2014, Baseball, Movies

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014, Chapman Way, Maclain Way)

This is a sub-30 for 30 quality sports documentary (or low end 30 for 30) that makes up for its lack of film quality with the incredible story of the Portland Mavericks, possibly the most popular single A team of all time and the only independent baseball team of its era.

It’s obvious to me that these guys have never made a movie before. And some of the interviewees – particularly Kurt Russell, who clearly cannot be objective about his father – are a little too self-serving. But the story is just too damn good. Did you know Kurt Russell’s dad owned a minor league baseball team? Neither did I. I think I might have been sort of aware he was a character actor, but he was clearly a lot more.

The film is not objective about Bing Russell, or his baseball team – the film views Bing getting paid for his territory as a clear victory and doesn’t even consider alternatives – but the story – of how an independent, single A team with open try-outs came into a city that had lost a AAA team and became more popular than that team ever was – is too good for us to care. Though the film relies on silly little myths about playing baseball “the right way” and underdog narratives to get you on its side, I cannot say those are unappealing, and I cannot say I that I didn’t get caught up in it.

This is the kind of story that makes me like sports (not that I don’t). And even though I know things are more complicated than this movie portrays, and even though I know that this movie likely glosses over (or avoids) aspects of the brief Mavericks franchise and the life of its owner that might have made it less “feel good” I don’t really care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable movie for all its faults – text on the screen, newspapers on the screen, voice actors reading historical records, self-serving interviewees – that will make you fall in love with baseball all over again (or, perhaps, for the first time).


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