The Sandlot Turns 20-We're All Old

The greatest baseball movie of the past 25 years celebrates the 20th anniversary of its release. About 25 years ago was when Bull Durham, Major League, and Field of Dreams all were released, The Sandlot is the best baseball movie to come out since then. Moneyball might have made more money at the box office and garnered Oscar nominations when the academy got swept up in the narrative that the film was a passion project for Brad Pitt, but the film never had a chance of living up to the book. Sugar is perhaps the most poignant baseball movie ever and is a must watch for any baseball fan, but it was a small movie that doesn't resonate sadly because not enough people have seen it.  Life went on to imitate art as the star of Sugar, Algenis Perez Soto, like Miguel in the movie went on to settle in the United States in relative obscurity when he moved to Salem.

With the possible exception of boxing, baseball is the sport that translates best to film as it is the most individualistic of all team sports. The protagonist of The Sandlot was the nerdy Scotty Smalls, as he tried to make new friends after moving and forge a relationship with his new step-father (played by Dennis Leary). The relationship that defined the film was Smalls' relationship with neighborhood hero, Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez. Over the course of the movie we see Smalls find confidence in himself and learn to relate to others like he never had before

Taking place in the early 1960s, when according to my dad, kids played pickup baseball in sandlots daily, Benny took Smalls under his wing and helped him become a decent enough of a player that he fit in with the rest of the group of kids who played ball at the sandlot every day. Most coming of age films take place well into the characters' teen years, but seeing Smalls and the rest of the gang start that process while still maintaining a fair bit of youthful innocence gave the film its charm. The movie is funny enough to appeal to adults without patronizing inside jokes or references aimed at adults like many family movies do. The bittersweet epilogue at the end of the film confirmed that the characters' innocence was imminently going to erode as adulthood loomed.

Baseball is played by millions of kids which has lead to countless baseball-themed, family films. Most of them are entirely forgettable. There was a direct-to-video sequel to The Sandlot that came out twelve years after the original. If there was any doubt that this movie was going to be horrible, it was removed when you saw that one of the stars of the movie was a girl. It was almost as if twelve years later director David M Evans was apologizing for the youthful misogyny of the first film. Forcing contemporary values in a historical context, even if most of us would agree that society may have evolved in the right direction, is a pet peeve of mine. Whitewashing the way things were doesn't teach anybody anything. There was even a third movie I didn't know existed until one minute ago that came out in 2007.

For those of us who were kids in the early 90s when the movie came out we feel a bit older today. The last time I saw the movie was when I stumbled upon it halfway through on TV within the past few years. The parts I saw still held up fairly well unlike the "Inspirational Edition" of The Pistol, another movie I loved as a kid that I saw as an adult for the first time in years. It's nice to affirm that everything you liked as a kid wasn't entirely stupid.