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Film / The Sandlot

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"Remember, kid, there's heroes and there's legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you'll never go wrong."
Babe Ruth

The Sandlot is a 1993 classic Coming of Age Story sports film, released on April 7, 1993. It was directed by David Mickey Evans, with a screenplay by Evans and Robert Gunter. It follows the summer adventures and misadventures of a group of boys and their ragtag baseball team playing on "The Sandlot," their makeshift baseball field in Los Angeles, during the summer of 1962.

Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is fairly brainy but struggles with making new friends due to being uncoordinated (as he doesn't have any skill at sports) and general shyness. In addition to being The New Guy, his mother (Karen Allen) recently remarried and he isn't quite adjusted to his new step-dad Bill (Denis Leary). Watching a group of kids play at the sandlot, he is invited to join by their best player and team leader Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar). An outcast among the group at first, Benny guides Scotty to become a decent ball player in his own right and is accepted by the others.

As the film progresses, they learn about s'mores, crushes, friendship and that growing up doesn't always mean disaster. They are also forced to match wits with "The Beast," a vicious genetically altered dog who was locked up for killing some 170 people trying to steal from the junk yard, and now lives behind the left field fence.

Basically this movie was to the kids of The '90s what The Goonies was to the kids of The '80s, and has been mentioned by many, including Roger Ebert, as a summer counterpart to A Christmas Story, with its nostalgic, episodic nature about childhood and being narrated by the writer as a grown version of the protagonist.

Two direct-to video sequels were made thirteen years after the original had came and went:

  • The Sandlot 2 (2005): Set in 1972 (ten years after the first movie) and features a new cast of kids taking over the lot. Essentially a Generation Xerox of the first movie only with girls in the group and replacing the prized baseball with a model rocket.
  • The Sandlot: Heading Home (2007): Featured a bit more originality as it features an arrogant professional baseball player getting knocked out and winding up back in 1976 (four years after the second movie) to relive his childhood and learn The Power of Friendship.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '60s: Babe Ruth, Tobacco as a baseball icon, and Smalls mentions Maury Wills "breaking the stolen bases record".
  • Actor Allusion: James Earl Jones as Mr. Mertle, since he'd also starred in Field of Dreams, another iconic baseball movie. He also originated the role of Troy Maxson—another Black man who tried to play pro baseball and ended up being forced out of the league—in Fences.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Beast. He wasn't really a villain, but it's still sad to see him crushed by the metal fence. Smalls and Benny were the only ones to take pity on him and helped him.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The script reveals that the treehouse the gang hangs out in belongs to Timmy and Tommy (which leads to some Fridge Brilliance since it's established they grow up to be successful architects after inventing mini-malls).
    • Tommy is never explicitly called by his nickname "Repeat" in the movie, but you see it in the end credits.
  • And Starring: The opening cast roll ends "with Karen Allen and James Earl Jones".
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Beast, which has a reputation for eating trespassers. He turns out to be a Big Friendly Dog who just really likes baseballs.
  • Arc Words: "Good things to good people" in Heading Home.
  • Athletically Challenged:
    • Zig-Zagged with Scotty. Scotty Smalls is this at the beginning of the film, since he had no father to teach him to play baseball and is more academically inclined. The other sandlot kids laugh and gape at his inability to either throw or catch a baseball, and his stepfather's attempt to teach him ends with him getting a black eye. However, once Benny takes the time to show him a proper throw and gives him the confidence to catch by aiming his hit directly at Scotty's glove, he seems to keep up fine with the others. However, it still takes until partway through the summer for him to get his first home run (which happens to be with the stolen Babe Ruth-signed ball), though he previously got a successful hit against the little league team.
    • When Yeah-Yeah is teasing Smalls for his terrible athletic ability, Benny points out that Yeah-Yeah himself isn't one to talk, since he runs like a duck but is still part of the team.
  • Attentive Shade Lowering: Squints' stunt to try to kiss Wendy gets the boys banned from the pool, but Scotty recalls that every time they passed the pool after that, Wendy would lower her sunglasses to look at Squints suspiciously... and smile.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: "Shit" is said three times by the kids throughout the movie, although the chewing tobacco scene and the pool scene might also have pushed it past the G rating.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Hitting a home run to left field is this for the kids because, as awesome as hitting a home run is, it means they lose their ball and can't play anymore until they scrounge up enough money to buy another one.
  • Batman Gambit: It could be argued that Squints' stunt at the pool was one of these. He nearly drowned himself just so he could kiss the lifeguard that he's been in love with for years. And although it causes him to get banned from the swimming pool for life, it also causes Wendy Peffercorn to finally take notice of him. In the end, his gambit pays off better than he ever could have imagined, because years after the film ends Squints and Wendy get married and have a lot of kids.
