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Feke with Chapman Way and Maclain Way.

Battered Bastards, a true underdog story

Who doesn’t love a good game of baseball? While many of us know the ins and outs of Major League Baseball, few may be aware that an independent baseball team challenged the foundations of the game we know and love today. The underdog story of the Portland Mavericks is sure to capture your hope and imagination.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball chronicles the story of the Portland Mavericks, an independent baseball team that reigned supreme in the 1970’s. Independent baseball teams had faded in popularity at the time as the major league built its system of minor leagues and divisions to farm for and train its players. In the majors, any player can be moved throughout the organization, up or down, traded from one franchise to another. Loyalty to any one team is lost to the need to win. Not so with an independent team. In an independent team, a player is contracted to that team. The big business of baseball is put aside for the love of the game.

Even as independent teams grew out of favor, one brave man dared to build his own team in Portland, Oregon. That man was Bing Russell. While his name may not ring an immediate bell to those born in the 1980s and beyond, generations past have seen his face time and again as Deputy Clem on Bonanza and in countless other roles. A lover of baseball since childhood, he had connections with the big league heroes of yesteryear, players like Lefty Gomez and Joe DiMaggio. His son, actor Kurt Russell, also played professionally on the team.

When an actor moves into a city and attempts to establish a baseball team, eyebrows will be raised. Bing Russell, being an established actor, knew how to make a show of it. His unconventional methods drew in the fans out of curiosity and then for pure entertainment. The story of the Portland Mavericks is one with unexpected twists and turns and one that shows how underdogs can make a lasting impression.

Chapman Way and Maclain Way researched and directed the film as a tribute to their grandfather. A third grandson, Brocker Way, wrote the music. Those who were interviewed for this lighthearted documentary – family, players and managers – show their love of baseball as much as for the man himself. The passion for the project is evident in every frame. The film is an uplifting and joyous glimpse into a forgotten era.

As a result of his influence on baseball, Bing Russell was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame but did the Portland Mavericks ever take home the pennant? What became of the Portland Mavericks? You will have to watch the film to find out. The Battered Bastards of Baseball played to enthusiastic audiences at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 15 and 18 and is available on Netflix. A narrative feature is in the works. Could a certain Russell play his dad in the upcoming movie? We can hope!

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