SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty years ago, "The Sandlot" debuted in theaters, capturing a portrait of American life in 1962. The film follows the adventures of nine boys and their antics as they attempt to salvage a baseball signed by Babe Ruth from the backyard of "The Beast," a legendary 300-pound, ball-eating, ferocious English mastiff.
RottenTomatoes.com ranked "The Sandlot" the 20th-best baseball movie of all time, but what hits the film out of the ballpark for Utahns is that it was made in their own backyard — primarily Glendale, Rose Park and Poplar Grove.
In celebration of the movie's two decadelong success, members of the cast and crew are returning to Utah for events on July 19 and 20, including an outdoor screening of the movie at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
David Mickey Evans, writer, director and narrator of "The Sandlot," told the Deseret News that the entire premise of the movie came from an incident when he was a kid.
Evans and his younger brother lived on a block where the other kids didn't like them. The kids would play baseball in the middle of the street and they'd never let Evans or his brother play. One day the kids hit a baseball over a brick wall at the end of the block into a yard where there was a vicious dog named Hercules.
The kids told Evans' little brother that if he retrieved the ball, they'd let him play with them. His brother went over the fence and tossed the ball back, but the dog got off its chain and tore up the boy's leg.
"That's the sort of little notional incident from where I got that 'aha' moment," Evans told the Deseret News. "I go, 'That's a movie; that is a movie right there.'"
When choosing to film "The Sandlot" in Utah, Evans considered two main factors: cost and topography. He said he didn't want to film in California because of the cost and the inconvenience of high-traffic areas, so he began looking for a new location with a similar setting. That was when Mark Burg, the film's executive producer, suggested Salt Lake City.
"I wrote the thing to take place in the San Fernando Valley (Calif.), which is a bit of a desert ringed by purple mountains and there's really only one other place if not in the world, definitely in the Northern Hemisphere, that looks like that, and it's Salt Lake," Evans said. "So it was kind of a no-brainer, because it was a perfect match."
Evans said the film crew built the entire sandlot from the ground up on a privately owned field in Glendale between Navajo Street and Glenrose Drive. The crew constructed backstops, the diamond, fences, telephone poles, the alley and more. The lot has remained empty since the crew razed the set after filming.
Other filming locations included the little league diamond in Riverside Park, 739 N. 1400 W.; an alley in Poplar Grove located at 550 S. Post St.; Lorin Farr Park Pool at 1691 Gramercy Ave. in Ogden; a drug store in Midvale; and State Street in American Fork.
For Evans, filming in Utah was memorable.
"I remember that at the time it was a great place to shoot, still is," he said. "The crews are terrific; the people are great; everybody works their butts off. It's a good, good place. I like it a lot."
When people talk to Evans about "The Sandlot," the most oft-mentioned scene is where Squints, known for his large glasses, jumps into the deep end of the pool in a ploy to be rescued and given CPR by the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn.
But Evans' personal favorite scene is when the kids play ball on the sandlot underneath the fireworks with Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful" in the background. He also likes the section of the film when the kids try different contraptions to get their ball back, ending with a chase scene.
"That was a lot of fun to shoot," he said. "It took probably about a week of going to different places to get all those pieces to put it together. It's a little bombastic and over the top, but I like it. I think it fit the film and the story and the tone of the movie really well."
Another of Evans' favorite scenes is an argument between Hamilton "Ham" Porter, played by Patrick Renna, and an opposing player, during which Ham yells out, "You play ball like a girl."
"That was originally supposed to be Benny's thing, where he was going to get into a cut-down argument," Evans said. "But Pat Rena was doing such a great job with him and that character that just seemed, on the day, on the moment we just changed it and had that character do it."
Throughout the film's 20th anniversary tour, Evans has had the chance to hang out with a number of the actors from "The Sandlot" and he looks forward to seeing both Shane Obedzinski and Chauncey Leopardi, who played Tommy "Repeat" Timmons and Squints, respectively, in Utah.
