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Saturday, July 12, 2014

‘Battered Bastards of Baseball’ review: Portland Mavericks’ story is true to the team’s name

I give it 4.5 Rob Neyer flannel shirts out of a possible 5.

First-time directors Chapman and Maclain Way are the grandsons of Bing Russell, the cowboy actor who founded the independent, minor-league Portland Mavericks in 1973, so “Battered Bastards” is an affectionate family valentine rather than a hard-hitting exposé.  But the Ways’ family connections probably helped convince a number of erstwhile Mavs to sit for interviews, not least of them Bing’s movie-star son Kurt, who rhapsodizes about his dad’s love for the game. The only person more passionate about the team today, it seems, is onetime bat boy (and current Hollywood director) Todd Field, whose profanity-laced nostalgic rants are a highlight….

Reality provided the story of the Mavericks with a somewhat anticlimactic finale, so the documentary runs out of steam a bit towards the end. And some of the recollections are selective. For instance, Kurt Russell tells a story about the Mavericks’ first game being a no-hitter, but he’s probably talking about their sixth game. The Mavericks’ first manager, longtime minor-leaguer Hank Robinson, is given short shrift compared with his successor, Frank Peters, but Peters’ darker, turbulent post-Mavs life isn’t highlighted.

Then again, it probably would have been impossible to shoehorn every memorable Mavericks moment and strange-but-probably-true anecdote into one film. That’s how chock full of stories the team’s brief life was. It might not be true that the Mavericks could only have happened in Portland, but it’s certainly fun to think so.


 

 

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