On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL (A Netflix Original Documentary).
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THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL
By Joe Charnitski
This is the story of Bing Russell. There are a few reasons that name might be familiar to you. When a fastball to the head cut his baseball career short, Bing moved to Hollywood to pursue a life in film and tv. He played the role of [ROLE] on BONANZA for [HOW MANY] years, along with countless small roles in studio westerns. He’s also recognizable as the father of actor Kurt Russell (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, OVERBOARD).
The third way Bing acquired some fame was as the owner/operator/heart and soul of the independent single-A baseball club the Portland Mavericks in the 1970’s. His time in Portland is the subject for the new Netflix documentary THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL. As you can tell by that title, this ain’t FIELD OF DREAMS.
When the major league affiliated Triple-A baseball team left Oregon Bing saw an opportunity. He would start what was at the time the only independent baseball team in America in Portland. It would be single-A, meaning it was the bottom rung on the ladder to the pros. It would be filled with players who had been overlooked by pro scouts, or flat out cut by major league teams. He thought this was the recipe for something special. Damn if he wasn’t right.
THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL tells us the story of the Mavericks from the mouths of players (including Bing’s son Kurt), staff and fans. It uses archive footage, professional and home movie style, to recreate the enthusiasm and excitement this team generated in the Pacific Northwest. The Triple-A team left town because attendance was low. Bing’s Maverick’s broke Single-A attendance records. Players appeared on Johnny Carson and major sports magazine’s wrote about the sensational circus and the P.T. Barnum behind the scenes, Bing Russell.
These weren’t choir boys...
...as the title suggests, and Bing’s independent style eventually ruffled the feathers of the peacocks in Major League Baseball. You’ll be rooting for this David to stick it to Goliath all the way to the documentary’s surprising end. I was sporting a persistent smile watching this film, not because it’s a comedy, although some parts are very funny, but because I just felt good watching this story unfold. Maybe that’s a little bit of the joy Portland fans were lucky enough to experience.
As for Bing Russell himself, I think he’s whatever you want him to be. A conservative might see him as an anti-bureaucracy libertarian,. A liberal might see him as an anti-establishment hero sticking it to The Man. There’s something about him that makes us want him on our team.
It is mentioned in the film that Bing had a great eye for talent. He saw beyond gruff exteriors, and into the content of the spirits of his players. In the Pacific Northwest he certainly created some special, unique, unforgettable. Wouldn’t we all like to say that?
Whether you are a baseball fan or not, you need to know the story of the Bing Russell and the Portland Mavericks. I’m glad I do now.
Joe Charnitski is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. His career in film and television production, development and marketing has included stops at Miramax Films, Syfy and VH1. He currently works at a entertainment focused social media marketing agency in New York City. Twitter:@JoeCharnitski
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