Being a young kid during the 90s, we were spoiled with some of the better sports movies made to date: A League of Their Own, Little Giants, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, Little Big League, Rudy; hell, even the Shaq invested waters of Blue Chips introduced my generation to what all white guys will eventually turn into; a grizzled old man with spit constantly on the sides of his mouth (Nick Nolte). However, I do believe the one that stands out above the rest will always will be The Sandlot. The Sandlot is one of those movies that everyone; men, women and children alike, just seems to adore. And the moment someone you don’t know utters the words, ‘You’re killing me, Smalls” you know they’re on the level.
The Sandlot is now officially 20 years old. Let that sink in. Benny ‘the Jet” and Hamilton Porter have been in our lives for two decades. The film was originally released on April 7, 1993 (how about us kids getting lucky with Cop and a Halfbeing released just one week earlier ‘..ah, childhood) and it’s 20 year anniversary has sadly been pushed to the back-burner thanks to the roaring acknowledgement that Jurassic Park has been getting (hey, did you notice that dope pun I just used?). So, I embarked on a journey of whimsy and nostalgia the other night by re-watching The Sandlot as an adult-esque, man-child. What I found though was extremely disappointing. I discovered some very negative undertones and sub-stories of a supposed children’s classic that may have passed over our heads as we watched as young, wide-eyed yuppies. My friends, please see below for the top 5 reasons why The Sandlot is fucking dark.
1. Denis Leary was a cold-hearted, abusive step-father
How about Denis Leary in this movie? He plays the step-dad to Scotty Smalls (Thomas Guiry) and the husband to Mrs. Indiana Jones, Karen Allen and COULD NOT be more of a jerkstore. Not only does Scotty actually like his step-father (most kids in this situation are resentful and full of hate towards a man in this position), but actually yearns for his respect and maybe just a little but of his attention in the form of playing catch. But Denis, playing Bill, doesn’t want any part of it. Oh I’m sorry Bill, is your morning ‘Irish” coffee and reading the paper about some good old-fashioned 1962 style racism holding you back from going outside with a young child to throw a ball for 5 minutes? Bill is just always tooooooo busy and ‘under the gun”. Finally he gives in, but only after his wife’s persistence. Do you have any idea the courage it takes a kid at that age to play catch with a man whose respect you want, but also know the activity you’re about to do is way out of your skill set?
So, Bill takes him outside to have a catch. It is very obvious very early that Scotty does not have the hand-eye coordination for this type of playing. After a couple misfires and some bull-shit lessons on how to catch the ball ( ‘where the ball goes, move your glove”), Bill gets fed up and fires his Nolan Ryan express at the young kid’s face from about 15 feet out knowing goddamn well he couldn’t catch it! Scotty Smalls gets pelted in the face and winds up with a huge black eye from a sociopath who just so happened to have worked his way around what would now be categorized as child abuse! Then what does the MFer say to the kid who is now battered and bruised (literally and figuratively)? He snidely states, ‘gotta watch out for the curve?” So the kid can’t even put the glove on the ball and you’re throwing him your off speed stuff? Screw you Bill. Scotty’s thoughts: Thanks for busting my face and my mitt. Oh, and here’s a new ball with the whole Yankees team signatures from the late 1920s on it, making it a gazillion times more valuable than your ball. My reward from you? Thanks for grounding me, dick.
2. Slavery Implications Running Amok
Shackled and forced to pitch.
Fact: 9 were players on the team and only 1 was black. His name was Kenny DeNunez. As we can all remember the kids NEVER STOPPED PLAYING THE GAME. That’s all they did, baseball, baseball, baseball. Baseball needs a pitcher to play, right? Well, let’s just throw in the black kid to do that as the rest of us just take our turn in the field, fielding 1 grounder every 15 minutes. In a day and age where professional baseball players making millions are being pulled from games that count in order to keep their pitch count low (Stephen Strasburg), the kids from The Plantation Sandlot forced their only black player to do all the heavy labor in the field. Who cares what his future looks like? We want to play now! It was 1962 at the time so what was Kenny supposed to do, speak up? Geez, I haven’t seen such blatant racism since the present day slave-auction we’re trying to pass off as the NFL Draft Combine. I mean come on ‘a bunch of old, rich white dudes sitting around taking notes on who is the biggest, fastest and strongest black man for their team. If you’re not seeing the correlation to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Candie Land inDjango Unchained right now with his ‘Mandingo fights”, well then you need to open your eye there, Johnny Naive.