  • Beef Bandage: After Smalls gets a black eye while playing catch with his step-father, his mother wants to put ice on it, but his step-father just slaps a raw steak on his face.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: Subverted. A good 3/4 of the movie sets up The Beast as this terrifying nigh-supernatural monster they will eat you the instant you enter his territory, but he's a friendly dog. His son, the Fear, in The Sandlot 2 takes after him.
  • Big Eater: The fat kid in each film is often seen eating.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Benny goes out of his way to befriend Smalls, gives him his old baseball hat, and teaches him how play baseball.
  • Big Game: Notably averted for a sports movie. The guys just play together for the love of the game. Only once do they square off against another team, about midway through the movie, and the Sandlot team handily trounces their rivals without any trouble.
    • Played straight in Heading Home, which centers around a game between the sandlot kids and little league team to decide the fate of the Sandlot, as well as the fate of the protagonist.
  • Blind Black Guy: Mr. Mertle, the owner of The Beast. Smalls assumes the blind part is why he never beat Babe Ruth's record, but the implication is the black part.
  • Bookends: The movie opens and closes with Scotty at work calling a Dodgers game. It's revealed at the end Benny plays for them.
  • Brick Joke: Scotty stops wearing his dorky long-brimmed fish hat after Benny half-jokingly tells him to chuck it in the fireplace. In the last scene of the movie, we see that he didn't heed Benny's advice: he's wearing it again while announcing at the baseball game.
  • Broken Glass Penalty: The Beast's owner has an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia.
  • The Cameo: Maury Wills plays himself as a third-base coach for the Dodgers in the final scene, which acts as a small bookend as Scotty mentioned at the start of the movie moving to Southern California as a kid when Wills broke the MLB single-season stolen bases record in 1962.
  • Canis Major: The Beast was played by a real dog, but was photographed to appear near-Clifford size at times. Then again, the canine actor was a mastiff that weighed over 200 pounds, pushing this trope into Real Life territory.
  • Carrying a Cake: During the Chase Scene, two chefs carrying a large layer cake are in the path of the runners. Benny jumps over the cake, the Beast runs under it, and the other kids jostle the chefs as they run around it. When the chefs finally set the cake down safely on the table, a clown on stilts loses his balance from all the kids and falls onto the table, launching the cake into the air and landing square on the poor chefs, covering them with frosting and stuff.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Mr. Mertle took a "high hard one" to the head which caused him to go blind, ending his baseball career.
  • Centrifugal Farce: The infamous "Tequila" scene involves a bunch of kids trying chewing tobacco to emulate their baseball idols, and then getting onto a fast spinning carnival ride. A Vomit Chain Reaction ensues.
  • Chase Scene: The film's climactic scene is Benny outrunning the Beast all over the whole town and to the sandlot again; LITERALLY all over town!
  • Chekhov's Skill: Benny's incredible ability to beat fielders in a baserunning rundown (known as a "pickle" in baseball), as established from his first scene, comes in play at the end when he has to "pickle" the Beast for the Babe Ruth baseball. It also earns him the nickname "The Jet" during his professional career with the Dodgers.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr. Mertle, The Beast's owner. He's a former professional baseball player who raised The Beast.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Smalls suggests they go talk to The Beast's owner to have him get the ball back for them. Squints shoots this down, and everyone else agrees. The first thing Mr. Mertle says when they tell them they were trying to get it back is to ask why they didn't just ask him. Cue everyone shouting at Squints and hitting him over the head with their baseball caps. Better justified than most examples given the urban legends surrounding The Beast, and the fact that the main characters are kids.
    • Similarly happens in the sequel, but worse since the main character is the younger brother of Smalls and so should know better.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Despite the snobby team's arrogance, Benny and company completely dominated the game against them. The snobs never got a hit off, and once the Sandlot team had their turn at bat, they stayed at bat until the end of the day.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: "You play ball like a girl!" Hey, it is the summer of 1962.
  • Dirty Coward: EJ. Before he leaves, he tells Ryan to fight his own battles.
  • Doomed Autographed Item: Benny hits the team's only baseball so hard that he knocks the cover off. With his stepfather Bill away on business, Scotty borrows a baseball from his trophy room that is autographed by legendary player Babe Ruth. Being ignorant of baseball history, Scotty does not realize the ball's value, and hits his first home run, sending it into the Beast's yard. When the other boys learn of the autograph, they tell Scotty its value and make several attempts to get the ball out of the yard using makeshift retrieval devices, but each is destroyed by the Beast.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Tobacco is bad for you. Chewing tobacco, in this case.
