The Battered Bastards of Baseball – 5 stars

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I’m not sure what is more surprising, this fascinating, Netflix-produced documentary chronicling the Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league baseball club run by baseball enthusiast and actor Bing Russell in the 1970s, or the fact that this story has not been made into a major motion picture. Russell capped off a lucrative career as a Hollywood “plumber actor” (according to his son, actor Kurt Russell, who also played on the Mavericks) by going to Portland and starting the only independent minor league baseball club in the country. The team is loaded with characters (including New York Yankee great and then baseball pariah Jim Bouton, who played for the Mavericks en route to a short MLB comeback), the story is utterly fascinating, and it has sweep, color, tragedy and vindication. Jesus, the damn thing writes itself.

This is available streaming on Netflix and I can’t recommend it enough, not only for the undiscovered gem of a story, but for the documentarians skillful restraint in reliance on interviewed remembrances and poignant found footage (a lot of which is 8mm). Not even close to schmaltzy, this output is yet another reason to get Netflix.

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