SALT LAKE CITY — I take this solemn task upon myself. And I don’t fear your disagreements.
Things change as you get older, and “The Sandlot” is no exception. I re-watch the movie every few years, and recently continued the tradition for a story on the film’s 25th anniversary. Though “The Sandlot” has mostly remained true to my childhood experience of it, I perceive its characters differently now. Some have appreciated in value, while others have gone stale. Here are my current rankings of the characters in “The Sandlot.” Let’s play ball.
He’s the one that moved away, creating the vacancy they begrudgingly let Smalls fill. I mean, who just up and moves away from the sandlot, anyway? The kid probably makes weenies with his momma’s toe jam.
9. Kenny DeNunez
Sorry, Kenny. DeNunez doesn’t grab me the way his friends do. Part of that is his role — he’s basically just there to pitch, and remains a bystander for everything else. That already puts him a step behind. Beyond that, his personality seems a little forced, and not that dynamic. DeNunez acts “cool” — or what I thought “cool” was when I was a kid. So yeah, he’s not great.
8. Alan ‘Yeah-Yeah’ McClennan
When I was young, Yeah-Yeah was my favorite sandlot member. I feel bad for ranking him this low now, but I just can’t put him above those that follow. He’s more of a ham than Ham is. I used to love that about him. Now? It’s not as funny. Make no mistake, I still like Yeah-Yeah — he adds to the cast’s collective chemistry — but he doesn’t entertain me as much individually.
7-6. Tie: Timmy and Tommy Timmons
It felt wrong to rank one of these brothers over the other. Timmy, the elder brother, has some great moments — his reaction to Squints kissing Wendy still makes me laugh out loud. A note on Tommy: When they play the rival baseball team, and all his teammates are hitting the ball as deep as they can, Tommy bunts it. I’m no baseball expert, but he’d only bunt to advance another runner, right? That’s sacrifice. You need people like that in your life.
5. Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous
Watching “The Sandlot” as an adult, I realized Squints is the kind of jerk I would have befriended as a kid, when I had no idea what good friendships were. He’s charismatic, funny and probably loyal, but also pretty mean for basically the entire movie. The actor, Chauncey Leopardi, later played a high school bully in the sitcom “Freaks and Geeks,” and I can see Squints growing up to become that same guy. (But he did kiss Wendy Peffercorn, for which he deserves credit.)
4. Bertram Grover Weeks
A refresher: Bertram is the one who “got really into the ’60s, and no one ever saw him again.” When the narrator says that, my reaction was, “Oh, that makes sense.” Remember the look in his eye when he shows everyone his chewing tobacco? Most of Bertram’s friends have that crazy little kid energy, but Bertram seems like he might literally be insane. That makes him mysterious. I’m into it.
3. Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez
Man, we don’t deserve someone this good. What can I say about Benny that hasn’t already been said? He’s the only one who really gives Smalls a chance. He makes the hard decisions when none of his friends will — which is pretty much every single time. His major flaw, though, is he’s just not funny. That’s why he’s at No. 3. The kid has no comedic chops, and not a single funny line in the whole movie. Lighten up, Benny.
2. Hamilton ‘Ham’ Porter
Yes, I’m putting Ham over Benny here. It’s a tough call. I may regret it tomorrow. Ham gets the No. 2 spot because within pop culture, he’s become the face of “The Sandlot.” It’s him on the T-shirts. It’s his catchphrases people still recite. Plus, he absolutely roasts the town’s rival baseball team while behind home plate. I’m a sucker for a wordsmith, and no one delivers insults like Ham.
1. Scotty Smalls
Maybe this seems like the obvious choice. I don’t think it is. Benny has the PF Flyers, copious home runs and acts of heroism; Ham has the catchphrases; Squints kisses Wendy Peffercorn. Those guys get a lot of love. Perhaps a little too much. The truth is that there’s no story without Scotty Smalls. And, re-watching it, he’s definitely the most talented and nuanced actor of the bunch — when he is ashamed or ecstatic or frightened, you really feel it. Here’s to you, Smalls.