Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kurt Russell, Todd Field, Frank 'The Flake' Peters, Joe Garza, Jim Bouton, Joe Garagiola
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 73
Date: 07/11/2014

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Outsiders in the Outfield

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Here's a Netflix Original documentary that tells a strange and wonderful story about a game that has generated its share of strange and wonderful stories. In The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014), character actor and baseball fan Bing Russell spends thirteen seasons playing Deputy Clem Foster on "Bonanza" (as well as other film and TV work), and then hears his true calling. When Portland's lackluster ballteam leaves town in the early 1970s, Russell moves there and formed his own club, totally independent of the majors (and the only independent team at the time).

The Mavericks consisted of guys who loved to play ball but for some reason couldn't make — or were evicted from — the majors. (Former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton was one of their biggest names.) Their love of the game and their general freedom and fun-loving attitude made them a nearly unstoppable force, and a huge financial draw for their town. But of course, it was not to last.

Amazingly, Bing (who died in 2003, but is shown here in plenty of archival footage) was the father of actor Kurt Russell, who played briefly for the Mavs and is interviewed here at length. Oscar-nominated writer/director Todd Field (In the Bedroom) is also here; he was their batboy. And, to add more strange story, one of the players went on to invent "Big League Chew" bubble gum. If you're a baseball fan, you shouldn't miss this, and if you're not, it may make you one.

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