My Favorite Movies – The Sandlot (1993)

17 May

By Tanner Smith

“The Sandlot” is a movie that I’m sure someone will start a fight about if someone else says it’s not an American classic. And I’ll back the first person up.

I’m going to be totally honest here–when I was a little kid, watching this movie about kids playing baseball was more fun to me than actually playing Little League baseball. (I mean, I like baseball–it’s America’s pastime. I just was never any good at playing it.) So why did this movie speak to me back then and why does it still speak to me now?

The simple answer is because of the kids.

These young actors are GREAT together. The way they pal around, trade insults, go on misadventures, and of course play ball together–you just feel like this is a gang of friends just having a great time. What especially makes it work is that they behave like real kids. When you have a film that looks back on childhood memories, it’s so easy to turn the children into idealized versions of themselves where fun little moments are suddenly overly whimsical, making for a certain unidentifiable nostalgia. (I know that’s how it was done in “A Christmas Story,” but that’s part of what made that film so funny.)

You can identify with Smalls, Benny, Ham, Squints, Yeah-Yeah, Denunez, Bertram, Timmy, and Tommy (you’re damn right I remember all their names!!) because they feel like real kids–not romanticized, angelic memories of BEING a kid.

That’s why this film is as cherished and beloved as it is (even by MLB members–the 25th anniversary reunion was even held at Yankee Stadium!)…and then of course, there are all these quotable lines:

“You play ball like a GIRL!!!”*
“You think too much–bet you get straight A’s and shit, huh?”
“L-7 weenie!”
And of course, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”

I also credit this movie for the reason I never once tried chewing tobacco.

Here’s a random piece of trivia: in the original screenplay, titled “The Sandlot Kids,” the reason Benny invited Smalls to play on the sandlot was because he thought his stepfather abused him–Benny witnessed the two playing catch and saw Smalls get hit in the eye and jumped to the wrong conclusion. No wonder Benny risked his life to get the stepdad’s ball back–he thought he’d kill Smalls otherwise!! Pretty dark, eh?

My favorite scene: the series of events in which the kids try to get the Babe Ruth autographed ball back from the yard guarded by The Beast and they try all kinds of harebrained schemes. I just love that THIS is the conflict for the back half of the movie and not some big game they have to prepare for.

There’s only ONE baseball game played throughout the entire movie, and that’s over and done with in just a few minutes! I love that. The rest of the baseball-playing is just them practicing and scrimmaging just for love of the game, which is ultimately refreshing.

*That’s the one funny moment in the otherwise deplorable “The Sandlot 2,” when they throw that line back at the sandlot kids, one of whom is a girl who exclaims, “Ex-CUSE me?!”

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