Hey, remember when sports were fun? You know, back before we started obsessing over trade deadlines, bloated contract deals, and whiny star players? It’s easy to forget that athletics were once valued above business, but fortunately this past month Netflix debuted The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a documentary that both makes you love Bing Russell and also reminds us a time when having fun was more important than making the big bucks.
TBBB tells the story of The Portland Mavericks, which as part of the Class A Northwest League was the only independently owned professional baseball team from 1973-1977. While every other minor league team was affiliated with a Major League franchise, the Mavericks operated entirely on their own for five seasons. Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well, then there’s the team’s owner Bing Russell, a former actor who had starred in Bonanza, The Magnificent Seven, and scores of other films. Oh, and Bing’s son Kurt Russell, who before his own turn in Hollywood played in the Maverick’s inaugural season. The rest of the team was compiled in a manner that sounds straight out of The Replacements, with the Mavericks hosting an open tryout that attracted players from all over the country.
The Mavericks were a team of “almosts,” guys that loved baseball but were simply not good enough to make the majors. Nonetheless, their sheer love for the game carried them to great success, and even greater stories in the team’s five years. For the rest of the Mavericks tale, including the origin story of Big League chew, professional baseball’s first female manager, and even a few broom fires, do yourself a favor and watch the documentary on Netflix this weekend. Because really, when’s the last time a baseball game made you smile?