‘The Sandlot’ turns 20: Stories from the cast on the film’s 20th anniversary

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Twenty years later and Tom Guiry still can't escape the classic line from his most memorable film appearance.

"You're killin' me, Smalls!"

Guiry was Scotty Smalls in "The Sandlot," the 1993 coming-of-age baseball movie about a rag-tag group of boys who loved baseball, and the new kid in town, a total rookie, trying to fit in with them. Ready to feel old? Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the film debuting in theaters.

Rare is the day that goes by without someone seeing Guiry, now 32 and a father three, and saying "You're killin' me, Smalls." When he's not acting, he works at a hospital as a patient transporter to make ends meet. So when patients recognize him and say, "You're killin' me, Smalls," it's very nice they don't mean it literally.

"When I was in my early 20s," Guiry says. "It used to bother me. But it's nice to be remembered for something and Smalls isn't a bad thing to be remembered for."

David M. Evans, the writer, director and narrator of "The Sandlot," loves to tell this story: He was in an airport a few years back. He saw a father trying to contain a wild child while also trying to carry his luggage. Finally, giving up, the dad put down his bags and told the child, "You're killin' me, Smalls."

"He was three feet from me and I couldn't resist," Evans says. "I told the guy, 'You're never going to believe this' ..." He took the guy's address and sent him and his son an autographed poster.

"I am very, very grateful that it means that much to people," Evans says.

Chauncey Leopardi played Michael "Squints" Palledorous, the kid with the big glasses who famously tricked hot girl Wendy Peffercorn into kissing him. When "The Sandlot" anniversary came on Sunday, fans were sending him well wishes on Twitter like it was his birthday.

"People get pretty excited about [the movie]," says Leopardi, 31. "We're obviously not really celebrities or movie stars or anything. When I meet people in public, they've really taken it to heart. They're genuinely excited to meet us."

To mark the 20th anniversary of the film, 20th Century Fox put out a special edition Blu-ray of "The Sandlot" with collectible baseball cards of the characters. There's also an anniversary tour in which the film will be shown at baseball stadiums around the country (now through September, the first one is Saturday in New Jersey). Evans is attending the screenings and blogging about them. P.F. Flyers, famously worn by "Sandlot" hero Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, even put out a special 20th anniversary edition.

Big League Stew had its own idea of how to honor the anniversary of "The Sandlot." We talked to Evans, Guiry and Leopardi about a few of the movie's most memorable scenes, to get their behind-the-scenes stories and memories.

* * *

Scene: When Benny hits the ball directly into Smalls' glove to make it seem like he knows how to catch.

Tom Guiry (Smalls): "I remember standing there. I had to just keep my arm up in the air and feel the ball going into the glove. I thought, 'there's no way in hell they're going to get this ball into my glove.' I'm wincing, because they had the ball connected to this PVC pipe. People weren't supposed to be able to see it. As much as they tried, the ball kept hitting me in the head."

David M. Evans (writer/director): "That one, it's a small tension piece: What's he gonna do? How good is he? There's no way he can possibly do that? The composer David Newman, of the great Newman family. [He's the son of Alfred Newman and cousin to Randy Newman]. When we got into the spotting of it, Dave was composing the moment. I told him, 'just make this as tense as you can.' We wanted to hit a big, heroic release after he kid catches the ball — or after he's helped to catch the ball. Because that's the moment everything changes for this kid. We actual used a huge prop baseball — three or four times the size of a basketball. We threw that at the camera a few times, just to heighten that moment, to make it seem larger than life."

Guiry: "Finally, they got it in the glove. Luckily, I had that big trout cap covering my head. I'm still on the hunt for that trout cap. I wanted to keep it, but they needed to use it for the end scene with the grown-up me. I sent them a letter trying to get it, but they said it was misplaced. If anyone finds that hat, e-mail me."

* * *

Scene: The Sandlot kids try chewing tobacco, go on a carnival ride and hurl.

Evans: "I think we only had one camera, each one of those kids, they're actually riding in the same seat. That was probably the scene, just as young guys, they were most excited and anxious about doing. To get to do those two or three minutes where they can have their moment, have fun, get sick and throw up. We didn't have sound wired up there, so I was just yelling at them from the monitor: 'You're having a good time. You're having a good time. Now you're starting to feel sick. Now you're blowing chunks.' "

Guiry: "We had three casualties that day. The chewing tobacco, it was bacon bits and licorice. We were chewing it and then swallowing half of it because we didn't know what to do with it."

Chauncey Leopardi (Squints): "It was really gross. It didn't taste very good, so it was easy to act like you wanted to puke."

Guiry: "We had to go on that ride at least 30 times. After about the 15th team, you get a little dizzy. It was me, Ham and either Tommy or Timmy Timmons — we yacked. We threw up, real stuff. They where like, 'Do you guys feel better? OK, back on the ride.' A couple of the scenes where we were about to throw up were pretty authentic."