  • Exact Words: Throughout the movie, adult Smalls keeps mentioning how that summer, they got into the biggest "pickle" they'd ever seen; the climax involves Benny having to best the Beast in a rundown, or in baseball slang, a "pickle", in order to get back the Babe Ruth ball.
  • Evil Counterpart: Thematically, "The Beast" is this to "The Babe". Both of them are larger-than-life legends, but the kids look up to Babe Ruth as a revered hero, while they see the Beast as a dreaded monster. Appropriately, the Beast turns out to be named "Hercules", and it turns out that his owner knew Babe Ruth personally.
  • Fan Myopia: In-Universe, most of the boys assume that everyone knows who Babe Ruth is and what he did, so they generally call him "The Bambino." This lack of clarification on Ruth and his career results in Smalls, new to the game, not realizing just how valuable his stepfather's Ruth-autographed baseball is, and thus using it to play ball (which ends up in the possession of The Beast after a homer).
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Type 4.
    Hamilton: You play ball like a GIRL!
    (Mass "Oh, Crap!" reactions)
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Mr. Mertle is known as one to the Sandlot team. "He's the one who made The Beast eat that kid!" This is a subversion as neither is really as bad as the children originally believed.
  • Grounded Forever: Subverted; Smalls clearly fears this fate, and is glad when his dad decides to only ground him for one week.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Smalls, knowing nothing about baseball, assumes that "Babe Ruth" was a girl.
  • Gendered Insult: Ham throws down the gauntlet to the rival team by declaring, "You play ball like a GIRL!" Them's fighting words.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Squints has a hopeless crush on the lifeguard at the local swimming pool, Wendy Peffercorn. He is so desperate for her to notice him that he nearly drowns himself just so that he can give her a kiss while she's performing CPR on him. During the film's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue we learn that Squints and Wendy eventually got married and had nine kids. They are still happily married in Heading Home.
  • Groin Attack: In Heading Home, Two-ton wants to kick Tommy in the balls after he was knocked in the head.
  • Hammered into the Ground: Smalls mentioned having a dream about a giant baseball signed by Babe Ruth that "fell out of the sky and hammered him into the ground like a railroad spike".
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Wendy Peffercorn has two scenes. The first has just Squints and Yeah-yeah staring at her entranced. The second, in the pool, has all nine boys staring at her.
  • Historical Domain Character: Babe Ruth. As a character he only appears in a dream sequence, but his memory influences the entire plot.
  • The Hero: Smalls is The Protagonist but Benny is the classical Hero because he is the one taking heroic action. Jumping into the Beast's territory and then outrunning it all over town is comparable to a modern day Herculean feat.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Scotty and Benny seem to be heading in this direction with Mr. Mertle at the end of the film. Part of the deal they make at the end is talking baseball with him on a weekly basis.
  • I Have Many Names: All of the boys (except Smalls at first, since he's new to baseball) idolize Babe Ruth, and they commonly refer to him by one of Ruth's numerous nicknames (most commonly, The Bambino). In fact, only Mr. Mertle uses Ruth's real first name, George.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Ham and Phillips throw a bunch of perverse insults at each other, but Ham topping it off with "you play ball like a GIRL!" really hits a hot button for Phillips.
  • Karma Houdini: Johnnie in the second movie manages to return the model spaceship back to the Goodfairers' garage without so much as a talking to about his actions. Subverted with Scotty in the first movie, who is punished for a week for having taken Bill's signed Babe Ruth baseball and getting it destroyed but it's implied that this is actually shortened due to Bill being awestruck when Scotty gives him a replacement autographed by Mr. Mertle, whom Bill was a fan of when Mertle played alongside the Babe.
  • Kiss of Life: Squints deliberately pretends to drown in order to get the kiss of life from a hot lifeguard (who is played by Marley Shelton so you can hardly blame him). The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that Squints and the lifeguard eventually got married and had a lot of kids.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Benny cracks his knuckles when he faces off with the Beast. He does it with one hand, pinching his fore- and middle-fingers with his thumb.
  • Madness Mantra: The sign of Squints' frustration reaching its peak is the semi-deranged chanting of "Lotioning...oiling...lotioning...oiling..."
  • The Magnificent: Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez.
  • Male Gaze: Wendy Peffercorn's introduction ends with a long tracking shot of her butt as she walks down the street in slow-motion. To say nothing of the extended slo-mo shot of her applying sunscreen.
