SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – “Smalls, you mean to tell me you went home, swiped a ball that was signed by Babe Ruth, and you brought it out here and actually played with it?” If you have ever seen The Sandlot you can hear the sheer unbelief and panic as a group of 12 and 13-year-old boys realize their friend has made the biggest mistake of his life.
The movie follows the group as they try to get the ball back from “The Beast” a terrifying dog that lives in the yard directly behind the sandlot where they play ball. Eventually, the boys get the ball back along with a life lesson and a ball signed by the entire team of the 1927 Yankees.
For one California man, he felt the same pit in his stomach as Scotty “Smalls,” from the movie, when he realized his prized possession, a baseball signed by the whole cast of the movie had been swiped from a table at the Grand America Hotel a few weeks ago.
Jim Higgs had made the trip to Salt Lake for the 30th anniversary celebration of the film. He and his friend had attended a screening of the film on the actual lot where the film was shot and stood in line for hours to get the baseball signed.
“It was just incredible to actually be on that lot. You watched a million times that you’re standing on that lot, actually, you know, getting autographs signed by the characters, watching the movie,” Higgs recalls. “We actually brought home a little vial of grass and dirt home, you know, so it was fun. It meant a lot to us.”
Later that evening in The Grand America, Higgs set the ball down on a table with some of his other possessions to take some pictures and he says within a minute the ball had been swiped.
Higg’s twin sister reached out to ABC4 to see if we could help. Reporter Jonathan May, who had covered the event, jumped at the chance to help.
May reached out to the Salt Lake Bees and got back some exciting news in just a few days.
“I’ve got a signed baseball from the cast of the sandlot that was here at the ballpark,” reported Kraig Williams, Salt Lake Bees Director of Communications. “So, I’m getting this to you guys to then send along to a fan who had his taken from him so we could make up for that a little bit.”
May then arranged for a Zoom interview with Higgs to talk about his experience and why the movie meant so much to him.
“I grew up in East San Jose, we had an actual field in my neighbor’s backyard, Mr. and Mrs. Perry,” Higgs remembered. “We played baseball just like The Sandlot did. So, when it came out 93, it hit home with me big time.”
Then May stepped up to the plate and went in for the home run.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” May said grinning. “I reached out to the Salt Lake Bees, and I was able to get a signed baseball by the whole cast.”
A visibly shocked Higgs, “You’re kidding me? I’ve got a pit in my stomach right now.”
A pit that was definitely not the same as losing a ball signed by the “Great Bambino,” but more of having a piece of his childhood returned.