Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

Cinema Monolith: 9/10
IMDb: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Premiered July 11, 2014 on Netflix
Not rated
80 minutes

Directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way

Written by Chapman Way and Maclain Way

Cast: Bing Russell, Kurt Russell, Todd Field, Rob Nelson, Jim Swanson, Frank Peters, Robert Richardson, Carren Woods, Jon Yoshiwara, Joe Garza, Joe Garagiola, Max Patkin, Jim Bouton

My brother first told me about this baseball documentary a few months before its premiere on Netflix, and his description alone had me more than eager to check it out: a look at an independent Class A minor league team called the Portland Mavericks, who for five seasons in the mid-1970s played in the Northwest League, and were the only independent team in the country. They were made up of cast-offs, misfits, and low-end major league players, and at the time were considered the laughingstock of the baseball world…until they started to win.

The team was created, owned, and operated by former television and bit-part movie actor Bing Russell (father of actor Kurt Russell), and besides being a former minor leaguer himself, Bing was also a tremendous fan of the sport, who grew up mingling with New York Yankees greats during spring training when he was a kid living in Florida. And even though he was a fledgling team owner, he knew quite a bit about the game, and loved what he was doing, emphasizing fun over anything else; that enthusiasm not only spilled over to the players, but to the fans as well, who wholeheartedly supported the Mavericks and helped the team become a success.

However, because he went against the grain, Bing eventually drew the ire of those at the administrative level of the Northwest League, the minor leagues, and even the major leagues, and though the team continued to win (finishing in first place four of their five seasons), there were many in the baseball hierarchy who didn’t appreciate the team’s unorthodox—yet successful—ways of doing things. Soon the Pacific Coast League took notice of the attendance marks, and pushed their way into the territory, calling on minor league rules to force the Mavericks out of Portland. But Bing wouldn’t go without a fight, and that part of the Mavericks story is just as interesting as the rest.

I really had a blast with this documentary, and though I’m a fan of baseball and the historical side of the game, I’m guessing even non-fans and casual viewers will have an enjoyable time with it as well, and enjoy the stories and accounts as much as I did. As far as baseball goes, there’s plenty in the presentation to bask in (including interviews with former players and team members, film and video footage of games, and archival photos and newspaper clippings), but what this documentary also offers is a quaint, feel-good look at a small-town team that was lovingly embraced by a city, and how one man followed his dream and brought it all together, back when such endeavors were still entirely possible in baseball.

If you have eighty minutes to spare, and have Netflix at your disposal, I’d say give The Battered Bastards of Baseball a shot…I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how entertaining and agreeable it is. From a young Kurt (yes, he played for the Mavs) to big leaguer Jim Bouton, and from left-handed catchers to ball dogs to Oscar-nominated batboys, there’s plenty enough to keep even the most baseball-deficient person hooked. And believe it or not, if it weren’t for the Mavericks, the world—including yours truly—would never have been introduced to the shredded pink deliciousness that is Big League Chew.  (9/10)

13 comments on “The Battered Bastards of Baseball

  1. “The battered bastards of baseball”. Has to be up there with one of the best titles ever. I used to be a documentary machine before I slowed it down and focused catching up on the movies. As soon I saw the trailer I couldn’t wait for it to appear on Netflix. It didn’t disappoint. Exactly like you say, I don’t know the baseball scene at all but I couldn’t have of enjoyed this insanely fun film more. It’s just so good. You know what you’ve got me wanting to rewatch it again. Kurt is so enthusiastic, the passion of the story flows through him. A pure gem.

    I need to get me some of that Big League Chew gum. 🙂


    • Todd Benefiel

      And now I’m starting to become a documentary machine; I’ve been watching quite a few on Netflix of late, and borrowing some from the library. I wish I could find more baseball docs like this, or just baseball docs in general. Fun seeing Kurt in this, too…I never knew he’d played so much minor league ball.

      And Big League Chew is still being sold…is it not available in the UK? I could try and smuggle some in, a la Midnight Express, but it’s going to cost you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just looked and you can get it over here. Don’t risk a long sentence in a Turkish prison for some gum. Plus if it has to be smuggled out “in there” it might mar the taste!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        I believe we have an American Fizz shop somewhere near. I never realised it was shredded gum and well I never, you learn something everyday! Made as an alternative to chewing tobacco! Funny I just watched the vintage advert. All looks a bit camp now with everyone blowing bubbles hehe.

        I’m not really that into sports but I’ll happily watch a good documentary on anything. Like these ice hockey ones. Red Army about the Soviet players is excellent and so is The Last Gladiators about the goon players. I wanna see Ice Guardians which is on Netflix now and this one I’ve wanted to see for sometime called Broad Street Bullies sounds very much like a Battered BOB story.

        Battered BOB is the only baseball doc I’ve seen though I wanna see No No: A Dockumentary


      • Todd Benefiel

        Don’t worry, I’ve spent too much time in Turkish prisons to ever want to do that again! And the things I’ve smuggled in dark places…man, you don’t want to know.

        I can’t believe you found a resource for Big League Chew in the UK! American Fizz…never heard of it, but what a great site, with free shipping! But some of the selections are puzzling: Hamburger Helper and Krusteaz? Stove Top and Rice-a-Roni? Not the greatest of US confection treats, trust me!

        Thanks for the info on those hockey docs…I’ve seen Red Army, but didn’t know about Broad Street Bullies, which really interests me, so hopefully I can find that on Netflix here. And No No is a good one, too: the subject, a pitcher named Dock Ellis, was somewhat of a jerk during his baseball days, but I was glad to see him redeem himself and become a better person after baseball.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for steering me away from those confectionery sugar treats/non treats. Haha yes I bet they sell more to the innocent eyes of the brits thinking wow what is this delicious treats like Rice A Roni! Oblivious to fact that our American friends are desperately trying to ship the damn things out the country. And Krusteaz sounds more like something that grows between your toes! And Cheeseburger Macaroni just sounds wrong. Though we have our own weird delights like the infamous Marmite (you either love it or hate it is their marketing slogan lol, I like it)

        Thanks for the info on No No I will endeavor to see that soon. Sounds very interesting.


      • Todd Benefiel

        We used to get Krusteaz when I was a kid…it was a pancake mix. Not sure if it was cultivated from human toe gunk, but I seem to remember liking it, so maybe there’s something to be said about human toe gunk.

        And I had to look up Marmite…”a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty.” You know what this sounds like to me? Yep…British human toe gunk! While I was on my Michigan trip, I picked up a Marmot Mountain t-shirt, but sadly, not quite the same thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Human toe gunk! Hahaha human toe gunk! 🙂


      • Todd Benefiel

        I defy anyone to find another movie blog site that has mentioned ‘human toe gunk’ as many times as Cinema Monolith has!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know your plan! One day there will be a human toe gunk epidemic due to climate change. Everyone will start googling “what the hell is this human toe junk?” and low and behold Cinema Monolith starts topping all the trending searches. Maybe a good time to patent those Monolith Human Toe Junk Cleaning wipes 😉


      • Todd Benefiel

        Patent? Pal, they’re already on the market! Look for them at your local American Fizz and other fine UK retailers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha LOL


  2. Dracula

    I have access to Netflix and 80 minutes hopefully this weekend sometime in between barges. So I am going to watch the team that looks like one of our little league team photos! Thanks for the recommendation.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Hope you get a chance to watch it…a fun one, and you’ll definitely flash back to our RB Little League seasons of the late-’70s, and even the Padres teams we used to see way back when. Let me know if you check it out.


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