Chapman and MacLain Way‘s The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a wonderfully spirited documentary about a scrappy-ass minor-league Portland baseball team called the Mavericks. The “Mavs” were a genuinely independent operation (i.e., not a farm team for a major-league club) that was owned and managed by character actor Bing Russell, the father of Kurt Russell. The Mavs lasted for five years — 73′ to ’77. The doc is about a proudly non-corporate baseball team. It’s about spunk and tobacco juice. It’s about a team of third- and fourth-rate players who won games, sold a shitload of tickets and revitalized the Portland baseball scene. Joe Garagiola loved and promoted the Mavs. Former Yankee Jim Bouton pitched for the Mavs in ’75 and ’77. Director Todd Field (In The Bedroom) was the team’s bat boy.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball co-directors Chapman and Maclain Way on either side of Kurt Russell during Monday night’s after-party at 501 Main Street. The dinner was organized/hosted by Melanie Blum’s Next Generation Filmmaker Series.
It all ended when the Pacific Coast League muscled their way back into the Portland market in ’77 and basically kicked the Mavs out. But Russell made them pay big-time.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball is so obviously a feature film I shouldn’t even have to mention it. It’s a kind of baseball version of Slap Shot. Russell or Kevin Costner could play Bing…hello? It feels like an absolute natural. Maybe it’s an HBO film, maybe an indie…but it definitely has the makings of a great little baseball movie with heart.
Bing was best known as Deputy Clem Foster on TV’s Bonanza, which he played steadily until the series was cancelled in ’72. He played a snarly Union solder who had his leg cut off in John Ford‘s The Horse Soldiers (’59). He was shot point-blank in the opening barroom scene of Howard Hawks‘ Rio Bravo (’59). He played Vernon Presley opposite Kurt in John Carpenter‘s Elvis (’79). Bing passed in ’03 at the age of 76.