After briefly disappearing from Disney Plus, The Sandlot and The Sandlot 2 will be sliding back onto the streaming service on July 2. Since its DVD release in the early 2000s, the original film has become a cult classic thanks to classic lines and a heavy helping of nostalgia.
But you probably don’t know about the recasts, filming locations, or future plans for the franchise. Let’s take a deep dive into the origins of the story and the making of the movie.
1.) The movie is an idealized autobiography
As a kid, screenwriter David Mickey Evans and his brother were excluded from neighbourhood games. “It wasn’t even a matter of being the last guy picked. They just would never pick us.”
One day, the kids hit their only baseball over a cement wall, into a yard guarded by a vicious dog named Hercules. David’s brother could play with them, if he retrieved the ball. Hercules burst from his chain, ripping the boy’s leg. The kids only laughed.
“One day, it occurred to me that I was giving them a lot of space that I should devote in my head to more positive thoughts,” Evans told a baseball website in 2018. It was a “lightning moment,” and inspired the film about friendships.
2.) The year — 1962 — was a very deliberate choice
Maury Wills stole 104 bases in the 1962 season, playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a cut subplot, Benny would try and steal a base at the sandlot, every time Wills stole one. When he finds a pack of cards where every card is Wills, he’s inspired to pursue baseball as a career.
3.) It had to be recast
After many months of a gruelling casting process, Evans found the ensemble of 9 and 10-year-olds. But gathered together in a room, he and casting director Shari Rhodes traded glances, realizing that they all looked “like babies.” They started again, casting 12 and 13-year-olds.
4.) “You keep telling me that. Who is she?”
In the movie, Scott brings his dad’s prized Babe Ruth ball out to the sandlot. Oblivious to the player’s legendary status, he asks, “who is she?” (Babe Ruth played for 22 seasons, and his records lasted for decades.)
5.) Mr. Mertle couldn’t have played alongside Babe Ruth for one unfortunate reason: segregation
James Earl Jones’ Thelonious Mertle is shown alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an old photograph. While Fleet and Weldy Walker played pro baseball for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the 1890s, Black ballplayers were banned until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Rob Edelman, who the Society for American Baseball Research considers the pre-eminent export on baseball in movies, offers a possible solution. In Great Baseball Films, he suggests that “perhaps Mertle, as other Negro Leaguers, barnstormed with major leaguers during the off-season, but this is never made clear.”
6.) James Earl Jones was on set just one day
James Earl Jones’ theatrical precision came in handy, as the entire film was shot in just 42 days, to keep the budget under control. In 2018, Evans recounted:
He showed up on set and I had him for one day and he’s the kind of actor that comes one-hundred percent prepared. He’s ready to go, you give him a minute, you say action, he does it, it’s perfect, and then you cut.
7.) Utah has an official map with the filming locations
The Sandlot: 1388 Glenrose Drive South, Salt Lake City
The baseball field: Riverside Park, Salt Lake City
Benny’s neighborhood: 1556 South 2000 East, Salt Lake City
The carnival: Liberty Park, East 900 South, Salt Lake City
Vincent’s drug store: 7696 North Main Street, Midvale
The pool: 1619 Gramercy Avenue, Ogden, Utah
Vincent’s Drug opened in 1911 as a saloon, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Prohibition forced its conversion to a drugstore. While it moved between storefronts, the business stayed in the family, and kept its vintage look for decades. It was also a filming location for the pilot episode of ABC’s Blood and Oil, for an episode of Touched by an Angel, and for the movies Halloween 4 and Halloween 5.
Despite closing in 2003, it remains looking picture-perfect to this day. The windows remain freshly painted, as if they were just closed for the day.
Lest you think, “Utah? What a strange filming location,” think again. The state’s film industry has seen a variety of productions over the years, including the High School Musical and Halloweentown DCOM series, even scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean.
8.) The film cast recently released NFT trading cards
I’ll be frank: I don’t get the appeal of Non-Fungible Tokens.
But for those who do, members of the cast of The Sandlot recently sold their own line of NFTs, called “Boys of Summer.” The “packs” of “cards” featured 40 different unreleased behind the scenes set photos.
9.) There may be a prequel or a series on the horizon
There may be more Sandlot content on the way, but there have not been many updates.
A prequel film was announced in July 2018 by 20th Century Fox, with David Mickey Evans and Austin Reynolds writing. Then in March 2019, David Mickey Evans told the podcast The Rain Delay that “I just sold a Sandlot television show. We’re about to get an order for the first two seasons.” Set in 1984, the original cast returns as the parents of the new cast. A month later, Deadline reported that the series was in early development.
But since then, no details have leaked out, about the cast, filming locations, release date, anything. Hopefully, no news is good news.
10.) There are more 1993 family films on Disney Plus
April 1993 was a relatively slow month for family films. Released on April 7, its only competition was The Adventures of Huck Finn (starring Elijah Wood and Courtney B. Vance) and Burt Reynolds comedy Cop and a Half, from Universal.