"You're killin' me, Smalls."
Like Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez in the 1993 movie "The Sandlot," all I wanted to do as a kid was play baseball. My sandlot was a backyard with a walnut tree that provided me batting practice every day. I'd toss a walnut high into the air, then swing and bat it over the cement brick wall into the neighbors' yard -- sorry, Christensens.
On the other wall, I painted a strike zone where I spent hundreds of hours throwing a tennis ball at the wall, fielding it and pitching again. Once in awhile, a wild pitch would go over the wall and I would dart around to retrieve it from the neighbors' lawn or flower patches -- sorry, Nishes.
Fortunately for me, none of my neighbors owned a dog like "The Beast."
Babe Ruth: "Remember kid, there's heroes and there's legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die."
Neither do movies that become a pop culture reference point for kids who grew up in the '90s.
On Friday night, thousands lined the concourse of SpringMobile Ballpark to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a little movie filmed in Utah in 1993 about a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a dog named Hercules and a ragtag band of friends in 1962 who help a new kid named Scotty Smalls find a place to belong.
"The Sandlot" is about childhood -- the nostalgic version of childhood that we all want to remember -- but it's also an ode to baseball, America (Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful" from the Fourth of July scene should be required listening at every fireworks show) and growing up.
"Sandlot" director David Mickey Evans and several of the actors from the movie have been touring the country this summer, visiting ballparks to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the movie's release.
Friday, Evans and cast members who played Hamilton Porter, Squints, Yeah Yeah, Timmy and Tommy signed autographs (actor Patrick Renna, "Ham," signed some with "You play ball like a girl!") during Friday's Salt Lake Bees game before a postgame screening of the film on the scoreboard; Saturday, they met at the original sandlot in Glendale, temporarily restored for a carnival, autographs, a Q&A with cast members before showing the movie again, this time at the place where most of it was filmed.
Squints: "Where did your old man get that ball?"
Smalls: "I don't know. Some lady gave it to him. She even signed her name on it. Some lady named ... Ruth. Baby Ruth."
Getting the ball back requires an epic game of pickle between Benny and Hercules -- "The Beast" -- after Scotty finally becomes part of the gang and hits his first-ever home run, using a baseball he swiped from his step-dad: A baseball bearing the signature of Babe Ruth.
George Herman Ruth himself makes an appearance in the movie, inspiring Benny to dare go to retrieve that baseball, where no kid has ever dared tread before. Saturday, hundreds dared tread in that sandlot again to relive their childhood memories of the movie and make some new memories.
Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, of course, grew up to play for the Dodgers. Scotty Smalls became the Dodgers' play-by-play announcer.
I "grew up" to write this story and cover the Dodgers' rookie league team, still a sucker for movies with a narrator revisiting his childhood (See also: "A Christmas Story").
Benny Rodriguez: "Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun."
There's more fun to "The Sandlot" than just baseball.
One of the most iconic kisses in cinema history was filmed in Ogden, at 1619 S. Gramercy Ave., at Lorin Farr Park, where my kids take swimming lessons. That's where, after three summers of watching lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn, lotioning and oiling, oiling and lotioning, Squints can't take it no more.
What he does next sums up the desperation of a secret teenage crush -- he fakes drowning (no one notices in the moment that for a drowning victim, he never fights back or even lets go of his glasses) so Wendy will save him with mouth-to-mouth CPR -- then he kisses her.
In Glendale, the sandlot now has a plaque to commemorate its role in the filming of "The Sandlot." Here in Ogden, if someone wants to commission a statue of Squints giving his pals that fishy grin while Wendy is "rescuing" him at Lorin Farr Pool, I'll be first in line to donate to the cause.
"Michael 'Squints' Palledorous walked a little taller that day. And we had to tip our hats to him. He was lucky she hadn't beat the crap out of him. We wouldn't have blamed her. What he'd done was sneaky, rotten and low -- and cool. Not another one among us would have ever in a million years even for a million dollars have the guts to put the move on the lifeguard. He did. He had kissed a woman. And he had kissed her long and good. We got banned from the pool forever that day. But every time we walked by after that, the lifeguard looked down from her tower, right over at Squints, and smiled."
The postscript tells the rest of the story: Squints and Wendy eventually marry, buy the local drugstore and have nine kids.
Evans, the director, appears to have found his own Wendy Peffercorn: Saturday at the rebuilt field in Glendale, he proposed to his girlfriend Stacey McGillis at home plate. She said yes, then there was a kiss -- and he didn't have to fake drowning to get it.