"It's very cool to see these guys," Evans said. "First of all, they look exactly the same, just slightly older. They really do. So it's very cool and they all seem to have done very well."
In a recent article in Sports Illustrated titled "Where Are They Now?— The Sandlot," the actors were interviewed about what they've done since filming the movie.
For Obedzinski, whose character was notable for imitating the words and phrases of his brother Timmy, life has included rock bands and pizza chains. The now 30-year-old revealed in the SI article that his surprise reaction to his co-star Leopardi kissing the lifeguard was "legit."
Tommy's older brother, Timmy Timmons, was played by Victor DiMattia, now 32, who has since studied directing and screenwriting at the Academy of Art University in California, been a member of the punk rock band Spastic, and currently writes comedy. Recently, he went out with co-star Marty York and was allowed VIP access to a nightclub in L.A. because the bouncer recognized them from the movie.
York, whose character Alan "Yeah-Yeah" McClennan was known for saying "yeah, yeah" to everything, was in a car accident in 1997 that left him in a coma for a week. He was also jailed in 2009 for domestic battery. The 32-year-old is currently working as a personal trainer and "working to get his life back together," according to SI.
Grant Gelt, 33, who played Bertram Grover Weeks, spends his time serving as head of operations at Uprising Creative, traveling the world and managing the blues-rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. According to the Sports Illustrated article, many members of the cast remember a day when shooting was about to commence but Gelt was missing. Evans eventually found him in a tree house reading vintage picture book props.
According to Evans, "The Sandlot" was probably the best shoot he ever had and certainly the favorite movie he's ever made.
"I'm very grateful that the film commission and the state seems to think that it's such a big deal just to give it a marker and have an event and stuff like that," Evans said. "How many filmmakers get that? I can count them on one hand. That's a very, very big honor."
A screening of "The Sandlot" will be held July 19 after a Salt Lake Bees game against the Sacramento River Cats, which starts at 6:35 p.m. at Spring Mobile Ballpark, 77 W. 1300 S. Among those in attendance will be Evans, Obedenski, Gelt, DiMattia, York, Cathleen Summers, an executive producer; and Daniel Zacapa, who was the police chief. They will be available for autographs and photo opportunities during the screening. Tickets for the baseball game are $8-$24 and include the screening and a Q-and-A session with the cast.
A celebration will be held July 20, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m., at the original Sandlot location, between Navajo Street and Glenrose Drive in Glendale. The celebration will include a carnival at 2 p.m., autographs at 6 p.m., a Q-and-A session with the cast at 8:30 p.m. and a screening of "The Sandlot" at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are free and will be available starting July 15 at select sponsor locations. There will be a limit of two tickets per person.
"The Sandlot" is one of many outdoor movies to be shown this summer in Utah.