  • Malingering Romance Ploy: Michael 'Squints' Palledorous (the one with the glasses), has it bad for Wendy Peffercorn, the lifeguard of the town's major swimming pool and one of the most beautiful girls of the town. So during the scene where the Sandlot kids are at the swimming pool, Squints fakes a drowning so that Wendy will rescue him and give him mouth-to-mouth, just before he puts his arm around her and kisses her long and good. Wendy is pissed ("You little pervert!"), and this little stunt gets the kids banned from the pool for life, but it's made clear at the end of the scene that this is what ends up starting their eventual romance when Squints gets older.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Mertle to the Sandlot gang. They think he's a terrifying beast master but he's really a Cool Old Guy who used to play professional baseball.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Wendy Peffercorn has two scenes that show her reducing Squints to ga-ga eyes just by existing.
  • New Kid Stigma: Scotty has a hard time making friends at first because his family moved to the neighborhood at the end of the school year. When he tries to make friends with the sandlot kids, they all treat him as too much of a square to play baseball with them, except for Benny.
  • New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Scotty's mother had just married a new man he doesn't connect with off the bat. After gaining new friends and learning about baseball, he begins to find some more common ground with him and says in the closing narration he soon had no problem calling him "dad".
  • Nice Guy: Benny's niceness as noted under Big Brother Mentor is all the more apparent in contrast with the other members of his team.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: The adult Scotty, voiced by the film's writer-director David M. Evans. This is also true in the first sequel, with adult Johnnie also being voiced by Evans.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The dog, A.K.A. Hercules. The whole movie revolves around the boys' fear of the dog on the other side of the fence. They have believed that the dog was a monster that wanted to kill them. The truth? It's just a big dog who wants to play and may have been protecting its territory because it thought the boys were threatening.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Rather: "OH SHIT!" when The Beast leaps over the fence to get the ball back from Benny.
    • Also the team's reaction when Smalls tells them the ball he hit over the fence was signed by "Baby Ruth", which is further accompanied by much shouting.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Subverted; it initially appears like the Sandlot ragtag team have met their villainous match midway through the film with a rival team that is introduced, complete with snobby attitude and nice uniforms. In the very next scene the Sandlot team defeats them in blow-out fashion.
  • Pet the Dog: In the film's climax, after the confrontation with The Beast, the sandlot fence falls on The Beast, trapping him. Smalls and Benny eventually move the fence enough to let The Beast out, resulting in Smalls being inches away from The Beast. What does the dog do, inches from one of the kids that he's been unable to get at the whole film? What any Big Friendly Dog would do, particularly after being helped out - he happily licks Smalls' face.
  • Phrase Catcher: Smalls gets "You're killing me, Smalls!" several times from Ham.
  • Playing Catch with the Old Man: Scottie's dad's attempts to teach Scottie to play. Scottie takes a baseball through his glove and through his hand to the face, injuring him. It's played for laughs; Scottie is terrible at baseball, but his dad still cares.
  • Politically Correct History: The first movie takes place in 1962 and features Benny, who's Hispanic, and Kenny, who's black, hanging out with white kids all around town with no one batting an eye (their races aren't even commented upon). At the time, institutionalized racial segregation was still in effect and even in a more liberal area like Southern California, you'd be hard pressed to find a black kid playing baseball with a bunch of white kids (even a Hispanic kid would be considered pushing it).
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: In-universe, Smalls is such a baseball neophyte that he doesn't even know who Babe Ruth was, let alone his nickname "the Great Bambino", a failing which comes back to bite him hard in the second half.
    "Even my mom, a grown up girl, knew who Babe Ruth was!"
  • Product Placement: For PF Flyers who were trying to launch a comeback based on the returning popularity of their main competitor, the Converse All-Stars. Smalls-As-Narrator even says that they're "guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher."
  • The Quiet One: Ryan from Heading Home, who hasn't talked since his dad died. He starts talking again when he got angry at Tommy switching teams. He then tells the other team to stop talking so he can speak up giving a Rousing Speech.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The sandlot team to a tee: Benny (The Ace), Smalls (Nave Newcomer), Squints (Guile Hero), Ham (Boisterous Bruiser), etc.
  • Relative Button: In Heading Home, you talk about Tommy's mom or bring up her illness, he'll go Quentin Tarantino on you.
  • Retired Badass: Mr. Mertle played professionally, was such a close friend of Babe Ruth that he called him by his real name, George, and could have equaled or even surpassed the Babe in terms of skill, had he not lost his vision via a fastball to the face.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Cracked posited that the entire movie can be read as a metaphor for the desegregation of baseball. The Sandlot boys are all multi-racial and scrappy while the Jerkass rich popular team is all well-off and white. The Beast represents the monster of prejudice, which gets torn down when they topple the fence and find the cache of lost baseballs, allowing them to play forever. Mr. Mertle is even built up as a scary old man who, perhaps not coincidentally, is played by a black actor and revealed to be friendly once the boys get to know him.
