30 things you never knew about ‘The Sandlot’
“The Sandlot” was one of the most iconic movies of the 1990s and has become one of the most popular sports movies of all-time. But the story of “The Sandlot” goes far beyond what takes place in the film. Many of the movie’s actors weren’t originally supposed to be in the film, and there are several secrets behind some of its most iconic scenes. You’ll be shocked to find out the truth behind “The Sandlot.”
1. The movie wasn’t supposed to be called “The Sandlot”
“The Sandlot” is one of the biggest box office hits of any sports movie. But the movie wasn’t originally going to be called “The Sandlot.” The coming of age movie was originally going to be titled “The Boys of Summer.” However, there was a problem with that title that made it impossible to use.
“The Boys of Summer” might have been a good name for the movie that became “The Sandlot,” but it never came to be. The reason for this? There was already a book with the same title. “The Boys of Summer” could’ve been a fitting name for the film, but “The Sandlot” is an unforgettable title.
2. Hamilton “Ham” Porter was a last-minute casting decision
Pat Renner played the role of “Ham” Porter, and he is now one of the most iconic characters from the film. However, finding a cast member to play “Ham” proved to be one of the most difficult tasks on the “Sandlot” crew’s plate. The cast was getting on a plane to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they would begin filming. There was only one problem: they still didn’t have a “Ham.”
With everyone about to leave for Utah, writer/director David Mickey Evans had Renner in for an audition. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he said he told Pat “you’re in…and you’ve got to make a plane, kid.” The movie wouldn’t have been the same without Renner, so it was all for the best.
3. The set was so hot that an actor passed out from the heat
The “Sandlot” set in Salt Lake City, Utah was unbearably hot. The movie was shot during a massive heat wave, which made filming all the more difficult for the young cast. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and they had a dramatic effect on the filming of the movie.
On a day where the temperature was estimated to be 105 degrees, actor Tom Guiry (who plays Scotty Smalls) became so overheated that he fainted and fell into a cameraman. That shot didn’t make the final cut, but it goes to show filming isn’t always easy — especially during a mid-summer heat wave.
4. The pool scene was shot in freezing cold temperatures
Most of the filming of “The Sandlot” came in the middle of a summer heat wave. But after weeks of intense heat, the time finally came for the cast to shoot the pool scene. Unfortunately, the scene came on one of the few days where temperatures weren’t sky-high. It was overcast outside, and the water was 56 degrees.
The actors were all good sports, and they jumped into the pool. But it was freezing. Writer/director David Mickey Evans pointed out that in the scene where “Squints” is staring at Wendy Peppercorn, the actor’s teeth are actually chattering. “It’s because he’s freezing to death,” Evans said.
5. The actor who played “Squints” was super excited for the kissing scene
Actor Chauncey Leopardi played the role of “Squints,” and writer/director David Mickey Evans praised him for being “such a trooper.” Two weeks before the crew shot the iconic pool scene that featured “Squints” kissing lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn (played by Marley Shelton), Leopardi started to become very anxious.
“Squints” kept asking the director when they were going to shoot the scene: “Dave, when [are] we gonna shoot that scene? We gonna shoot that scene today? When is it?” The director says he purposely wouldn’t give Leopardi a schedule or call sheets, which escalated the actor’s anxiety and increased the tension “until he was about ready to explode.”
6. “Squints” was given specific instructions for the kissing scene
Eventually, the time would come when the “Sandlot” crew would finally shoot the kissing scene. One day, the director told “Squints” they were finally going to shoot the scene. “Squints” became ecstatic: “Oh, we are? Like the actual one where I get to kiss her — like the actual one?” But they wouldn’t film the scene until the director delivered an important message to the actor.
Before the cameras started rolling, writer/director David Mickey Evans pulled “Squints” aside for a serious discussion. “Listen to me,” he said. “You keep your tongue in your mouth, understand?” Leopardi was understandably anxious, so the director needed to make sure the scene would go as planned.
7. Wendy Peffercorn was based on a real-life lifeguard
Best known for the iconic scene in which she tries to revive “Squints” and ends up in a kiss, Wendy Peffercorn is the pool lifeguard in “The Sandlot.” Played by Marley Shelton, she is known among the kids for her attractive appearance, and “Squints” eventually decides to make a bold move in which he pretends to drown in order to receive a kiss.
Though this scene isn’t based on a true story, the character of Wendy Peffercorn is actually based on a person from writer/director David Mickey Evans’ real life. He remembers a lifeguard named “Bunny” who always wore a red bathing suit at the pool.
