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‘Battered Bastards’ will remind you why you love baseball

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The story of the independent Class-A Portland Mavericks is chronicled in the new Netflix original documentary, and it's a must watch for minor league fans.

Justin Sullivan

Bing Russell might have been a blogger or podcaster in 1973, if such mediums existed back then, because he simply loved the game of baseball and he had to find a way to express himself. He started the independent Class-A Portland Mavericks of the Northwest League instead.

The Mavericks' story is chronicled in the new Netflix original documentary, "The Battered Bastards of Baseball." And it's a must watch for minor league fans.

Russell, the actor who portrayed the sheriff on Bonanza, who also played a little ball in his day, saw the void left after the Pacific Coast Leauge's Portland Beavers left town, so he stepped in with a team of his own and they captured the attention of the city for the five years they existed (from 1973-77).

In the film, Russell described his motivation for starting the Mavericks this way: "I love the game dearly and wanted it to go back to the straw hat and beer days when 250 towns had minor league teams and most of them were not supported by a major league franchise."

Early in the documentary, Bing's son, Kurt Russell (the actor), talks about promoting the team as it was getting started by picking up the Portland phonebook and calling residents. "Hi, my name's Kurt Russell and I'm with the Portland Mavericks," he would say. "We're the new baseball team here in town. Have you heard about us?"

They hadn't.

The Mavericks took out ads in the newspaper announcing player tryouts, expecting 40 or 50 to show up. Three hundred showed up instead. Some hitchhiked. Some sold everything just to get there.

One player described the opportunity to play for the Mavericks as the American Dream.

Another player said it was a better alternative to painting houses.

"I don't care about the money, I just want to play ball," said another.

Vagabonds. Ragamuffins. Misfits. Rejects. Cast-offs. Jokes. Has-beens. Never-will-be's.

Mavericks.

Bing is described in the film as a med chemist, and in many ways that appears to be true. But mad isn't always bad. He simply thought outside the baseball establishment box and it worked. He hired a 24-year-old female general manager. He carried a 30-man roster, without any funding. His team did victory laps. The team had a ball-dog that sometimes interrupted games.

And fans ate it all up, becoming known as "Maverick-manics." They came out in droves, setting Class-A attendance records.

I won't spoil the ending for you. Just go watch it.