23 years ago, director David Mickey Evans co-wrote, directed, and narrated what would become one of the most beloved coming-of-age stories of all time. Set during the carefree summer of 1962, The Sandlot features a group of friends who spend their days playing baseball in an old neighborhood backlot. The movie has maintained a strong cult following for more than two decades, spawning memorable characters, and one of the most often used catch-phrases in recent memory. To help take you back to that golden summer and make you just a bit nostalgic for baseball as we all prepare for a historic World Series, here are nine behind-the-scenes facts about The Sandlot.
The Director Doesn’t Consider It A Baseball Movie
During a 20th-anniversary cast reunion, Evans said that he feels the film is about friendship and didn’t feel any sense of competition with movies like A League Of Their Own and Major League, both of which had come out in the years prior. He also said it was important that the characters all be 11-12 years old, right as they’re about to leave their childhoods behind.
Tom Guiry, who played Scotty Smalls, likened the experience to going to summer camp, and told Time Magazine that “for an 11-year-old, you really couldn’t ask for a better movie to be in.”
A Forty-Two Day Heatwave
Speaking of camp, the heat was a big factor for The Sandlot, which was shot over 42 days in Salt Lake City, Utah during the summer. It got so bad that during the chase scene, Guiry was so overheated that he became dizzy and ended up running into a camera operator. The only time the heat broke, ironically, is when they were filming the pool scene, when the weather turned overcast and temps dropped to the mid-50s. Evans told Sports Illustrated that you can hear Squints’ (Chauncey Leopardi) teeth chattering because it was that cold on the set that day.
Leopardi was also pretty anxious about his big moment with the lifeguard, Wendy Pfeffercorn (Marley Shelton), and spent weeks anxiously asking Evans when it would eventually be shot. Finally, on the day of filming, Evans shot everything sequentially to help the kids keep everything “clear in their head”. Then, when the big moment came, he sternly told Leopardi to “keep your tongue in your mouth” before calling ‘action.’
The Nod To Cool Hand Luke
While we’re on the subject of the pool scene, when lifeguard Wendy Pfeffercorn was applying sunblock, one of the kids says “She doesn’t know what she’s doing,” while another replies “she knows exactly what she’s doing.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it was lifted from a scene in Cool Hand Luke when Luke (Paul Newman) and Dragline (George Kennedy) are watching a woman wash her car with their fellow convicts on the chain gang.
A Halloween Connection
A fact that’s appropriate to the season, Vincent Drug Store, where the kids not only buy their baseballs, but is in the frame later when they’re running away from The Beast, was an actual drug store in Midvale, Utah. It’s no longer operational, but it was still standing as of 2013. That same drug store showed up in Halloween IV and Halloween V, both of which were filmed in and around Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Fake Chewing Tobacco Made The Cast Sick
When the boys tried chewing tobacco, they used an on-set mixture of bacon bits and licorice. If you think that sounds nauseating, you’re not alone. Leopardi later told Yahoo! Sports that “it was easy to act like you wanted to puke.” It didn’t help that some of the kids ended up swallowing the mixture. The fact they were riding on amusement park rides at the same time seemed to make things worse, as Guiry told Time that “at first it was like, ‘This isn’t so bad.’ But by the fifteenth go-round, it was like, ‘This is getting a little uhhhhh…'”
The Babe Ruth References
Benny Rodriguez’s (Mike Vitar) Babe Ruth (Art La Fleur) dream clearly made a deep impact. Later in the film, when Rodriguez is shown all grown-up and playing for The Dodgers, he’s wearing the number three — the same number Ruth wore for The Yankees.
Bertram And The ’60s
This is less a fascinating fact and more of an uncanny coincidence, but when the narrator explains what became of all the kids from that summer, he makes a comment that Bertram “got really into the ’60s and was never heard from again.” Grant Gelt, who played Bertram, was later cast in the 1999 TV movie The ’60s, which is his last credited role as an actor.
It Was The Focus Of A Pivotal Lawsuit
A former classmate of Evans, Michael Polydoros, sued the studio, saying that the character of Squints was based on him, and his on-screen portrayal caused undue embarrassment and humiliation. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed by Judge Robert Borren on the grounds that there wasn’t enough similarity between Polydoros and the fictional character of Squints to justify the case. It also set the precedent that movies could feature characters that were loosely based on real-life people.
Robert Wyman, who represented 20th Century Fox, said the court’s decision “should give motion picture and television companies a great deal of comfort when they inadvertently use someone’s name or personal character traits in what is clearly a fictional piece.
“You’re Killing Me, Smalls!”
The most memorable moment from The Sandlot — by far — was when ‘Ham’ Porter (Patrick Renna) uttered this line. As of three years ago, Guiry was still hearing that line from strangers “about three or four times a day.” While he told Time that he used to hate it, after turning 30 he came to appreciate fans’ dedication to the film. It’s so iconic that The Yankees even paid their own tribute to the scene last year.