I’m of the opinion that all air-breathing Americans under the age of 13 since 1993 have been blessed with the opportunity to relish a uniquely special memento of childhood unmatched by any piece of art or literature in world history. This hour-and-forty-two-minute piece of cinema that I’m referring to has become a rite of passage in the Land of the Free that holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who’s ever seen it.
I’m of course talking about the 1993 all-time great The Sandlot, the story of a 10-year-old only-child dweeb, Scotty Smalls, in the early 1960s who tries to utilize baseball as an outlet to make new friends as the new kid in town. Despite his prick of a stepdad — who’d just married his recently widowed sweetheart of a mother — being a horrible father figure and doing anything to avoid showing Scotty the simplest fundamentals of baseball, our protagonist lets his neighbor and youth baseball god Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez hold his hand towards baseball competence and a super rad summer full of pre-adolescent shenanigans.
I was introduced to the glory that is The Sandlot as a seven-year-old on an after-school play date sometime in the spring of 2001. The mother of my pal, Garrett, saw we were bored, and little did my first grade self know that the VHS she was popping into the Panasonic two-in-one TV set was about to change the way I see the world FOR-EV-VUR.
You think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at how much of a baller ya boy looked like a mere few weeks after this early-age enlightenment.
(In case you didn’t know, wearing your entire uniform to birthday parties at your hometown’s Single-A baseball team’s games was the ultimate #firstgradepowermove in 2001. Ten bucks to whoever can tell me what the hell is going on in the background with the dad and his toddler on the fence, though.)
From that point on, I became fascinated with how frequently pieces from The Sandlot popped up in everyday life. Fifteen years later, I’ve concluded that you shouldn’t be able to pass the US citizenship test unless you can fully explain the context of these Sandlot references that stand the test of
time growing up.
“You play ball like a girl!”
The significance: Every kid’s gotta know how to dish some hate when the envious villain-like figures in their lives try to pick on them. Having an arsenal full of pushing-the-limits comebacks is the key to success.
What I thought of it then, age seven: “Oh shit, Ham just nailed those douchebags with the most savage insult I’ve heard in my entire life! I hope they open up a can of whup-ass on those tools in the game!” The Waterboy was also having a major influence on my vocabulary, for better or worse.
What I think of it now, age twenty-two: “Any group of eleven-year-olds who spends their summer in full baseball uniform biking the streets of Los Angeles for less fortunate peers to beat up on deserves a shitty middle school life. Plus, if Ham dropped that insult in 2016, some overly sensitive middle-aged woman with no life would accuse him of extreme sexism and blame the aggressiveness of baseball culture for his ignorance. Are adults even allowed to say this anymore?”
“And also, where can I find myself a squad to have my back as enthusiastically as this?”
The “America The Beautiful” scene
The significance: If there’s such a thing as a “Fourth of July song,” this has to be number one by a mile. This scene romanticizes the hell out of ‘America’s past time’ and the American culture itself, and you’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t get goosebumps when you watch it even as an adult. Not even George Washington rising from his grave during a night of fireworks could top one filled with Ray Charles and abandoning your worried parents to go to a sketchy park with your best buds.
Age seven: “Screw the country club life — I’m playing baseball under the lights of the fireworks with my boys every Independence Day for the rest of my life.” Choosing one extraordinarily white summer scene for another equally white summer scene was the most rebellious move of my life up to that point.
Age twenty-two: “I can only imagine how many abandoned baseball fields like this are used as meeting spots for drug deals and/or teenage hookups. The last time I checked, in a pitch-black setting such as the Fourth of July, no amount of fireworks will help you see even your own feet more clearly for more than a second.” Special shout out goes to the 2010 Rockbridge Young Life Camp staff for making this scene a reality for me and a bunch of other high school campers.
The significance: When someone says something will last forever, it’s no big deal. When they say something will last FOR-EV-VUR, you know they’re not messing around anymore (and that this person has excellent taste in movie references). Just like when a cop sentences a kid-eating dog to a life in chains, you can’t underestimate the power of this over-enunciated word. It’s also worth noting that all unwritten rules require that when this term is used in any real-world context, it must be repeated at least twice to properly honor police chief Squidman Palledorous.
Age seven: “This story that Squints is telling about the Beast being a child-eater is legit gonna make me piss the bed sheets tonight. FOR-EV-VUR sounds like a pretty darn long time.”
Age twenty-two: “Squints is a little shit for scaring his best friends with a made-up story that his grandpa was allegedly the authority behind.”
Why it’s significant: Requiring only faux thick-rimmed glasses and a red one-piece bathing suit, dressing up as Squints and Wendy has become a sure-fire hit of a couple’s Halloween costume for white people this decade. If for some reason you live under a rock and had to ask these people what their costume was, the host should have impolitely asked you to leave.
Furthermore, it highlights the tale of an eager kid who has no concept of what limitations are. You may remember an anonymous writer on this site last summer under the username Squints; the then-college-intern only feels it fitting to reveal his identity by sharing that he also wrote the article you’re reading right now.
Age seven: “Why did my pants just get a little tighter?”
Age twenty-two: “If a ten-year-old with glasses has the balls to pull that trick off on a hottie my age, I’d literally give him a trophy, because he’s infinitely cooler than any of my friends at that age. Also, I’ll know I’ve found my wife when I see a woman in public and react like this:”
Notice: I’ll be accepting applications to be the Wendy Peffercorn to my Squints for Halloween 2016 via email through the end of May. Blondes are preferred but not required.
The significance: These were the Air Jordans before the Air Jordans. And by that I mean, these were the first shoes marketed to aspiring athletes by blatantly lying about improving their athletic performance. You know Smalls’ line, “even when Benny brought out the secret weapon: shoes guaranteed to make you run faster and jump higher”? Yeah, apparently that was the actual slogan for the actual shoes in the 1960s. In addition to “Wings,” Macklemore needs to write an anti-consumerist song about these fools, too.
Age seven: “Those are freakin’ sick. Can I trade in my Nike shocks for a pair of these Benny-approved kicks? These are obviously the only shoes that will allow me to outrun a baseball-eating dog for well over a mile through the neighborhood.”
Age twenty-two: “I wouldn’t be caught dead in these wannabe Chuck Taylors. It’d look like I’m trying to be hipster but don’t know how. Somehow it would worsen my 6-inch vertical leap.”
At the end of the day, The Sandlot is a crucial piece to the puzzle that is the deteriorating American childhood dream. More than just being the story of a few kids being friends and losing a Babe Ruth-signed baseball, it holds a special nostalgic place in the heart of countless Americans like myself because of how it portrays innocence, the “good ole days,” the value of new friendships, and the Moneyball “it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” mindset.
As you could probably tell by the looks of that swagged-out Diamondbacks baseball player above, this film exposed me to a passion for baseball that a seven-year-old could not possibly grasp otherwise. Despite turning out to be a horribly slow-paced sport, baseball was my first love, and I have The Sandlot to thank for that.
While receiving only a modest commercial success that struggled to stand out in an era with a ridiculous frequency of family-friendly sports movies like Air Bud and The Mighty Ducks, it’s impossible to give enough credit to this cult classic for its impact on our pop culture scene twenty-plus years later.
As shitty as your day at your cubicle may be going, never forget, “Heroes get remembered, legends never die.” .