Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Documentary Review: “The Battered Bastards of Baseball”)

A delightful shaggy dog story, proving yet again that truth is stranger than fiction, The Battered Bastards of Baseball  reminds us what the Love of the Game really means.


SnapShot Plot

I’ve always loved Kurt Russell in the movies, from his Disney childhood to the memorable work which has made him an iconic figure in Hollywood. One of the best roles he ever had was playing real-life coach Herb Brooks in the wonderful film, Miracle about the U.S. Hockey team that beat Russia and then went on to win Olympic Gold in 1980 . . . our ‘Miracle on Ice’. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to learn that Kurt’s father, Bing Russell was himself a Hollywood actor best known for playing the deputy sheriff on Bonanza from 1961 to 1972, shortly before the series was finally cancelled. But before the stage lights for Bing, it was the baseball diamond that first captured his heart. As a kid, he was never much of a player but the passion he felt for baseball took him to an alliance – really an apprenticeship – with the New York Yankees for several years which shaped his character for life. So when his acting career sizzled (much like the series’ opening image of a burning map of Bonanza) he got this crazy idea that he would start the world’s first and only independent ball club, in Portland, OR. Having been literally abandoned by their own minor league baseball team, the Beavers, the City of Portland didn’t know what to make of this larger than life figure who seemed more P.T. Barnum than George Steinbrenner. What the people of Portland couldn’t know was that in a few short years they would come to cherish the man and his rag-tag team of players – the Portland Mavericks – and that together they would create a modern-day legend that could only happen in America.



Parting Shot

For the record, I’m not an athlete or even a sports fan. In fact, I really hate it when I’m inundated by televised games on every screen in restaurants, doctor’s offices, and friends’ homes during dinner parties or celebrations. But I’m no Sports Grinch, either. This week marks the end of an era for baseball fans worldwide who are mourning the retirement of New York Yankees Captain, Derek Jeter, arguably the most loved and respected player alive in an industry that has seen its fair share of scandals and falls from grace. So I got to thinking about Baseball, its legacy and history, and its almost mythological place in the shaping of the American Dream. The Battered Bastards of Baseball was a delight from start to finish, from the hordes of would-be players descending on open tryouts like refugees from the island of misfit toys, to the long hair, smoking and drinking, scruffy beards and juvenile antics of life in the ballpark. With fantastic archival footage, informative and moving in-studio interviews (check out their Bat Boy, Todd Field who grew up to become an Oscar-nominated film director), and hosted by the irrepressible Kurt Russell, I watched with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat as it approached the 9th inning with no overtime.

Personal Note: A big thank-you to Ray F., a friend of Norma’s Streaming Picks for recommending this film and being such a loyal subscriber, and to Julia S. for writing such a moving tribute to her father who loved this game more than anyone I know and whose passion as a coach will live on in his daughters and all the girls who were lucky to be on his team.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is Available on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters rights on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

Click on DVD image above to purchase or rent. If you can’t see the Poster, disabling your Ad Blocking software should do the trick!


YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA76b5Hhvxg

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