  • Scary Black Man: What everyone assume Mr. Mertle to be because "He's the one who made the Beast eat that kid!" He's actually a Cool Old Guy.
  • Shadow Archetype: Mr. Mertle to Benny. In his youth, he was just as devoted to baseball as Benny, until a wayward ball cost him his eyesight, and forced him to find something else to live for. He cautions Benny against getting too obsessed with the game like he did. Fittingly, Benny follows in his footsteps and becomes a professional baseball player.
  • Shout-Out: Mr. Mertle is basically an expy of James Earl Jones' character in Field of Dreams.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Plays into the dynamic of the Sandlot's crew versus their uniformed rivals; the rivals appear to be a collection of WASPs, and all wear uniform clothing, while the crew is a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits that's racially diverse, includes the new kid in town, a somewhat rotund future pro-wrestler, and yet are so utterly devoted to baseball for the fun of it that they crush their uniformed counterparts.
  • Speaking Up for Another: After the other Sandlot boys laugh at Scotty Smalls for his terrible baseball skills, Benny points out that Yeah-Yeah is one to talk, since he "runs like a duck", but is still part of the team. "So, how come [Scotty] don't get to be?" Adult Scotty's narration indicates he wouldn't have made a single friend in his new neighborhood if Benny hadn't given him a chance to learn how to play that summer.
    Benny: (fed up) Man, base up, you blockheads!
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • When the rest of the team gets angry at Ham for hitting their ball over the fence, Scott doesn't see what the trouble is and says he'll just go get the ball over the fence. This causes everyone else to freak out and pull him away from the fence, explaining the backstory of the Beast.
    • Scott points out when they first lose the Babe Ruth ball that they could just ask Mr. Mertle to get the ball for them. Squints shoots him down, saying that Mr. Mertle is too much of a Jerkass to do that. When Mr. Mertle himself later asks why they didn't just come to him, the team shouts at Squints for all the trouble they went through.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Though Scott is the viewpoint character as well as the narrator, it's obvious that Benny is the real hero because he's the one taking the heroic action.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The sequels each have a loudmouth fat kid, like Ham, in the Sandlot gang.
  • Team Pet:
    • Hercules, aka, "The Beast" becomes the mascot for the Sandlot team.
    • One of Hercules' children, Goliath aka "The Great Fear", does likewise in The Sandlot 2.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: "You play ball like a GIRL!". Them's fighting words.
  • Truth in Television: English Mastiffs like The Beast are bred to be intimidating in appearance, but Big Friendly Dogs in temperament.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: The Fear (Goliath) in the sequel is a lot like his father the Beast.
  • Verbal Tic: Three guesses as to what Yeah-Yeah's is.
  • Wham Line: "Why didn't you just knock on the door? I'd have gotten [the baseball] for you."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Sandlot crew were shocked and appalled when they found out Smalls took without permission his step-dad's Babe Ruth autographed baseball and actually played with it, resulting in it getting taken by The Beast. To them, a ball autographed by Babe Ruth is as precious as a diamond.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: As is typical for these types of films, the end has Scott narrating what ultimately became of his friends, as their images fade out one by one. At the very end, we're treated to a Time Skip showing that Scott is now a sports commentator, and Benny plays baseball professionally for their hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, where his legendary running ability has earned him the nickname "The Jet".
  • Widescreen Shot: All over this movie, since it was filmed in J-D-C note . People tend to be very spread out when they're on a baseball field.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When the gang go to play baseball on the 4th of July, they hit the ball just as the fireworks are going off. They are so mesmerized they all stop playing just to watch.
  • Worthy Opponent: Benny is seen as such to the snobby players. "You shouldn't be allowed to touch a baseball. Except for Rodriguez, you're all an insult to the game!"
  • Would Hit a Girl: Singleton, in the sequel, punches Hayley in the stomach to stop her from reaching homeplate. David responds by decking him in the face.
    Johnnie Smalls: (narrating) When Singleton realized he was gonna lose, he did something so wrong, that David took his first step down the road of greatness.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Squints deliberately jumps into the deep end of the pool, despite not swimming well, because he knows that Wendy Peffercorn, who is on lifeguard duty, will drag him out and give him mouth-to-mouth. While he may have actually passed out at first from this, he certainly was aware enough at the end to fake being unconscious long enough to get her close enough for a kiss.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Ham grows up to be a professional wrestler, professionally known as The Great Hambino.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Benny successfully pickles The Beast to get the ball back...which leads to the Oh, Crap! moment above.