I recently read a list of favorite sports movies by Kathy McClellan, a columnist for the Time Record News.
While her top choice “A League of their Own” is a favorite of mine, it would not have been my top pick. No, my pick is the 1990s cult classic, “The Sandlot” as not just my favorite baseball movie, but my favorite sports movie.
It is ironic my favorite sports movie is a movie that is not about one of my favorite sports. While there have been some pretty good football and basketball movies, what makes “The Sandlot” great for me was that baseball was just one tool towards what the movie was actually about, which was friendship.
While the film made $33 million at the box office on its 1993 release on a modest $7 million budget, it went on to gross an estimated $76 million over the years in VHS and DVD sales. Ask anyone of a certain age and they can quote you a line from the Sandlot.
For those who have not seen or heard of the movie, the basic plot is the standard new kid comes to town. The movie is set in the early 1960s and our protagonist, the ever shy and awkward 12-year-old Scotty Smalls had only two weeks at his new school to make any friends before a lonely summer.
He sees the neighborhood boys all making their way to a modestly roughshod baseball field (the sandlot) one day and follows them their in hopes to maybe join in without drawing too much attention to himself.
He fails spectacularly since he has never learned how catch or throw a baseball, but catches the eye of the leader of the group, Benny.
Under Benny’s guidance, he joins the group of eight friends as the new guy as they accept him and he learns all of the quirks of the group.
What I love is that once Smalls is accepted, the plot does not really go anywhere for like 30-40 minutes. Little vignettes throughout the summer are just stories about growing up.
The groups’ crush on the older lifeguard at the pool who drives one of the boys to fake drowning so that he can kiss her. Creaming the area’s Little League team in a game after trading insults. Trying and failing in their attempt to try chewing tobacco at the carnival in celebration.
None of these things have anything to do with the actual plot of the movie. That involves trying to get a baseball signed by the immortal Babe Ruth back from the neighbor’s yard it was hit into that is guarded by the mystical dog they call The Beast.
While there are laughs to be had as the initial simple attempts grow more elaborate as they try everything short of just ringing the neighbor’s door, the stretch of the movie that show kids being kids is just so relatable for me.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the mid-week edition of the Bowie News.