8. Everything on the “Sandlot” set was man-made
“The Sandlot” was put together on a pretty tight budget, and part of how the crew made the set work was to create everything themselves. “We found a big empty piece of land in a lower-middle-class neighborhood,” said writer/director David Mickey Evans.
There, the crew constructed all the significant sets, from the backstop to the dirt, grass, trees, and fences to even Mr. Mertle and the Timmonses’ houses and both backyards. However, the crew started to panic when they realized they needed to find a big oak tree for the set. What happened next shocked the crew and helped “The Sandlot” become one of the most iconic sports movies in history.
9. The story behind the movie’s famous oak tree is incredible
The “Sandlot” crew needed to buy a huge oak tree, but it didn’t fit the budget. Finding an oak tree that big is a task in itself, but the financial burden is even more intense. Trees of this size can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Finding the right tree seemed like an impossible task.
Then one day, a crew member saw a man outside his house who was about to cut down a massive, ancient oak tree. When asked what he was doing, the man said the tree was more than 100 years old and was beginning to break the foundation of his house. The crew member asked if he could have the tree, and the man agreed. “The Sandlot” had finally found the tree it needed.
10. It only took 42 days to shoot the film
Most classic movies are known for the length it takes to shoot. Some movies have gone through months, or even years, of production time. But “The Sandlot” was not one of those movies. In fact, it was the opposite. It only took 42 days for the cast and crew to shoot “The Sandlot.” That’s just six weeks!
It’s incredible how a movie like “The Sandlot” became such a smashing success with so many things seemingly happening at the last minute. From the last-minute casting of “Ham” Porter to the miraculous oak tree story to the film being shot in just six weeks, it all feels like this movie was predestined to be a box office hit.
11. The famous insult scene was mostly unscripted
The insult scene is one of the best moments of the entire film. “Watch it, jerk.” “Shut up, idiot!” “Moron!” “Scab eater!” “Butt sniffer!” “Pus licker!” “Fart smeller!” “You eat dog crap for breakfast, geek.” “You mix your Wheaties with your mama’s toe jam!” “You bob for apples in the toilet and you like it.” “You play ball like a girl!”
Believe it or not, the insult scene was largely unscripted. Writer/director David Mickey Evans fed off-the-cuff insults to Patrick Renna (“Ham” Porter) as they were shooting the scene, and the two managed to workshop it to perfection. The insult scene is one of the most memorable scenes of “The Sandlot,” so it’s impressive to know most of it was off-the-cuff.
12. The real-life “Squints” sued 20th Century Fox over the movie
In “The Sandlot,” Michael Palledorous (also known as “Squints”) was known as the geek of his friend group. He wore thick-rimmed glasses and was the punchline of some of his friends’ jokes. But as it turns out, “Squints” was based on a real-life classmate of writer/director David Mickey Evans.
The real “Squints,” named Michael Polydoros, didn’t like the way he was depicted in the movie and actually sued 20th Century Fox for invasion of privacy and exploitation of his likeness. Had he won, he could have received damages and even a share of the film’s profits. However, the case was dismissed two years later.
13. The actor who played “Squints” was nothing like his character
“Squints” became a controversial character after the movie due to the lawsuit, but the actor who played him wasn’t actually much of a nerd himself. In fact, Chauncey Leonardi was nothing like the character he played. Had Leonardi been more like himself in the movie, perhaps “The Sandlot” would never have faced the lawsuit.
“He was into gangster rap,” said Tom Guiry, who played Scottie Smalls. “He’d wear the nerdiest clothes and the thick glasses and as soon as they would call ‘wrap,’ he’d be in humongous jeans down to his knees and a backwards hat.” Guiry said Leonardi was a hilarious actor and a great person.
14. The “chaw” used in the movie was not actually chewing tobacco
In another famous “Sandlot” scene, the boys pile onto a roller coaster at a carnival and pack mouthfuls of chewing tobacco. The “chaw” provided a nauseating combination along with the movement of the roller coaster that caused the boys to get sick. However, the “chaw” they’d packed wasn’t actually chewing tobacco.
The boys couldn’t actually consume chewing tobacco due to their age, so the “Sandlot” crew had to improvise. The homemade chewing tobacco was actually made of licorice and bacon bits. Ironically, some of the boys actually did get sick shooting the scene, because they had to ride the ride several times while keeping their mouths full.
15. The vomit in the movie was fake, too
The “chaw” wasn’t the only fake substance used in the roller coaster scene at the carnival. Not only did the boys stuff fake chewing tobacco consisting of licorice and bacon bits in their mouths, but they also spewed out fake vomit.
