Streaming of Consciousness Documentary Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball

Single Sentence Review:

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a documentary about an independent baseball team that should collect royalties from the producers of Major League, Slapshot, and The Bad News Bears for co-opting their life story.

Single Sentence Review Extended Cut:

This Netflix original documentary follows the story of the short-lived independent baseball club, the Portland Mavericks. The film allows us to see its actor-owner, Bing “My Son is Snake Plissken” Russell, start the Island of Misfit Ballplayers in 1973 to when the team was forced out of Portland by the major league in 1978. We see the history of these “ragamuffins” through a series of interviews with players, managers, Portland sports columnists, and other journalists who were there. All of that including game footage and news footage to corroborate their accounts. The result is a film that is engaging, smile inducing, and heartbreaking.


The pacing of the film and the subjects of the interviews are on point. We have a definitive look at the late Bing Russell, the man behind the team, through a wonderfully put together series of sports interview clips and anecdotes from his family and his players. Much of game footage is superimposed with sports newspaper clips, quotes, and headlines that really add to the film. The score is wonderful and light when it needs to be and is absent when moments are dire.


The film did an amazing job of painting the wonderful uniqueness of the Mavs compared to the MLB farm leagues of the time. It’s a legitimately amazing story of a team that comprised, among others, a left-handed catcher, a World Series pitcher blackballed by the MLB, a future Academy Award nominee (I know that Kurt Russell was never nominated, this is a different guy), Kurt Russell (there, happy?), a possible F.B.I. informant, and the inventor of Big League Chew. The Mav’s management also touts progressive firsts such as having the first Asian-American manager for a professional baseball team, the first female GM, and a dog as their batboy. Their story is believable but still has that Cinderella feeling mixed with an eff-you attitude. It’s like the Bad News Bears actually happened but all the players are in their 30’s. Hell, the film made me want to buy a Maverick’s jersey even though the team has been defunct for almost 40 years.


The only nitpick I have with this film is that the documentary paints the MLB as a corporate villainous monopoly and there is virtually nothing negative said about the Mavs or Russell. Maybe they’re right and Russell was a helluva guy with no real skeletons or regrets. Maybe the MLB should be shamed and booed. Like I said, it’s a nitpick for me since I want my documentaries to attempt to be as unbiased as it can be. However, documentaries are intentionally narratives with a viewpoint, so I can only be so critical. It wouldn’t have hurt to have an interview or two with members of the Pacific Coast League at the time to get their thoughts, though.


Despite my incredibly-minor-why-did-I-even-mention-it nitpick, this is an excellent documentary that is worth making time to see. I don’t even like baseball that much and it made me want to go out and play catch. So stop reading this and check it out, whether you are a sports fan or not.