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Baseball Movie Reviewin': The Battered Bastards of Baseball

This is how you make a baseball documentary.

Two things: I love a good underdog story, and I love a good baseball story. And I guess a third thing might be mentioning that I love documentaries, but that would be overkill.

And that said, I loved The Battered Bastards of Baseball, the story of Bing Russell, the owner of the Portland Mavericks baseball team during its tenure in Portland from 1973 to 1977. It's been on Netflix for a while now, having premiered on the service back in July, and is touted as of their "original" pieces of programming, and it is very well done.

The film itself focuses mostly on Bing, probably best known as being Kurt Russell's father, but also an actor in his own right.  Beyond the acting pedigree and family, Bing was, without much exaggeration, an extremely devoted fan of baseball. As his family says, they don't know why he liked baseball so much considering it wasn't something that was very prevalent in his family, but he nonetheless was a devotee and, as crazy luck would have it, as a boy, he was basically adopted by Lefty Gomez and the New York Yankees. That's the kind of thing that leaves an impression.

Bing's baseball story is a great one, reminiscent of a minor league Bill Veeck in the general implausibility of it all. The premise is simple and true and yet somehow has call backs (call forwards?) to virtually all the great baseball stories: The Portland Beavers of the PCL have moved to Spokane, Washington and Bing Russell has moved up to Portland to start an independent baseball club named the Mavericks. Stylized on the signage not as the "Portland Mavericks", but rather as "Portland's Maverick".  The only independent baseball club at the time. All of the others had affiliated with a Major League club by then.

Because of the lack of affiliation, the Mavericks host an open try out (The Rookie) and Bing Russell is forced to use his own knowledge of baseball to field a team of wacky characters (Major League) that want to bring a pennant to Portland after years of coming up short and dwindling support, without the benefit of an MLB sized budget (Moneyball).

And from that setup, we can add a dash of Bull Durham minor league antics, Veeck As In Wreck owner against the world, some Field of Dreams "build-it-they-will-come" (enhanced by the fact that Kurt Russell actually played on the team for his dad) and even a bit of A League of Their Own given that the Portland Mavericks' General Manager, Lanny Moss, was the first female GM in baseball.

I kid you not. It's like every baseball thing you know.

It would obviously seem unoriginal, given the concepts, if it weren't a documentary, so it's a good thing it's so well done.

Top it off with a terrific score by Brocker Way. It's simple and familiar, and compliments the film well. And the theme Man With a Broom is something that should be required drive home music after any baseball game.

Have I gushed enough about the movie? My only (admittedly weird) nit on the movie is that it's so entrenched in being an "anti-Major League" story that it actually manages to paint the Portland Beavers as a bit of the bad guy. Given Portland and the Beaver's ties to the Padres, I was hoping to get a bit of a sympathetic nod to our ball club. Instead, the Beavers are the evil AAA team that abandons the city (foreshadowing Tucson and eventually the El Paso Chihuahuas) and *spoiler alert for anybody that doesn't realize that history has already happened* kicks the Mavericks out of the city of Portland again with a bit of an 8 Men Out litigious battle for good measure.

That minor nit aside, the film's still on Netflix. I encourage you to watch it and movie club it in the comments. It really is worth your time and a very nice way to get a bit of baseball fix during an offseason.