The Sandlot depicts the dream summer of many 1980s kids and is seen as a quintessential movie for young baseball fans.
The story takes place in 1962 and chronicles the story of the summer antics that Scotty Smalls and his ragtag team of misfit friends experience during one of the best summers of their childhoods.
From befriending the neighborhood devil dog to kissing the girl of their dreams, The Sandlot was meant to be a realistic look at what life was like for a young baseball fan growing up in the 1960s.
Few movies capture such a genuine sense of childhood fun, and even fewer are based on real-life events.
Is The Sandlot Based On A True Story?
Yes, The Sandlot is based on a collection of childhood experiences that writer David M. Evans witnessed as a child alongside the other baseball-loving neighborhood children.
Although Evans changed many parts of his real-life stories to create a better movie plot, The Sandlot serves as a perfect coming-of-age story.
One of the most infamous examples of real life serving as David M. Evans’s inspiration is the story of The Beast.
In The Sandlot, the neighbor children must navigate the yard of the most vicious dog around to get back a beloved baseball that was signed by Babe Ruth.
While Evans was growing up, the baseball field that he and his friends would play at was near a house with large aggressive dogs.
Evans’s brother was the one sent in to collect the only baseball that the group had, which resulted in Evans’s brother getting attacked by the neighbor’s dog.
When Evans used this plot in The Sandlot, he decided to change the outcome to make it less traumatizing and gave the dog a redemption arc.
The Beast isn’t the only real-life story that Evans threw into the mix.
The stunt that Squint pulled during the pool scene in The Sandlot was inspired by the childhood crush that David M. Evans had on his local lifeguard.
The inspirational young woman was named Bunny.
She had blonde hair, and her lifeguard uniform was a bright red one-piece swimsuit.
Evans never pulled the same stunt that Squint did when he nearly drowned himself to receive CPR from the lifeguard, but he was able to think back to the desperate thoughts he had as a young boy to get noticed or even kissed by Bunny.
The writer of The Sandlot was also quick to point out how poorly that particular scene has aged.
What Kind Of Dog Is The Beast?
The Beast, who is later known as Hercules, is an English Mastiff that was just as giant as he seemed in the film.
In the film, the character of Hercules was played by two English Mastiffs and a giant puppet that took two puppeteers to maneuver.
The real-life dog that primarily played Hercules was named Gunner.
Gunner was from Mountain Oaks Ranch in California and would hoard baseballs and later chase Benny.
In real life, Gunner was an incredibly sweet and well-mannered dog.
He was only 14 months old when he earned an American Kennel Club Championship title, making him the perfect candidate for films.
Gunner wasn’t just known for his high level of obedience, but he also had a strong sense of humor.
Rather than playing with other dogs, this English Mastiff preferred to be the center of people’s attention and was eager to put on a show for praise.
The dog was first scouted out by Sheryl Harris, who had seen his performance in an American Kennel Club show.
Harris was a trainer for Birds and Animals Unlimited, which was owned by legendary animal trainer Gary Gero.
By the time Gunner was cast as Hercules in The Sandlot, he was no spring chicken and needed some younger dogs to act as stunt doubles for more physically intense scenes.
The production team originally brought in three other Mastiffs, but one couldn’t handle the scenes and another Mastiff ended up biting their trainer.
Gunner ended up having to be trained overnight to complete some of the stunts that his doubles were never able to perform.
This legendary dog would go on to star in countless films and television roles, living until the ripe old age of 13 years before passing away peacefully in his sleep.
Was Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez A Real Baseball Player?
No, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez was not a real baseball player. He was a character who was created for the film.
Despite his fictional nature, Los Angeles Dodgers fans still consider him one of the most iconic members of the California baseball team.
Dodgers are quick to point out that Benny Rodriguez was the last Dodgers player to steal home base to win a game over the last four decades.
Before the fictional player, one of the best-known home base steals performed by the Los Angeles Dodger was the doing of baseball legend, Jackie Robinson.
One of the greatest Dodgers plays of all time was when Robinson stole home base during the eighth inning of the first game of the 1955 World Series.
Jackie Robinson would go on to steal home base 19 times.
