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June 12, 2018

The Q&A ... with Marty York (Yeah-Yeah) and Victor DiMattia (Timmy Timmons) of 'The Sandlot'

As the iconic baseball film turns 25 years old, the two actors share some stories from behind the scenes

The Q&A Movies
061218_Sandlot-2 Courtesy/for PhillyVoice

The cast of "The Sandlot."

It's hard to believe, but "The Sandlot" is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Twenty. Five. And if that makes you feel old, you're hardly alone. 

One thing that doesn't feel old is the film itself. Set in the early 1960s and released in the early 1990s, "The Sandlot" almost has a timeless quality about it and that's part of the reason it not only has held up over the years, but seems almost as popular as ever. As Babe Ruth's ghost would say, "Great movies get remembered, but legendary movies never die."

Recently, two of the stars of the film — Victor DiMattia, who played Timmy Timmons, and Marty York, who played Yeah-Yeah — were in Philly to promote "'The Sandlot' 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition" on Blu-ray. In addition to a stop at the NovaCare Complex and throwing out the first pitch at a Phillies game, the pair of actors joined PhillyVoice for a very nostalgic edition of The Q&A.

Matt Mullin: Before we start talking about the movie or anything like that, I realized while doing my research that Victor, you're from the area?

Victor DiMattia: Yeah. Wilmington Delaware, man. I went to high school at A.I. duPont. Go Tigers.

MM: So are you a big Philly sports fan?

VD: Oh, yeah. Huge fan. I'm not ashamed to tell you I cried when [the Eagles] won the Super Bowl.

MM: So it must be pretty cool to throw a first pitch at a Phillies game then...

VD: "This one's really special to me. My whole family has been lifelong Philly sports fans. My grandfather was a huge Phillies and Eagles fan — he was buried with an Eagles hat. So to come here and throw out a first pitch at a Phillies game is really special for me."

MM: So what are you guys up to these days?

Marty York: "Right now, with the 25th anniversary, we're just doing a lot of touring right now. I don't know if you saw the Today's Show appearance... doing a lot of stadiums. As far as what we're doing now, I'm kind of doing some personal training stuff. Check out my instagram, it's MartyYorkFitness."

VD: "Have you seen pictures of what Marty looks like now?"

MY: "I think me and Vic don't really get recognized as much as like — we went out to dinner with Pat Renna, who plays Ham. That dude looks exactly the same."

VD: "He gets recognized everywhere."

MY: "He can't walk down a street without people driving by and yelling, 'You're killing me, Smalls!'"

MM: Do you guys appreciate that anonymity at all? Not having people constntly yelling quotes at you or hounding you for autographs? 

VD: "Yeah, it's nice to go to the grocery store and not get bothered, the way that Pat can't do. Because we can still tell people that we were in 'The Sandlot' if we want them to know, but otherwise we can pretty much go under the radar, which is nice.

"But to answer your earlier question, I'm still doing some acting and even some other stuff, kind of behind the scenes, in film. And then I also do a podcast; it's called 'Vic in a Box.' Kind of a pop culture thing."

MM: So you guys were like 11-12 when you filmed this. How fun was that?

VD: "Oh, it was amazing. It was like being in summer camp, you know? It was one of the best summers of my life. We hung out, goofed around on set most of the time, and then when we were done for the day, we would go back to where we would all hang out together and go swimming and play Super Nintendo together and stuff afterward. It was a blast."

MM: Who was the funniest on set?

VD: "Pat."

MY: "Yeah, probably Pat."

VD: [Laughs] "Yeah, definitely Pat. Making all the wise cracks."

MY: "A lot of stuff you see in the film was actually a lot of improv stuff."

MM: Really?

MY: "So, on set, we used to say 'Your Mama' jokes — like, 'Your mama's so fat...' and stuff like that. And after everyone would say a 'Your Mama' joke, I would always go, 'Ohhh, ohhhh.' One day, Dave [director David Mickey Evans] was like, 'OK, we're going to use that in the film.' So that scene where we're talking about scamming 'pool honeys' and going to the pool, that whole thing is an improvised thing that we did off set."


MM: Who was the most like the character he played? I'm guessing it's Pat?

VD: "I would agree with that. Mike Vitar, who was Benny, was really a lot like his character. Mike was like the serious one, and he was really, really good at baseball in real life too."

MY: "I think we all were kind of like our characters, you know. It's kind of what made it authentic. I was always super hyper when I was a kid, and I just remember that when I auditioned for the film, my mom actually gave me a Hershey's bar and said, 'I want you to eat this before the audition.' It was the final audition — well, I had already been cast as a different character actually. I was cast as Bertram and Dave Mickey Evans was like, 'You're not a Bertram. We want you to read for Yeah-Yeah,' which was a bigger character. And he was really hyper. So I got that Hershey's bar and my mom just said, 'Go in there and knock 'em dead.' And the rest is history."

MM: So it seems like the consensus is that Benny (Mike Vitar) was also the best player in real life...

MY: "Oh, yeah. By far."

MM: Who was the worst?

MY: [Laughs] "We're not going to say that."

VD: "None of us were really that bad... We could turn a double play and we could all hit and catch and throw a little bit. We did a baseball bootcamp kind of thing after we were cast. So once we were cast, we spent like six weeks — right, Marty?"