Evans: "They were all very interested when we made the vomit. What is it? Does it stink? What is it made of? If memory serves, it was a gelatin base, some water, oatmeal, some phony chewing tobacco and a bunch of baked beans with the brown baked-bean sauce. We got up on a ladder with a five-gallon bucket and just threw it everywhere."

Leopardi: "I just remember it was a pretty big set-up for just a small scene. They had to do do the carnival thing. Anytime there was a lot of extras it was a big deal, because it was all period — with the big hairdos and beehives."

* * *

Scene: Smack-talking and playing against the rival Tigers

Guiry: "It was cool to see the back-and-forth with the insults. My fave was 'You bob for apples in the toilet … and you like it.' I use that still."

Evans: "A lot for stuff that Ham says, I just made that stuff up right there. It's all ad-lib. There's a lot of that in this movie. We kinda dialed it in this movie, spontaneously. These guys were very receptive and very quick. Ham was really, really good at that. Chauncey was really good at that. Sometimes, not that scene in particular, but when they're trying to retrieve the ball and stuff, I'd stick little transmitters in their ears and I'd whisper a line to them and they could say it. That was fun. Anytime they got to do slides or baseball stuff, they were always up for that. They loved the baseball scenes."

Leopardi: "They had pitching machines pitching to us. They had the camera behind a big Plexiglass box. There was an opening that was literally no bigger than a baseball. Those cameras, they're like $50,000-$100,000. I hit a line drive off the machine and shattered the lens of that camera. It was a pretty big deal. What were the odds?"

Evans: "When Squints comes up in that scene and he points to the outfield and cocks the bat with a grin and he clocks [the ball], you can see him throw the bat off to the right as he runs. He did that like three times in a row, and I said 'You can't throw the bat like that, there are people over there.' And he did it again. That one actually went and hit the guy who was the baseball coach, Daniel Zacapa. It hit him in the leg, hard."

Leopardi: "I had a bat that I used throughout the entire film. It got misplaced somewhere. So one of the prop guys built me a new bat, he went back to the truck and built a new one and dyed it. We had a really cool property and set department on that film."

* * *

Scene: When Squints pretends to drown in the pool so Wendy Peffercorn will give him mouth-to-mouth.

Evans: First things first, Chauncey, Squints, was champing at the bit. He'd be asking me every day when are we going to do that kissing scene. I kept telling him, 'I don't know. Soon. Soon. Pretty soon. Pretty soon.' I just tried to drag out that anticipation and that moment for Chauncey. I said there's no such thing as too big when you smile. It better be a big, goofy clown grin."

Leopardi: "We shot it at at like 8 or 9 in the morning. So it was really, really cold. Most of the scene when I was shaking, it's because it was 60 degrees. I think David Mickey Evans told me that if I slipped her the tongue, he was going to fire me."

Evans: "They were getting ready to do it and I realized I needed to tell him something. I took him aside, because Marley Shelton is an incredibly pretty lady, I said: 'You listen to me, you keep your tongue in your month.' He said, 'OK, OK, I will.' So he did it. I had no idea what the kicker was going to be, but I did know from his big [expletive]-eating grin when she pulls away, and also from her reaction — those two shots, I said, I got it, this is going to sing. It was perfect. This magic moment."

Guiry: "She was a very popular amongst us boys, especially young adolescent boys. We were very interested in Wendy Peffercorn. I think it was Benny the Jet, Mike, I think he said to Squints that day, 'You have the best part in this movie.' "

Leopardi: "At the time, doing it, I guess, it was cool. At 11 you couldn't really know what the lasting effect of one scene can be. But it definitely had a pretty profound affect on my life. Because it was a big part of other peoples' lives. I'm definitely happy that I ended up playing the part of the Squints."

* * *

Scene: When Benny jumps the fence to retrieve the Babe Ruth ball and the dog chases him and the team.

Guiry: "That was a really fun scene. Thank God for stunt doubles. Because it was just so hot, I don't think we could have done that. We had a few people pass out that day because of the heat. We filmed in August in Utah. The last thing you want to do in August in Utah is wear 1960s clothes and run for a few miles. I felt bad for those dogs, those were big dogs and they were drooling a lot."

Leopardi: "We shot it for a couple weeks, the whole chase scene. With Hercules there were three dogs that they used that were actual real dogs. They had the one fake dog. But the actual live dogs, they had three different dogs. One was smaller so it could do the running stuff, one was medium and one was really big that they used for the standing still stuff."

Evans: When Benny jumps — "Don't do it, Benny" and he does it — the whole scene, that was a stuntman named Jack West. He and another stuntman had a bit of a rivalry. I played on that a little bit, just to make sure when Jack went off the top of that fence he went 15 feet instead of 12. We did it twice, the second one was the one we used. He went so high. He landed flat on his back. Absolutely perfect, He had the wind knocked out of him for 30 minutes. He went all out. God bless Jack West."

* * *

And, 20 years later, God bless "The Sandlot."

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