Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball

If you've read SlingWords for a while, you've probably heard me mention my love of baseball. I was delighted to find The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a documentary about Bing Russell and his Portland Mavericks, on Netflix as a new release.

This true story documents the history of the Portland Mavericks, an independent professional baseball team started by actor Bing Russell. This underdog team was organized at a time when there were no independent baseball clubs left in America.


The Portland Beavers, a minor league team formed in 1903 during the first year of the PCL, that's the Pacific Coast League. Attendance had declined steeply until only a few Beavers fans came to the games. The Bevos powers that be decided to move the team to Seattle.

The Beavers owners saw no chance for a return on their investment. Bing Russell saw opportunity. He started an independent ball club, not affiliated with any of the major league baseball clubs. He often said that he kept an unheard-of 30-man roster because he thought some players deserved to have one last season.

Ball Club Personnel

Bing Russell was a popular actor in Hollywood. He played the longtime sheriff on the TV series Bonanza. If you look at his resume, you'll think, as I did, that he was on every popular TV show from the 1950's to the new millennium.

Manager Hank Robinson was also a successful character actor. Wikipedia says that team members "Robbie Robinson[disambiguation needed], Jason Tatar, and Ken Medlock all have enjoyed long careers as actors as well."

Then there's the Mavericks bat boy Todd Field who had a long career as an actor before becoming a three-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director.

Bing's son Kurt played for the Mavericks in their inaugural season and again briefly in 1977, their last year.

Bing Lived His Motto

I think it's no accident that he brought fun back to baseball--fun back to the fans and the city of Portland--because his motto in life was: Fun.

While the Mavericks existed, they broke attendance records. Their club boasted pitcher Jim Bouton, a former Yankee who was blacklisted after writing a tell-all book. They had a left-handed catcher, the first female general manager of a baseball club, and other players who were given a new lease on their baseball lives by Bing Russell.

My Opinion

Underdog stories are always inspiring. This one is doubly so because Bing put his own energy and resources into building a ball club simply because he loved baseball. When the PCL tried to muscle in and take back the ball club territory, he fought for his beloved Mavericks and for Portland. Though knowing he was going to be forced to relinquish his ball club, he refused to lie down like a doormat and cave to their mediocre offer.

This is a Netflix original so you probably won't find it anywhere else for a while.

Inspiring and uplifting, it will leave you with a smile--just like the Mavericks left the Portland fans after each game.

Takeaway Truth

This is a wonderful baseball documentary. Don't miss it.

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