend it to the point of overkill. There’s a return to the pool, some cake-smashing slapstick and the animal leaping through a movie screen (how did they not make it a 3-D movie??). This sequence, in which Hercules, aka “the Beast,” goes after Benny (Mike Vitar) through the town, is edited all crazy, too. We love how the chase is intercut with all these shots of people watching The Wolf Man so that even while the dialogue is sort of commenting on the whole thing, the foreshadowing is so, so, so overdone. The dog POV movement is nutty. The transitions are weird. All together, it’s such a bizarrely bad sequence that it’s hard not to love it.
Where Are They Now?
No, this isn’t a clip showing where all the actors are (you can find that slideshow elsewhere), it’s another part of the movie that’s very much like Stand By Me, only none of the Sandlot kids were killed (then again, Bertram might have died in a bad drug trip or something…). It’s a lot more positive. And while a lot of these “what happened to…” movie endings are sort of annoying — just let the story end, y’know? — this one is really endearing. And the final revelation puts a big smile on your face. It’d be like if at the end of Stand By Me Richard Dreyfuss headed out and met up with an older Chris, who was now his literary agent or something. Isn’t it awesome, too, that Benny has a mustache when he’s older? Given the original setting, this little epilogue does take place in the ’80s, after all.
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