The vomit was composed of a variety of weird foods, from split pea soup to baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin. Though some of the boys actually got sick while filming the roller coaster scene, the fake vomit had a better appearance on the big screen. After all, forcing a bunch of kids to ride around on a roller coaster until they actually threw up wouldn’t be a good look for the “Sandlot” crew.
16. “Wooly Bully” was supposed to be the song for the vomit scene
In putting “The Sandlot” together, the music was one of the last steps of the crew’s process. “Tequila,” “Green Onions” and “Wipeout” were three of the most popular songs on the soundtrack, highlighting some of the film’s most memorable scenes. The film paid licensing fees to use the music, but the popularity “The Sandlot” generated likely paid huge dividends due to the movie’s popularity.
One song that missed the final cut was Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully.” The crew wanted to use the song for the vomit scene at the carnival, but the artist wanted more money than they were willing to pay. “Wipeout” made the final cut instead, and the song’s popularity skyrocketed.
17. Scottie Smalls hears “you’re killing me, Smalls!” almost every day
It’s been more than 20 years since “The Sandlot” hit theaters, but the actor who played Scottie Smalls still deals with fans of the film on a daily basis. Tom Guiry says he still runs into fans who yell the iconic line “you’re killing me, Smalls!” whenever they see him.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Guiry says he hears the line as many as four times per day. However, the actor takes it in stride and mentions he doesn’t mind the interactions with fans. “You’re killing me, Smalls!” is one of the most memorable movie one-liners of all-time, so it’s no surprise Guiry still hears it all the time.
18. “Smalls” has been trying to get his hands on a hat he wore in the movie for years
Towards the beginning of “The Sandlot,” Scottie Smalls wears an obscure trout hat that has now become part of the movie’s lore among fans. The unique hat has virtually no significance in the movie, but the cap’s bizarre appearance has given it a whole new level of cult popularity.
One of the people who is trying to track the hat down is Tom Guiry, the actor who played Scottie Smalls and wore the hat in the movie. Guiry tried calling the studio and has taken other methods to track the hat down, but he hasn’t had any luck so far.
19. “The Beast” was based on a real-life dog
“The Beast,” whose actual name is Hercules, is one of the most memorable characters of “The Sandlot.” The dog is so big and scary, fans of the movie may wonder if there’s a hound out there that Hercules was actually modeled after. And as it turns out, Hercules is based off a real-life dog.
The kids’ experience with Hercules was inspired by a real childhood experience of writer/director David Mickey Evans’ brother. When Evans’ brother was left out of a neighborhood baseball game, he decided to find their lost baseball to earn a spot on the team. A giant dog named Hercules was on the other side of a wall he jumped over, and Hercules bit him!
20. “The Beast” was played by two English Mastiffs and a huge puppet
Casting Hercules wasn’t as simple as finding a dog and putting it in front of a camera. In fact, some shots required multiple dogs and, on occasion, even a puppet. Hercules, otherwise known as “The Beast,” is a huge English Mastiff. In fact, he’s so huge that the puppet that played him required multiple people to operate.
Yes, you heard that right. It took two people to operate the “Hercules” puppet in “The Sandlot.” The slobbery hound was a major part of the success of “The Sandlot,” and it’s worth recognizing that there was a lot more to the dog than simply how it appeared on-screen.
21. The crew had to do something gross to make Hercules kiss Scotty Smalls
“The Beast” spent most of his time in “The Sandlot” hoarding baseballs. But at the end of the movie, Hercules chases Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez around town. Rumored to have eaten a neighborhood kid, “The Beast” was a force to be reckoned with. But when a fence crashes down on Hercules, Scottie Smalls and Benny “The Jet” heroically lift the fence off the dog.
After he was saved, Hercules rewards Smalls with a big kiss. But the smooch wasn’t as easy as it was made out to be in the movie. “They put like a whole jar of Gerber baby food on the side of my face,” said the actor who played Smalls. “The dog had a field day on my face.” Fortunately, the actor didn’t seem to mind.
22. The kids in the movie were originally supposed to be younger
The “Sandlot” crew originally planned on casting kids who were around nine or 10 years old. In casting, however, it quickly became obvious that the cast needed to be older. Writer/director David Mickey Evans made the decision to look for kids who were 12 or 13 years old instead, and the decision worked out for the best.
Evans knew it was the right decision when the crew interviewed the first older kid, Mike Vitar. It was Vitar who ended up playing the role of one of the film’s most iconic characters, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. With hindsight, it’s safe to say Evans made the right casting decision.
