This month is the 30th anniversary of a small little film shot behind several homes in Glendale, just west of downtown Salt Lake City. It is a story about kids who play baseball on a dirt lot back in the summer of 1962 that has become over the years a sweet cult film. The simple premise of the coming of age movie is that the character Scotty, a new kid in town, is encouraged by his mom to make new friends. He ends up joining a rag tag bunch of kids who play at the neighborhood sandlot. After one of the kids smash the cover off their only ball, Scotty gets his dad’s ball without dad’s knowledge, and it gets hit over a fence where a scary dog guards a house. He didn’t realize that he’d lost his father’s most valuable possession-a baseball signed by the one and only Babe Ruth and of course, he has to get it back before his dad finds out it was gone. And therein lies the plot.
Leigh von der Esch was the Utah Film Commissioner when the movie was being made here and remembers hiring a helicopter to find the perfect place for the sandlot and once it was identified, Leigh had to find a tree to be the treehouse in the film. She found a live tree on Beck Street that was dug up and moved to the site of the film. The director loved Vincent Drug in Midvale because the store had a real soda fountain they needed in the film. The drug store opened originally in 1911 as a saloon, but when Prohibition came Willis Vincent, the owner, was forced to convert the bar into a drugstore. The place was still open in 1993 and the young actors in the film could line up for shots as they ate ice cream in the store. Some considered the long counter with about two dozen stools to be one of the best and most well preserved soda fountain in the state known for iron port and sweet or tart cherry phosphates. It was also used for scenes in movies made in Utah like Halloween 4 and 5, the Stand and Touched by an Angel. Leigh also remembers that the film was going to be shot in Wichita, Kansas, but the needed mountains in the back ground. San Diego was also considered as a location, but lucky for Utah, we won out. The cast is still alive, as is the director, and they come to regular reunions here.
The dirt lot is located behind several houses on Glenrose Drive and is private property. Film fans often knock on doors trying to get access for photos and tons of folks would love to see the site preserved for future generations. Hook & Ladder Co. in Glendale has it’s own replica of the sandlot behind it’s business.