While fans of The Sandlot point to Benny Rodriguez’s legendary slide as the stuff of dreams, serious baseball fanatics can’t overlook the sloppiness of the base-stealing slide.
In the film, Rodriguez’s feet hit home base without any sense of drag, and Rodriguez wasn’t even tagged by the nearby catcher.
If someone were to try the maneuver shown in The Sandlot during a real game, it would quickly be foiled due to how vulnerable it would leave the player.
Despite the unlikelihood of the move, Benny Rodriguez is called safe and is carried off the field by his team in victory.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have stolen home base 16 times since 1980, with 15 of those steals coming at the end of double steals.
The most recent time that anyone has stolen home base was on July 15th of 2019 during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, in which catcher Austin Barnes stole home during the fourth inning.
Why Did 20th Century Fox Get Sued Over The Sandlot?
20th Century Fox was sued over The Sandlot after a childhood friend of the writer and director realized that he sounded a lot like the character Michael “Squints” Palledorous.
Although the movie was an instant hit, the potential inspiration behind Squints was so angry with his portrayal that he took his complaint to Federal Court.
David M. Evan’s old childhood friend Michael Polydoros was upset over how his 10-year-old self was being portrayed, and he hated that his character was the butt of nearly every joke.
He was even less pleased with the nickname that he had received.
In 1994, the disgruntled Polydoros took Evans and 20th Century Fox to court over the “invasion of privacy through misrepresentation of his name and likeness” he felt that he was experiencing.
To support his case, Polydoros brought in childhood photos of himself with his iconic thick-rimmed glasses and graphic shirt.
It wasn’t just Squint’s looks that made Michael Polydoros believe that he was the inspiration behind the strangely lovable character.
Like his movie counterpart, Polydoros spent his summers playing baseball with his neighborhood friends, going for swims at the local public pool, and was known for his brash nature.
However, these were the only similarities that Polydoros could point out between himself and Squint.
Polydoros could tell that he was fighting a losing battle, but he still tried his best to find any problem that the film could have caused him.
Despite the evidence of Polydoros and Palledorous’s similarities, the judge overseeing the case failed to see how the similarities that Polydoros saw could have done damage to his life.
Polydoros and 20th Century Fox were in court for three years before the verdict was finally decided, with the film’s non-defamatory nature being what saved 20th Century Fox and Evans.
Was The Chewing Tobacco Real In The Sandlot?
No, the chewing tobacco from The Sandlot isn’t real and would have been too dangerous for the child actors to handle.
Instead, the on-screen chewing tobacco was a combination of bacon bits and black licorice.
The actors ate so much of the concoction that they got upset stomachs in real life, which added to the authenticity of the carnival scenes.
In the film, Bertram offers the gang Big Chief chewing tobacco as a way to increase the amount of fun that the boys would have at the carnival.
Rather than adding to their fun, the chewing tobacco ended up being their undoing after the gang took a dip of chewing tobacco and then immediately got on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
This results in boys vomiting onto an unfortunate woman’s shoes.
Although the actors had extremely upset stomachs from all the fake chewing tobacco they were eating, none of them actually vomited.
The vomit that is seen in the movie is another gross concoction that consists of oatmeal, baked beans, and pea soup to give it that authentic green tinge.
The Sandlot has gotten a lot of negative attention for the use of even fake tobacco products by the young actors.
However, fans of the film argue that the carnival scene serves as an excellent example for young viewers as to why they shouldn’t use tobacco products.
Young viewers watch a friend of The Sandlot gang convince the gang that consuming chewing tobacco leads to having more fun, but the gang instead finds that the tobacco product is a fun killer and a night ender.
Where Is The Sandlot From The Movie Actually Located?
The actual sandlot from the title of the movie is located near Glenrose Drive in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 2013, The Sandlot scene was rebuilt and the vacant lot was once again given its iconic homemade baseball diamond.
There are multiple film locations that can be found near the iconic sandlot around Salt Lake City, but each of the locations looks slightly different from their appearances in the 1993 film.
Fans can find Scotty Smalls’s house on 2000 East, but the house is now painted a grayish-green rather than the bright pink from the movie.
