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“The Battered Bastards of Baseball” impresses Sundance

Jan 27, 2014, 7:36 AM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 7.35.40 AM

You can pay obsessive attention to baseball for years and still come across something you’ve never seen or heard of before. So it is with the Portland Mavericks and the documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” which chronicles their brief, colorful history.

I had heard of a minor league team in Portland in the 70s called the Portland Mavericks and knew Jim Bouton played for them for a spell (and that he co-invented Big League Chew with teammate Rob Nelson at the time). I had no idea, however, that the Mavericks were an independent team that played in an otherwise affiliated league: the class-A Northwest League. I also didn’t know that they were owned by actor Bing Russell, father of Kurt Russell and grandfather of former big leaguer Matt Franco. And that Kurt played for the team himself. And that the batboy was Todd Field who would later go on to direct “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children.” Or that, despite being unaffiliated, the team had no small amount of success and drew excellent crowds.

The documentary just played at the Sundance Film Festival and its rights were bought up by “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin who plans to adapt it into a feature length film. You have to figure the documentary itself will get some extra exposure as well some point soon. If anyone sees where it may be playing on TV please let us all know.

  1. Professor Longnose - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    I’ve read that it’s easier for independent teams to be successful on the field. They can sign ex-major leaguers and others who may be better than the general run of league players but who are too old to be prospects for major league teams. Roger Kahn’s Old Enough to Dream was about an independent team; that may have been where I got that impression.

    • dlf9 - Jan 27, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      I think that book — actually it’s “Good Enough to Dream” not “Old Enough …” — is Kahn’s best work. Better, by far, than his acclaimed “Boys of Summer” or anything else he’s written.

  2. shaggylocks - Jan 27, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Were the Mavericks in Oregon or Maine?

    • deepstblu - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      Oregon.

  3. cohnjusack - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    its rights were bought up by “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin

    Can’t we refer to him as “Community paintball episode director Justin Lin”? It makes me like him a lot more.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      No, this way we can hope it’s called “Fastball and Furious” (so as not to become “Baseball Portlandia”).

    • seeinred87 - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Good call. Phenomenal episode from one of my favorite shows.

  4. apmn - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    Big League Chew is an invention? I thought it was the sweepings from the Double Bubble factory floor.

  5. Old Gator - Jan 27, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    You have to be careful about your assumptions when it comes to publicity for a source film. Commercial filmmakers sometimes buy the rights to the original they plan to remake to get it off the market, so it won’t compete for attention with their new version. Case in point: Dino de Laurentis bought the rights to the Merrian C. Cooper King Kong and kept it from being shown commercially, in theaters or on TV, for about two years while he was making his own execrable version. No Thanksgiving morning triple feature of Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young for two years. To hell with tradition. Why not have roast beef for dinner while you’re at it? The horror, the horror – nothing to watch but football. Thank Buddha for my videocassette.

    Incidentally, while we’re at it, those of you who love a great read ought to check out the biography of King Kong’s creator, Merrian C. Cooper, Living Dangerously. A few tidbits: he actually lived through adventures in south Asia, Afghanistan and Iran in the 19-teens and twenties as harrowing as the ones in his films; flew Spads in WWI and then other fighters as a mercenary for the White Russian Army during the revolution, was shot down and became a prisoner of war twice, escaped on one occasion by seducing an enemy hospital nurse, filmed the coronation of Haile Selassie, went along on a tribal migration in central Asia that included hauling entire flocks of sheep and goats over mountains, was chief adjutant to Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers in China, came up with and oversaw the building of the Burma Road, and retired as an Air Force general. And really, that’s just a little of it – I’ve left out all the Hollywood stuff. I promise you that you will read that book with your mouth hanging open and will regret coming to the end of it. If someone wants to adapt something, hell, this is the story they ought to film.

    • jimeejohnson - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Thumbs downs courtesy those who like the stolid, placid, boring life.

      • Old Gator - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        And the morons who think their own illiteracy is the gold standard to which we should all adhere.

    • jwbiii - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I don’t think Lin is going to bury this. He’s signed Todd Field to direct it. Field was a batboy for the team. The second link, GotchaMovies.com, incorrectly identifies him as a player.

      • louhudson23 - Jan 27, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        I think you may have misconstrued his point. He is pointing out the possibility that the doc will be buried,while they make the feature film of the same story. He is not suggesting that they will bury the story and not make a movie of it. The hiring of a director,no matter what his name might be, would have no bearing on the situation he suggests in his post.. The feature film will be directed by someone,whether the doc is buried or not….

  6. natstowngreg - Jan 27, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    I recalled that Kurt Russell played a little in the low minors, but didn’t remember the details until now.

    I’d think it would be very tough to be an unaffiliated team in a Minor League Baseball league these days. Yes, you might be able to recruit better players, not having to accept what your MLB parent provides. But having an MLB parent helps pay the bills.

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