A blast from the past: The Sandlot

This was a paper from Intro to Mass Comm my freshman year of college.  I haven’t changed a single thing about it, including the multiple grammatical mistakes I desperately want to fix.  The assignment was to summarize a movie.

Also, I would like to point out a couple of things I evidently didn’t know how to do back then:  1) write in an appropriate tone of voice for a graded assignment, and 2) cite my sources.  Let’s just go ahead and assume I am now citing the entire thing and using the script of The Sandlot as my source.  Plagarize much, Deanna?  I certainly used to.

The American Dream:  Why The Sandlot Is the Perfect Film

Set in the summer of 1962, The Sandlot encapsulates everything that is right about America.  The film tells the coming-of-age story of the new kid on the block, eleven year old Scotty, played by the flawlessly innocent Tom Guiry.  A self-proclaimed “egghead,” Scotty befriends the neighborhood baseball team and his life is changed forever.

Often brushed aside by critics and audiences as merely “a kid movie,” The Sandlot (directed by David Mickey Evans) does not get its fair share of recognition.  This film could easily be considered a child’s American Graffiti.  The acting may not be quite up to the same caliber as Lucas’s film, but for a bunch of eleven year olds, it is astounding how in touch they seem to be with their characters and the timeframe they are portraying, not to mention their outstanding comedic timing.  With a spot-on perfect script, the dialogue never seems forced or out of character and scattered throughout it is ageless joke after ageless joke.  The depth and individuality of the characters play flawlessly off of one another, and set to a soundtrack that is almost as crucial as the dialogue, it is a shame the film is not more respected.

After following some neighborhood boys into their “baseball kingdom,” a pop-fly to left field catches Scotty off-guard.  Armed with nothing more than an oversized baseball cap and a plastic toy mitt, the ball knocks him to the ground.  Then, after a failed attempt at throwing the ball back to the infield, he scampers home, ashamed and humiliated.  Disappointed by her son’s lack of friends after two weeks in their new neighborhood, Scotty’s mother (played by Karen Allen) tells him to “climb trees, hop fences, get into trouble, for crying out loud.  Not too much, but some.  You have my permission.”  Determined to redeem his reputation with the guys, he gets his stepfather (played by a much subdued Denis Leary) to teach him how to play catch and winds up with a black eye.  Seeing Scotty looking so down in the dumps, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, the neighborhood hero, comes to the rescue and invites him to play at the sandlot.  It seems as if Scotty’s summer might not be so bad after all.

When he meets all the guys, however, they have not forgotten about the incident a few days before.  Even more appalling than his baseball skills is his lack of knowledge about “The Great Bambino” a.k.a.:  Babe Ruth.  Already labeled as, “an L7-weenie,” (If you make an L and a 7 with your fingers and put them together it makes a square.) Benny knows it is going to take a lot to get them to accept Scotty as part of the team.  Thankfully, he has a plan and ridiculously accurate baseball skills.  After teaching him how to throw, Scotty asks, “How do I catch it?”

“Just stand there and stick your glove out in the air.  I’ll take care of it.”  Benny rips one to Scotty, who is standing in left-center with his mitt extended and his eyes closed.  It lands directly in his glove.  He caught the ball, and even better than that, he throws it back in.  With that, the boys declare, “All right.  Let’s play some ball.”

He has proven his worth as a baseball player, is now a part of the team, and has been officially deemed “Smalls.”  This is where it all begins.  This is the summer Smalls gets into “the biggest pickle [he’d] ever be in.”

Ham, the rotund Bambino wanna-be of the team, hits a long homerun over the back fence.  When Smalls tries to climb the fence to retrieve the ball, he has his first encounter with “The Beast.”  In order to fully explain the magnitude of The Beast, the guys call for a team campout in the tree house overlooking His territory.  Squints, the bespectacled wise-ass of the team, begins the tale (insert flashback sequence here), “The legend of The Beast goes back a long time, before any of us could even pick up a baseball.”  Twenty years ago, the land that is now the sandlot and the house behind it belonged to the meanest man in the world, Mr. Mertle, and he owned a junk yard.  In an effort to keep thieves from stealing his merchandise, he bought a watch dog and evidently fed it ludicrous amounts of food; consequently, the puppy grew into a giant with a knack for catching thieves.  Having acquired a taste for human blood, the police demanded that the dog be locked up in the backyard “until forever,” which is where he still resides, waiting until the day that a boy comes over the fence to get a stray baseball.

