You’re Killing Me Smalls: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Sandlot

Posted July 22, 2013 in

The kids of the original Sandlot cast sit in a makeshift dugout signing autographs for a crowd of hundreds. Photo: Cara Stosich
Tucked back behind brick bungalows and unassuming chain-link fences is a field whose notoriety is surpassed only by the fantastic one-liners associated with the movie based on it (We’ve all called someone an L7 weenie at some point, right?). That field is The Sandlot, and on a hot and sweaty Saturday in July, hundreds of people flocked to Navajo Street in Glendale to participate in one of the best anniversary celebrations of the year.

It has been 20 years since The Sandlot was released. Twenty years since we saw Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez outrun The Beast, 20 years since we saw Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous tongue the lifeguard, and 20 years since Hamilton ‘Ham’ Porter hurled that famous insult, “You play ball like a GIRL!”

Put together by the Utah Film Commission, countless sponsors, and a slew of volunteers, The Sandlot on The Sandlot became a reality. After nabbing permission from landowners, since The Sandlot is actually situated on private property, volunteers began to re-create the field, erecting everything from a replica dugout to a backstop with hand-painted signage just like in the film.

After the field was restored to its, uh, former glory, it was christened with a good ole fashioned game of baseball. Team members included Salt Lake Bees players, folks from The Sandlot crew, and the Rose Park Little League. Once the last shoe hit home plate, volunteers transformed the field into a carnival reminiscent of the 1960s. Games like bean-bag and ring toss dominated inside the field, while those looking for a tasty treat could be found at any number of food or snow-cone trucks that posted up shop on Navajo Street.

By 5:30 p.m. a queue of epic proportions had begun to snake from one end of the field to the other. Folks were lining up to get shirts, posters, hats, bats … pretty much anything that could be written on, autographed by the film’s original cast and crew. When The Sandlot celebs arrived on the scene, the air was filled with whistling and cheers. It is fantastic that even 20 years later, the film can garner such an overwhelming and positive response from the community.

Nostalgia ran rampant when Yeah-Yeah (Marty York), Chief Squints (Daniel Zacapa), the Timmons brothers (Shane Obedzinski and Victor DiMattia), Squints (Chauncey Leopardi), and Ham (Patrick Renna) stood in front of the backstop. Local police and security did their damnedest to keep back revelers who started to swarm the area in hopes of snapping Instagram worthy pics.

Once the frenzy subsided, the Sandlotters, together with Marshall Moore, Director of the Utah Film Commission, participated in a small plaque dedication ceremony recognizing the historical significance of the field. Speaking to the crowd and brimming with pride was film Director and Narrator, David Mickey Evans. He told the crowd that he doesn’t ever need to hear the words, “And the Oscar goes to…” now that he has his own historical marker. As if the moment couldn’t be any more tender, Evans called his lady out to the field and proposed. She said yes. (Tender, right?)

As Ray Charles crooned “America the Beautiful” over the speakers (a song from the movie soundtrack), the cast completed their autograph signing. Meanwhile, another line was forming outside on the street. Over 1,000 people carrying blankets, pillows and folding camp chairs were waiting to enter the field for the sold-out screening of The Sandlot … on the Sandlot. Yep. You read that right. It was all so damn literal.

The highlight of the night was definitely the Q&A session prior to the movie screening. Fans lined up to ask their most burning questions … some of which were odd, most were funny and some downright weird. Hats off to the teenage girl who asked Squints if she could be his Wendy Peffercorn, and WTF to the guy who rambled on about The Hotel nightclub.

When a small kid asked the cast, “How do you make a s’more?” it was like being in the Twilight Zone watching Renna take the mic and repeat his famous lines, “First you take the graham, you stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the ‘mallow. When the ‘mallows flaming … you stick it on the chocolate. Then cover with the other end … Then you scarf!” S’mores words of wisdom direct from the horse’s mouth.

As for that famous carnival scene in which the boys load up their mouths with chewing tobacco? According to Renna, it was nothing more than shredded turkey jerky and some black licorice. The ensuing barf on the other hand: split pea soup and a cocktail of other odd ingredients (including Leopardi’s spit). Comforting to know it wasn’t real spew.

Evans wrapped up the Q&A session by acknowledging their surprise at how popular The Sandlot has become. Not only is it one of the best baseball movies of all time, but it is turning into a cult classic among the young and old alike. Roger Ebert said it best when he wrote, “If you have ever been lucky enough to see ‘A Christmas Story,’ you will understand what I mean when I say ‘The Sandlot’ is a summertime version of the same vision.”

Safe to say this event, and the movie itself, will stay with us FOR-EVV-ERRR!
The kids of the original Sandlot cast sit in a makeshift dugout signing autographs for a crowd of hundreds. Photo: Cara Stosich Chief Squints (Daniel Zacapa) mouths "For-evvv-errr!" Photo: Cara Stosich Squints (Chauncey Leopardi) and his castmates participate in a plaque dedication ceremony on The Sandlot. Photo: Cara Stosich A family of Chief Squints. Photo: Cara Stosich The Sandlot director and narrator, David Mickey Evans, proposes to his girlfriend. Photo: Cara Stosich 1960s Chief Squints car. Photo: Cara Stosich Hundreds gather to watch The Sandlot on The Sandlot. Photo: Cara Stosich Posters commemorating the 20th anniversary were available. Photo: Cara Stosich T-shirts were also printed to commemorate the 20th anniversary. Photo: Cara Stosich The Sandlot cast answers questions before the film screening. Photo: Cara Stosich The Sandlot cast from L-R included Yeah-Yeah, Squints, Ham, the Timmons brothers and Chief Squints. Photo: Cara Stosich