July 12, dusk:
"Cool Runnings," Family Flicks Series, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Highway 210 Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird; free. 98 minutes; PG (mild language and brief violence) (801-933-2222 or snowbird.com)
"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," Riverton Movies in the Park Series, Canyonview Park, 4400 W. 12200 S., Riverton; free. 93 minutes; PG (some mild action and rude humor) (recreation.rivertoncity.com)
July 13, dusk:
July 15, dusk:
July 18, dusk:
"Rise of the Guardians," Blockbuster Movies Under the Stars Series, Draper Amphitheater, 944 E. Vestry Road, Draper; free. 97 minutes; PG (thematic elements and some mildly scary action) (draper.ut.us)
July 19, dusk:
"A League of Their Own," Friday Night Flicks, Wasatch Hollow, 1700 S. 1650 East, free. 128 minutes; PG (language) (slc.gov.com)
"Madagascar 3," West Jordan Movie in the Park Series, Veterans Memorial Park, 1985 W. 7800 South, West Jordan; free. 93 minutes; PG (some mild action and rude humor) (wjordan.com)
July 22, dusk:
July 26, dusk:
"Mrs. Doubtfire," Family Flicks Series, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Highway 210 Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird; free. 125 minutes; PG-13 (some sexual references) (801-933-2222 or snowbird.com)
"Wreck-It Ralph," Sights & Sounds of Summer Series, Bowery Park, 10639 S. Cave Run Lane, South Jordan; free. 108 minutes; PG (some rude humor and mild action/violence) (801-254-3742 or sjc.utah.gov)
July 29, dusk:
July 31, dusk:
Aug. 2, dusk:
"Brave," Sights & Sounds of Summer Series, Callender Square, 4526 W. Harvest Moon Lane, South Jordan; free. 93 minutes; PG (some scary action and rude humor) (801-254-3742 or sjc.utah.gov)
"Rise of the Guardians," Herriman Cinema in the Park Series, W&M Butterfield Park, 13011 S. Pioneer St., free. 97 minutes; PG (thematic elements and some mildly scary action) (801-446-5323 or herriman.org)
"Where the Wild Things Are," Family Flicks Series, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Highway 210 Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird; free. 101 minutes; PG (mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language) (801-933-2222 or snowbird.com)
Aug. 3, dusk:
"El Bolero de Raquel" (Spanish with English Subtitles), Cinema Under the Stars Series, Chapman Library, 577 S. 900 W., free. 101 minutes; Not rated (801-594-8623 or slcpl.org)
Aug. 9, dusk:
"How to Train Your Dragon," Family Flicks Series, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Highway 210 Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird; free. 98 minutes; PG (sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language) (801-933-2222 or snowbird.com)
"Rise of the Guardians, "Sights & Sounds of Summer Series, Oquirrh Shadows, 10300 S. 4000 W., South Jordan; free. 97 minutes; PG (thematic elements and some mildly scary action) (801-254-3742 or sjc.utah.gov)
Aug. 16, dusk:
"Avengers," West Jordan Movie in the Park Series, Veterans Memorial Park, 1985 W. 7800 S., West Jordan; free. 143 minutes; PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference) (wjordan.com)
Aug. 17, dusk:
Aug. 21, dusk:
"Little Miss Sunshine," Sundance Institute Summer Series, Red Butte Gardens Amphitheatre, 300 Wakara Way, free. 101 minutes; R (language, some sex and drug content) (801-585-0556 or redbuttegarden.org)
Aug. 23, dusk:
"Enchanted," Millcreek Movie Nights Series, Canyon Rim Park, 2900 E. 3100 S., free. 107 minutes; PG (some scary images and mild innuendo) (www.millcreektownship.org)
"Life of Pi," Sights & Sounds of Summer Series, Heritage Park, 10800 S. Redwood Rd., South Jordan; free. 127 minutes; PG (emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril) (801-254-3742 or sjc.utah.gov)
Aug. 28, dusk:
Aug. 30, dusk:
"Hotel Transylvania," Sandy Movies in the Park Series, Eastridge Park, 12000 S. 1000 E., Sandy; free. 91 minutes; PG (some rude humor, action and scary images) (sandy.utah.gov)
Sept. 4, dusk:
TBA community choice, Sundance Institute Summer Series, Red Butte Gardens Amphitheatre, 300 Wakara Way, free. (801-585-0556 or redbuttegarden.org)
Sept. 11, dusk:8 comments on this story
Silent Movie Festival, Sandy Movies in the Park Series, Sandy Amphitheater, 9400 S. 1300 E., Sandy; free. (sandy.utah.gov)
Sept. 20, dusk:
"Hotel Transylvania," Riverton Movies in the Park Series, Riverton City Hall Park, 12830 S. 1830 W., Riverton; free. 91 minutes; PG (some rude humor, action and scary images) (recreation.rivertoncity.com)
"Wreck-It Ralph," Sandy Movies in the Park Series, Falcon Park, 9200 S. 1700 E., Sandy; free. 108 minutes; PG (some rude humor and mild action/violence) (sandy.utah.gov)