MY: "Yeah, we spent about six weeks at a baseball bootcamp training for the film, so we all got really good. A lot of the stuff you see in the film, it's not stunt doubles or anything. We all did a lot of our own stuff. Even the scene where I'm lowered over the fence in the harness, I actually did that scene. It wasn't a stunt double or anything, I was really lifted up about 30 feet over that fence."

MM: Put a pin in that because I want to get back to it in a second, but you said about the baseball bootcamp. I think that really came through in the film. So often in baseball or sports movies, it's clear the actors never played the sport. This just felt like a bunch of kinds playing baseball.

VD: "We had all played a little bit, little league and stuff like that. But that [authenticity] was really important for David Evans, the director. He talked about that a lot, how important it was to him to have actually get kids who could really play. So that's why it was part of the [audition process]. One of the callback auditions we had to go on, they had us out in the field to kind of see how we could play."

MM: So, for both you guys, what is your favorite baseball movie — or if 'The Sandlot' is No. 1, what is No. 2?

MY: "Maybe 'Field of Dreams.' That might be my second [favorite].

VD: "'Field of Dreams' is great. 'Bull Durham' is a great one. 'The Natural.' I think my second favorite baseball movie though has got to be 'Major League.'"

MY: "Oh, yeah. 'Major League' is probably my second."

MM: I feel like 'The Sandlot' kicked off a run of kid's baseball movies. Later that summer there was 'Rookie of the Year,' and the following year both 'Angels in the Outfield' and 'Little Big League' came out. And while looking that up, I realized something. 'The Sandlot' only got a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. How?

MY: "I think it got a high review with the audience*, but not with Rotten Tomatoes. We're never one to listen to critics anyway."

*He's right, it's got an 89% audience score and Rotten Tomatoes even issued a mea culpa of sorts on behalf of the critics. 

VD: "The only critics I care about are Siskel and Ebert and they gave it two thumbs up. That's all I care about."

MM: So what's the best story you've got from being on set? I've heard there's one involving James Earl Jones...

VD: "For me, the first time he came on set when I was there, I was up in the top of the treehouse with a couple guys — we were shooting one of the scenarios, I think it was the one where we had the remote control erector set to try to catapult the ball over the fence, when The Beast caught it — and we were all the way up top, but the crew was filming us from the ground and we had the earpieces in so the director could talk to us. 

"We were in between takes and all of the sudden we all just hear the voice of Darth Vader coming through the ear piece. And we look down and he's standing down there with the director talking into the microphone to us, so that was pretty surreal."

MM: What was it like filming that carnival scene, with the dip and all? Every time it comes on, my wife has to fast forward through it because she can't watch all you guys get sick. That had to be gross, right?

VD: "That was cool. I think there was actually a carnival in town that we took over, right?"

MY: "Yeah, the carnival was in town, but we only really took over that one ride, which was called The Trabant. I remember that's what it was called. We literally filmed on that thing all night, filming that scene. And the throw-up, I still remember til this day just gagging from the smell of it. It was like chicken soup and — what else was in it?"

VD: "Oatmeal."

MY: "Yeah, oatmeal and chicken soup. It was nasty, man. And they just threw big buckets of this stuff all over our clothes."

VD: "That was probably the least fun scene to film."

MY: "And the chewing tobacco, that was actually beef jerky mixed with licorice."

VD: "Yeah, black licorice and beef jerky. That was pretty terrible."


MM: Oh my god. They couldn't give you anything better? I mean, I guess something that nasty would give you the reaction they were looking for but, man. 

VD: "That was definitely some method acting right there."

MM: How long did you have to deal with that?

VD: "Just exactly as long as you see on film. As soon as they yelled to cut, we all spit it out."

MM: OK, back to more fun scenes, specifically what you were talking about earlier with the stunts. Marty, how many waivers did your parents have to sign to get you onto that crane and over the fence?

MY: "I wanted to do it. I told David, 'I'm doing all my own stunts in this film.' For the crane, I was actually about 30 feet in the air for that connected to all those cables. It was cool, man. And then there's also a scene where we're jumping out of the treehouse when it's about to explode and I go down in a bucket connected to a string; I really did that too. So all those scenes that you see stunts, I'm really doing them. Some of the guys had stunt doubles but I did all my own stuff."

VD: "You're like a little Tom Cruise." 

MY: "Yeah I am. And back then, you could. Nowadays, you couldn't get a child actor signed off to do that. But back in the 90s, they let stuff like that go, they let us do it."

VD: "How uncomfortable was that? Because I was in a commercial where I had to fly around on a harness, and that thing hurt."

MY: "Yeah, the harness was like a fiberglass body suit underneath the catchers gear that I was wearing. I still have it in my mom's garage. I try putting it on now and it's so tiny."

VD: "You still have it?!"

MY: "Yeah, my mom still has it her garage."

VD: "That's awesome."

MM: Yeah, that's great. Do you guys have any other memorabilia from on set like that?

MY: "I have a baseball signed by the entire cast, including James Earl Jones, Dennis Leary, Karen Allen."

MM: Oh wow. Is it also signed by Babe Ruth?

MY: "It's signed by Art LaFleur." [Laughs]

VD: "Yeah, the actor. The guy who played the ghost of Babe Ruth."

MM: Nice. You'd never be foolish to take a ball signed by the entire cast and actually play with it?

MY: "I'd never take that ball outside to play with it. It's probably worth quite a bit."

MM: Yeah, that would be quite the pickle. Thanks guys!

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