3. Squints was Suicidal
One last ‘smile”
If it’s one thing little kids like, it’s getting made fun of for a problem they have no control over. And in this case, Michael ‘Squints” Palledorous was fed up with the constant ridicule from his friends. He could not help his size or his eye glasses, so that day at the pool he just ‘couldn’t take it any more.” Using his lust of Wendy Peffercorn as an excuse, he rose from the pool and walked slowly to the deepest end. He gave his ‘friends” one last smirk and without the ability to swim, jumped right in. There was no struggle, there was no fight. He wanted to go his way. But Wendy Peffercorn did what a lifeguard was supposed to do. She pulled him out and brought him back to life. Squints then realized that he did in fact want to live and that’s why he decided to kiss Wendy right then and there, a proclamation to starting anew. Living longer was not part of his plan as he was tired of being teased by his friends. However at this point he said he planned it all along in order to save some face and experience no more ridicule. I mean could you imagine if they found out Squints wore glasses and was suicidal? They’d have a field day. So what happened? His friends then tipped their hats to him because no one would have thought to put the moves on the lifeguard. Squints pulled a lucky, fast one on everyone and was never made fun of again. He ended up marrying the woman that saved his life, giving him reason to live.
4. Benny ‘The Jet” was a low-life, drug addict criminal who was fueled by ego
Can’t afford a ball, but can afford new shoes?
Scotty Smalls just finished 5th grade, putting him as an 11-year-old kid that summer. Benny was a ‘kid” with a 5 o’clock shadow who looked to be about at least 14 years old playing around with kids way under his skill level, in order to always be the best on the field. All Benny tried to do was feed his ego. He was the original humblebragger. Benny’s thoughts on the day that it was too hot to play: ‘Even though I don’t want to practice because its 100 degrees out, I’m still going to say we should practice just so these guys can tell me that I don’t need to practice.” Yea, we’re onto you Benny! In addition to that, where is a kid that never references his parents or family throughout the whole movie getting the money for 2 gloves (his old one given to Scotty)? He stole that glove! That’s why. Oh, you can’t afford a baseball, but somehow you got some new PF Flyers to get yourself over that wall, huh? Jesus, what type of back door dealing you making to get all this new stuff?
So old, so smug
Key the emotional scene where Scotty reassures Benny that he in fact DID NOT have to do this (talking about jumping over the fence to get his ball). Yea he does, Scotty. He needs to feed his ego so he can always be remembered. No one really seems to care about the ball at this point, but Benny. I guess after having a lucid, drug-aided hallucination (only explanation at this point) where he speaks to a man who looks nothing like Babe Ruth (BTW, doubtful Babe Ruth is resting in heaven still wearing his baseball uniform), is when you decide that your ‘legend” is the most important thing in the world. Someone else died trying to be a legend. His name was Achilles and he let Troy burn so he could get his glory. Also, very unnecessary route to the sandlot in mid-chase scene from the dog Hercules (notice the irony and correlation to half-Gods at this point everyone): let’s just take a detour through the public swimming pool whereeveryone is as well as a movie theater matin ‘e so all could see how fast he is.
ALSO, the movie’s present day takes place in 1993. The movie’s past takes place in 1962. The kids we’re all supposed to be 11 at this point. So if Benny was in fact say maybe 12 at this time , that would mean that when he stole home in the MLB game 31 years later, he was a 43-year-old pitch runner, trying to live out his glory one last time. What a dink.
5. Bonus Grim Material
OD’d * Speech Impediment * Neglected * Pervert
Bertram got real into the 60s and no one ever heard from him again. Translation: dude OD’d at a nightclub before he was 18.
Yeah Yeah had a terrible speech impediment that no one acknowledged. Thanks to GI (and AJ) for that one.
Tommy Timmons came from an abusive family. He was a neglected child who was only noticed when he acted out; i.e. repeating everything his brother Timmy said.
Porter, during trash talk with his rivals, revealed that he was a peeping tom who watched young girls get naked in their rooms, just like George McFly.