The Smalls residency wasn’t the only movie-featured home to get a fresh coat of paint.
Those looking for Benny Rodriguez’s house will find it behind a lamp post with the brown trim painted over.
However, the crown jewel of these on-location sets is the baseball diamond where The Sandlot kids experienced some of their greatest childhood achievements.
Before the 20th anniversary of The Sandlot in 2013, the area where David M. Evans once filmed his hit movie was in the backyard of Devin and Melissa Barkers.
These sociable homeowners were willing to allow their local Film Commissioner and Council members to transform their backyard into what viewers saw in the iconic film.
This meant that multiple structures had to be built and the dugout had to be created, but the Barkers were eager to turn the dugout into a garden after the anniversary event.
While the Barkers were eager to host the 1,300-person event and the cast of The Sandlot, they were worried about future intruders and began having to hang “No Trespassing” signs around the property.
Although the sandlot may not be available to the public, the neighborhood surrounding it is still just as iconic.
Who Is Mr. Mertle Supposed To Be Based On?
Mr. Mertle is based on a collection of players that Babe Ruth played against during the off-season, which occurred decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of professional baseball in 1947.
In The Sandlot, acting legend James Earl Jones plays blind black baseball player Thelonius Mertle.
Mertle tells the young boys that he has played alongside baseball legend Babe Ruth and he even has a picture with Ruth to prove his seemingly fictional claims, which were made from a photo of Babe Ruth and a real-life Negro League player.
Before Jackie Robinson entered Major League Baseball, all the black professional baseball players were members of the Negro Leagues.
To help train their players with some of the best baseball talent that the country had to offer, Major League Baseball would bring in the black teams for their teams to play against.
In reality, Babe Ruth had played with many Black baseball players.
Ruth is even recorded as having played with black players in places such as Cuba, all over New Jersey, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
Seven distinct leagues were considered to be a part of the Negro Leagues from 1920 until 1948.
However, it wouldn’t be until 2020 when Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. officially designated the Negro Leagues as part of Major League Baseball.
With this designation came a combination of statistics and history of about 3,400 different professional players from the Negro Leagues.
Before this decree, the job of retaining the history of these teams and players was left up to volunteers and enthusiasts.
Luckily, the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database has been able to store a fair amount of information and has allowed Major League Baseball to accurately represent and pay respect to the history of all of baseball’s best professional players.
How Long Did It Take To Film The Sandlot?
Filming for The Sandlot only took 42 days and ended up being one of the most fun summers that the young actors ever had.
For many of the young stars, filming this movie was like going to the best summer camp ever.
During the first week of filming, Evans was having incredibly difficult getting the cast of 12- and 13-year-old boys to behave.
However, their behavior eventually got to be too much for director of photography Anthony Richmond to stand, resulting in a heart-to-heart conversation about professionalism on set.
One of the young cast’s favorite parts of working on the film was being able to work alongside Star Wars actor James Earl Jones.
Tom Guiry, who plays Scotty Smalls in the film, was eager to work with the man who provided the voice of Darth Vader.
Before Jones would arrive on set, the young cast gawked like the school children they were when they first heard that they were going to be meeting Darth Vader.
The boys could barely contain their excitement when Jones finally arrived for his one day of filming.
Knowing the young boys were Star Wars fans, Jones was happy to talk with them and have lunch with them.
Unlike his most famous character, Jones was known on set for being exceptionally kind.
Another memorable behind-the-scenes moment was the real-life crush that all of the young actors had on Marley Shelton, who portrayed Wendy Peffercorn.
Despite Shelton barely interacting with the boys, she was beloved by her cast members.
The nervousness that can be on Chauncey Leopardi’s face was genuine during the CPR scene with Shelton.
Evans hadn’t told Leopardi about the kissing part until they were about to film the scene, giving him the friendly yet stern warning of “keep your tongue in your mouth.”
What The Sandlot Represents
For many fans of The Sandlot, it’s more than just a coming-of-age story.
Instead, this film represents a time in American culture when children spent their free time outside with friends rather than being holed up indoors in front of screens.
The dream of spending your summers playing baseball with your friends and one day going on to play in the professional league has inspired many of the modern players of Major League Baseball.