The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014) – A Review
Actor Bing Russell had carved out a successful niche as a busy character actor. Appearing in the popular long-running show Bonanza, Russell could have continued being a working actor, but his lifelong love of baseball steered him in a different direction.
In 1973 Russell bought the Portland Mavericks, which would become the only independently owned baseball team in the country. Not being affiliated with Major League Baseball, Russell was able to play by his own rules, design the team the way he wanted and use unorthodox methods to try to make the Mavericks a success and ignite the excitement of fans.
His plan worked. The Mavericks began to outdraw Major League owned Triple-A team, they got media attention and would shock the sports world defeating MLB owned teams. Portland got behind his merry band of players where ‘fun’ and ‘the love of baseball’ trumped corporate sponsors and the bottom line. The Portland Mavericks became an oddball successes story that made MLB fume and the fans of Portland cheer.
This is a wonderful documentary.
The film begins with Russell’s background, his passion for baseball and his knowledge. When he buys the Mavericks the reaction is one of confusion and downright craziness. No one believes this Hollywood actor has any clue as to what he’s doing and everyone is just waiting to see how soon the team will fold.
Russell and the Mavericks ended up sticking around for five years.
We watch and listen from those who were part of the Mavericks organization of how Russell went against the grain and traditional way of thinking to create his team. It’s funny, charming and you can’t help but smile when you see these ‘misfit’ Mavericks prove all the naysayers wrong. The Mavericks become this perfect team that you want to cheer for.
Bing’s son Kurt Russell is among those who reflect back on this sports journey and offers up his memories and stories of his father. I spend many evenings during the summer watching an independent local baseball team, so The Battered Bastards of Baseball really hit home.
The story was a revelation to me. It also clued me in on some of Kurt’s background. I had no idea his father had such a captivating story that young Kurt was a part of or the impact his father would have in the world of independent baseball.
Towards the end it gets infuriating to watch as Russell’s hard work and the success of the Mavericks are targeted by the powerful MLB, who ultimately destroy the team and this dream that grew in Portland. The movie had me booing these enemies and saddened that the Mavericks wouldn’t continue.
It’s a very well put together documentary and is not just a unique sports story, but is also a story of fighting the establishment. Outsiders struggling their way up, following their dreams and having a lot of fun while doing it. By the end you’ll be cheering the Mavericks and be thanking Russell for taking his chance and winning.