The Sandlot is one of those movies that gets by mostly on charm. It’s not a particularly original movie, but this story about a group of kids playing baseball during a wild summer in 1962 contains an abundance of heart mixed with a heavy dose of old-fashioned Americana.
Released at a time when sports films centered around able-minded children was a thing, The Sandlot released to middling reviews and a ho-hum box office take. I skipped it entirely but can vividly recall repeatedly heading to cinemas to watch Angels in the Outfield and Rookie of the Year. In later years, I find myself returning to The Sandlot more often. Not only does it mirror stories my dad told me about his youth, but the film captures the spirit of baseball better than most.
Where pictures like the aforementioned Rookie of the Year and Little Big League focus on the behind-the-scenes drama of the MLB, often featuring crass older men more interested in money and women than the game, The Sandlot hones in on the magic that transpires on the diamond — or, in this case, a dirt lot tucked neatly behind a neighborhood. Here, our young heroes gather to trash talk, hit a few balls, and occasionally skirmish with the local bullies. These guys play baseball out of necessity. While a few would make a living out of the sport, others simply found solace among like-minded individuals.
The Sandlot is far from a perfect film (the bit with the massive dog always struck me as an odd side quest), but it is very entertaining in that goofy 90s way. I can think of many memorable scenes that stuck with me over the years. In fact, I’ll list them for your viewing pleasure!
My dad insists he gave me a black eye while playing catch. I don’t recall that moment — maybe I blocked it from my brain, or perhaps he saw too many movies. At any rate, the bit where Smalls attempts to play catch with his stepdad always hits home. I was a lot like Smalls in my youth — skinny, shy, and completely unathletic. I was a nerd more in love with Ninja Turtles, Nintendo, and Batman than sports. So, this scene always makes me laugh.
The Pool Scene
Squints’ epic romance with Wendy Peffercorn is one for the ages. The girl is much older, but he still fakes drowning to plant a kiss on her cherry-red lips. Yeah, it’s a bit outlandish and unbelievable, but this is cinema, folks.
You Play Ball Like a Girl!
We all had that one friend growing up — the kind who talks smack to people twice his size. Here, Ham fits that role to “T” and spends a good chunk of the film playing the group’s tough guy. In one scene, he goes a rival Little League team into a game with the insult: “You play ball like a girl!” Hey, it was the 60s, kids!
Our clan heads to a carnival and hops on a spinning ride known as the Trabant after downing chewing tobacco to celebrate their victory over the Little Leaguers. The scene goes about as well as expected, replete with an absurd amount of vomit. Tellingly, this scene is one of the reasons I never tried tobacco. I hate throwing up and had no desire to try anything that would cause me to do so. Lesson learned?
The Fourth of July
Growing up, the Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I loved the gathered crowds, the music, the anticipation, and the atmosphere at sunset. It was magical. I never ran off with my friends during the holiday, but I remember playing with my brother and sister in the neighborhood while my mom and dad (and neighbors) shot fireworks all over the street. This scene captures the essence of July 4 to perfection.
I always loved the scene where Smalls knocks the ball out of the park and into the Beat’s layer, primarily due to his exasperated reaction. What should be a victory lap turns into panic as he realizes he just knocked his stepdad’s favorite ball to no man’s land. The shocked response by his friends when they learn the ball was signed by “someone named Babe Ruth” is genuinely hilarious.
While the whole dog bit never jived with me, it at least has a nice payoff. Any film culminating in a conversation with the great James Earl Jones deserves a shoutout. He willingly hands over a ball signed by the “Murders’ Row” in exchange for Smalls’ chewed-up Babe Ruth ball in a heartwarming moment. We also learn that he was a great rival of the Babe but lost his eyesight after being struck by a ball. Enjoy the moment, kids. Youth doesn’t last forever.