On the hottest day of the summer, the boys decide to take a break from practice and instead choose to “scam pool honeys,” one honey in particular:  Wendy Pepfercorn, the lifeguard.  After three summers of swooning, Squints devises a plan to put the moves on her.  Since he cannot swim, he goes into the deep end knowing she will be the one to rescue him.  When she pulls him out of the water and begins to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, he kisses her, “long and good.”  The boys get banned forever from the pool, but every time Squints walks by, Wendy always gives him a smile.

After a few hectic days celebrating the Fourth of July with a night game (which is quite possibly one of the most beautiful scenes in film history), beating the arrogant “club-funded” baseball team, and trying chewing tobacco for the first time at the carnival, the boys are back to practice as usual. Then comes “the omen”:  Benny knocks the ball so hard he busts the seams.  Smalls quickly remedies the situation, however, with an extra ball he has at his house, more specifically, the ball in his step-dad’s baseball collection.  That is, until he gets the best hit of his life; a homerun, clear over the left field fence and, coincidentally, right into The Beast’s territory.  It isn’t until he explains to the guys that it was signed by “some lady named Ruth.  Baby Ruth,” that they prepare to make the journey into Mertle’s yard.  Their efforts at recovering the ball start primitively at first, using a broomstick to try and knock it back through the hole in the fence, but when The Beast snaps it like a toothpick it is “obvious [they] are dealing with a superior intelligence,” and have to step up their tactics.  For the next scheme they rig up three vacuums and try to suck the ball up, which works beautifully until The Beast bites the pipes shut, resulting in the vacuums exploding.  As Timmy, the unreasonably rational and insightful one who is now covered in filth, climbs down from the tree house, he offers his advice:  “We’ve been going about this all the wrong way.  I blame myself.  We need total surprise; an airborne attack.  The Beast will never suspect it.”  This leads to their most daring attempt yet; they hoist the smallest member of the team, Yeah-Yeah, over the fence using a system of ropes and pulleys then lower him down into the yard.  He grabs the ball just in time to come face to face with The Beast.  In horror, the guys jerk him up as quickly as possible, and he drops the slobber covered ball.  As their last ditch effort, they pit “science against nature.”  Scotty uses his Erector Set to build a car with an arm that reaches out and grabs the ball, then catapults it back over the fence.  With the ball in midair and almost out of harm’s way, The Beast leaps and catches it, foiling their plan, yet again.

That night, however, Benny has a dream.  The Sultan of Swat himself comes into his room and tells him all he needs to know:  “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.  Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”  With newfound inspiration, Benny puts on his P.F. Flyers and attempts the impossible.  He jumps the fence into the backyard, gets the ball, and jumps back over.  The Beast’s chain, however, is no match for his power, so he jumps the fence after Benny.  The two run through the town, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting movie-goers, pedestrians, and picnickers (inevitably, cake-in-the-face jokes ensue).  Benny leads the chase back to the sandlot where the fence finally collapses on top of the dog.  Although this is the creature that haunted them for so many years, Benny and Smalls free him from the rubble (all together now, aww).  In return, The Beast shows his appreciation by giving Scotty a face full of slobber and the autographed baseball (along with the other 150 balls they had lost over the years).  Fenceless and leashless, the boys figure they should return the dog, whose real name is Hercules.  Mr. Mertle invites the two in as they explain what happened, and he offers Scotty a deal; he wants to trade the slobbery Babe Ruth ball for one from his own collection signed by the entire 1927 Yankees team.  As it turns out, Mr. Mertle (played to perfection by the intimidating yet loveable James Earl Jones) used to play ball with George (The Colossus of Clout) before he got hit by a pitch and went blind, so he has loads of autographed paraphernalia.  He says it will be an even trade if the guys come by once a week and talk baseball with him.

Scotty tells his step dad what happened and presents him with the Murderer’s Row ball.  He only gets grounded for one week and all is forgotten.  Eventually, the summer comes to an end and as the years pass, the guys grow up and move away.  Hercules goes on to be the team mascot and lives to be 199 years old (doggie years, that is).  Ham becomes a professional wrestler under the name “The Great Hambino,” and Yeah-Yeah co-creates bungee jumping.  Squints marries Wendy Pepfercorn (well, now it’s Wendy Palledorous) and they have nine kids.  Smalls grows up to be the sports commentator for the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Benny, who has since been promoted to “legend” status, plays in the majors for none other than the Dodgers.

Among young adults (sixteen to twenty-four year olds) this film is almost a cult classic, representing how we wish our childhood could have been, or in some cases, was.  Set in a time when our country still retained some of its innocence and based on the timeless theme of growing up, this film will have appeal for many years to come. Summer, baseball, first love, and trouble galore:  it is the American dream.

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