Burning Questions for “The Sandlot” Prequel
It was recently announced that 20th Century Fox will be making a prequel of The Sandlot, bringing in David Mickey Evans, the original writer/director, to show us what happened before Scott Smalls first moved into a small neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. The Sandlot is a perfect film, drenched in early 60s nostalgia, covering the most nostalgic sport and is about nostalgia itself, capturing the magical ways in which legends of youth are born. There’s no better movie out there about that feeling of summer.
It’s easy to get angry about the franchising of things that you once held beloved as a kid and you know there’s no way this movie will actually be any good, how could it?
That being said, it will give us the chance to answer all those burning questions we didn’t know we had about the movie. Like Star Wars Episode I hopefully it will leave no room for mystery, recklessly explaining each and every part of its universe with a strange focus on galactic politics.
Here are five burning questions we have from the first one that we hope get answered in the prequel:
- Where does Ham’s misogyny come from?
One of the most popular scenes of The Sandlot is Ham’s confrontation with Morris, a rival bougie Little Leaguer. They trade insults for a while before their argument culminates in what the movie considers the ultimate blow: You play ball like a girl!
In 2018, this line probably doesn’t get through, it’s needlessly controversial while really only offering laughs to 6-year old boys who watch the movie and exclaim GOTCHA! at that line (Read: me).
What we can hope the prequel offers is a more enlightened view on these gender dynamics, diving deep into the misogyny of the early-60s. What sort of toxic masculinity was pounded into Ham at an early age? What were the consequences of this? Was it generational or just a sign of the era? And what is so wrong with bobbing for apples in the toilet?
2. How was the s’more invented?
Ham gives Smalls a cooking lesson after he misunderstands the term S’mores, believing that Ham is asking him whether he wants more of something rather than the tasty campfire treat that combines roasted sticky marshmallows with crunchy graham crackers and sweet Hershey’s chocolate.
But where do S’mores come from? Why are they named that way? Wikipedia doesn’t offer much etymological insight, so why not have The Sandlot prequel give it to us? The movie already has given us the biggest S’mores pop culture reference that exists, why not dive all in?
Now here’s my pitch:
The scene is set. It’s the 1860s. The camera focuses on a young man sitting at a campfire on the Western Frontier. We hear two individuals talking in the distance. The young man eavesdrops.
Woman: Now listen Porter, I really think if you throw these ingredients together they will work. There’s a deep sweetness to chocolate that when combined with a flamin’ ‘mallow will meld together in perfect tasty goodness.
Man: There’s no way that would work, woman. Absolutely not.
Woman: Here, try it. Put it between two grahams like a sandwich.
Man: Nope, nope, not gonna do it!
(The woman puts it in his face and he’s forced to take a bite).
Man: Oh well golly me, this is delicious!
The young man at the fire turns around.
Young man: Can I try some?
Woman: Here take some.
The young man eats it. A huge smile comes across his face.
Woman: Would you like s’more?
Young man: Yes, I would love some more, because I’ve already had some.
Woman: Hey, s’more, that’s a great name, maybe that’s what I should name my recipe! S’mores!
Young man chews on s’mores, while the man sits thinking. The man quickly gets up and grabs the young man.
Man: C’mon boy let’s go! (Whispering) This recipe is delicious. If we take it into town and tell them we made it we can get rich and famous!
Young man: But Papa, we didn’t make it, Ruth did!
Man: Oh be quiet boy! I don’t care what little baby Ruth said or did. One thing you must always remember is to never let women have their due. If they come up with a good idea, take it as your own. Never let them rise up the ranks. Find ways to reinforce this patriarchal society where we believe that women’s talents are not worth valuing. If you compare them to men, only do it as a joke or insult! And make sure to pass this along to your children and children’s children! Got it?
Young man: Well okay pops.
3. Who is Smalls’ birth father?
Smalls’ birth dad is not in the picture, he instead has stepdad Bill to look out for him. Bill is great for providing sarcasm in the midst of injury (“He kept his eye on the ball”) or plopping a giant steak on an injury, but we need a movie where we get to know Smalls’ real father.
His real father, is, of course, Dr. Indiana Jones, adventuring archaeologist professor, who is well established to have had an on again off again fling with Smalls’ mother (played by Karen Allen). In Indiana Jones canon we know that Jones has a son with Meredith Smalls (nee Ravenwood), as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gleefully let us know that Shia Lebeouf is a product of their passion.
What they never showed us is that Meredith had a second kid with Indiana before remarrying–Scott Smalls.
It’s easy to see the similarities between Smalls and Indiana– when Smalls builds up his toy sets you can see the ingenuity of Indiana on display; where Indiana has to escape falling boulders and the plots of Nazis, Smalls creates intricate erector set designs.