23. David Mickey Evans also narrates the film
Writer/director David Mickey Evans played a major role in putting “The Sandlot” together. Evans co-wrote the story alongside Robert Gunter, and he served as the only director of the film. But something most fans of the movie don’t know is that Evans played another role in the making of “The Sandlot.”
In addition to co-writing and directing the film, Evans also served as the narrator of “The Sandlot.” Evans’ role in the creation of the film was crucial, but his narration work is something most fans of the movie will never forget. He was a natural fit for the role of narrator, and he executed the job to perfection.
24. The crew nailed a shot that was nearly impossible
In a shot that was described as “10 million-to-one,” Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez bashes a ball into the outfield, where it rolls right in front of the camera lens. The next morning, “Squints” appears to continue running the same path from darkness to light and picks up the ball, right in front of the camera which was lying on the ground.
With today’s technology, executing such a shot wouldn’t be that difficult. But in those days, CGI did not yet exist. The crew used a pitching machine to launch the ball more than 200 feet, and perfected the angle so the ball would roll right up into the camera lens. Impressively, they got the perfect shot on the very first take.
25. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and his older self are played by brothers
In Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, “The Sandlot” produced one of the most iconic characters of the 1990s. Played by Cuban-American Mike Vitar, Rodriguez is a superstar baseball player who shows up big for his team and eventually achieves his dream of playing professional baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vitar, who also starred in “D2: The Mighty Ducks” and “D3: The Mighty Ducks,” was not the only actor to play the role of Rodriguez. In fact, Vitar’s older brother Pablo played the adult version of Benny when he was on the Dodgers. That’s probably why the two versions of Rodriguez look so much alike.
26. The boys were ecstatic to see “Darth Vader” in person
Played by James Earl Jones, Darth Vader is one of the most recognizable and notorious characters in cinema history. Many of the young actors in “The Sandlot” were huge fans of “Star Wars,” as the movie franchise was what many kids in the 1980s and 1990s grew up on.
Jones played the biggest villain in movie history, but he also played Mr. Mertle in “The Sandlot.” Darth Vader is a legendary movie character, so the kids were eager to meet the man who played him in person. Marley Shelton, who played the famous lifeguard Wendy Peppercorn, was another popular person on set.
27. After filming, the boys sneaked into a rated-R movie
The young “Sandlot” cast got into all kinds of shenanigans on set, whether the cameras were rolling or not. Their alter egos in the film got into all sorts of trouble, and the cast was no different. In fact, after they finished filming “The Sandlot,” the boys sneaked into a movie that was rated-R.
The cast somehow managed to sneak into a screening of “Basic Instinct,” a neo-noir erotic thriller. The film was a parent’s nightmare, as many of the movie’s themes and scenes were extremely violent and intense. Nonetheless, the kids seemed to have a good time at the movie.
28. “Yeah-Yeah” originally auditioned for the part of “Bertram”
Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan is another popular character from “The Sandlot.” But the actor who was cast as “Yeah-Yeah” didn’t originally want to play the part. In fact, he auditioned for an entirely different role in the film. And as if that wasn’t enough, he wasn’t even the first choice for the role.
Marty York was the actor who played “Yeah-Yeah.” York originally read for Bertram, but he did not get the role. To make matters worse, he wasn’t the crew’s first choice for the role of “Yeah-Yeah,” either. York ended up getting the role because the kid who was cast for “Yeah-Yeah” got sick just as the movie was scheduled to begin filming.
29. Some of the kids had to be coached to look like they’ve never played baseball
Anyone who has watched “The Sandlot” may wonder whether some of the kids on the team actually knew how to play baseball. Scotty Smalls famously had a difficult time learning how to pick up the sport. Fortunately, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez took Smalls under his wing and taught him how to play he game.
However, the actor who played Smalls actually knew how to play baseball in real life. It’s difficult to avoid catching a ball thrown directly at you, so Tom Guiry — who played Smalls — had to learn how to not catch the ball. He was also coached on how to look like he didn’t know how to throw. “I know my Little League coach was pretty upset when he saw the movie,” he said.
30. There have been two “Sandlot” sequels, but without the original cast
“The Sandlot” was a smashing success, but the movie went without a sequel for a long time. “The Sandlot 2” wasn’t released until more than a decade after the original film debuted, and not a single member of the original cast appeared in the film.
In the second sequel, “The Sandlot: Heading Home,” one member of the original film made an appearance. “Squints,” played by Chauncey Leopardi, appeared in the third movie, though he was the only member of the original cast in the film. Tom Guiry, who played Scotty Smalls, says he was never contacted about signing on for the sequels.