If Indiana had been involved in the life of Smalls, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken so long to get the ball back from Mertle’s yard with Smalls taking a lesson from his adventuring dad, retrieving his own artifacts of sorts. Now that’s something that Bill could never give him.
There are other little hints in the film about Smalls’ birth father.
Take the scene where the boys are running from the pool after Squints kisses Wendy Peffercorn. You can’t really it hear it, but Smalls is just kind of talking to Bertram.
He tells him: I hate snakes.
Smalls: I just really hate snakes.
Bertram: Okay cool Smalls.
Or what about the moment where everyone is throwing up after putting too much chewing tobacco in their mouths? You can’t really hear it over all the vomiting noises, but Smalls makes a remark to Yeah Yeah:
Smalls: Bad dates
Yeah Yeah (having just vomited, exasperated): What Smalls?
Smalls: Must’ve been bad dates.
Yeah Yeah: Yeah yeah Smalls, you idiot. It was totally the dates.
So you can see they already hinted at this connection throughout the movie, building it up for a prequel with the laser-like focus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a really cool sense of planning on the creator’s part and I can’t wait to see what else they do with it.
4. How did Mr. Mertle go from baseball star to junkyard owner?
It’s hard to separate fact from fiction regarding Mr. Mertle in The Sandlot. Squints really does a number on his character, painting him as an ill-intended and grouchy junkyard owner who trained his dog to be an overly aggressive mongrel and may or may not have covered up the death of a child. Squints overeager telling of this story is a perfect part of the film, underlining the wild legend making that occurs in childhood, but when the backstory is unveiled it seems almost too much to include across one prequel. It turns out Mr. Mertle is not the anti-baseball curmudgeon of legend, but is, in fact, a blind former baseball star who personally knew Babe Ruth.
Let’s unpack this a little bit. Mertle, played by James Earl Jones, is black, which means he never would have played with Ruth in the major leagues. Now, history suggests that Ruth desired to play integrated baseball and barnstormed across the country, facing off against players from the Negro League. So it is possible that Ruth and Mertle would have faced off and may have even been friendly, though things would not have been pleasant for Mertle during that time due to the explicit racist policies ingrained into this country’s fabric.
Mertle makes the claim that he would have broken Ruth’s record, which is a little unclear. He can’t be referring to the single-season home run record of 60 that Ruth had hit, because The Sandlot takes place one year after Roger Maris had broken it. He must be referring to the all-time home run record of 660 that Ruth had at the time. That’s a really bold claim, either Mertle had already hit hundreds of homers in his career or he felt cocky enough that he could maintain record-breaking pace throughout his career. This is further complicated by the segregation that took place at the time, where Negro League stats were not seen as valuable as the MLB (and are still not, see Josh Gibson).
If we enter into this story when “baseball was life”, where Mertle is one of the best baseball players, friendly with Babe Ruth, and then gets knocked blind by a fastball only to go on to be a junkyard owner, we’re looking at a major tragedy. You must, of course, take Squints at his word that Mr. Mertle was a junkyard owner and that the whole story wasn’t fabricated.
Let’s take a look at this film description we have going (there’s some deep pathos here, I think we’re looking at an Oscar run)
When James Mertle gets signed to the Pittsburgh Crawfords, it seems like nothing can go wrong, he’s a big hitter with a wide smile that can compete with the best of them. Even the legendary Babe Ruth stops by to watch Mertle compete in his glory. After a stray pitch forces Mertle to go blind, he must figure his way through a world that seems increasingly against him. All seems lost until his brother gives him a junkyard to take care of. Mertle must oversee the yard while defending it from a racist crime syndicate and bigoted police force who will do anything to take down a black-owned business. When he adopts a young puppy to be his guard dog, everything changes…
There it is! You’re welcome Academy (and we’re not just talking about the popular award here).
5. Was Hercules ever in love?
The only love story in The Sandlot involves Squints’ pervy obsession with the lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn (truly one of the great love stories of our age). But surely there must be more romance to be found in this story?
Every story has got to have a love interest and I am curious about Hercules. He must have been in love at some point; he must have experienced the tingling sensation of a crush in his life, of young puppy love. As we find out more and more of his story these details will unfold.
Maybe he fell in love with a prim and proper Pomeranian, whose owners didn’t love it hanging out with a dirty street dog a la Lady and the Tramp. Maybe he met a rowdy street dog that was his equal a la Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. Maybe he sneaks out of the house and knocks up a neighbor dog whose owners are going through a divorce a la Beethoven’s 2nd. Maybe his love gets in a fight with a wolf, catches rabies and is promptly shot in the backyard a la Old Yeller.
There are many classic dog love archetypes we can base this story off of, but a sequel just simply will not be satisfying without knowing if Hercules ever loved someone!
Those are my 5 burning questions for The Sandlot prequel! What questions do you hope they answer? Let me know in the comments below.