The Batter’s Eye: The Battered Bastards of Baseball

Baseball loves underdogs and misfits. Regardless of how true that is or not in reality, that’s the impression the sport gives. It’s a game where everyone can find a chance to shine.

Mostly these stories are fictional, or fictionalizations of real stories. The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014, directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way) is a documentary about the Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league team that played Class A baseball from 1973 to 1977.

Owned by actor Bing Russell, the Mavericks held open tryouts, gathering a bunch of amateurs and former major league players. To everyone’s surprise, the team was actually good (for being a Class A team, granted, but still).

This documentary is a lot of fun. A lot of the people involved were still alive when the documentary was made so there is quite a bit of first-person history. Everyone seems absolutely charmed by this story and enjoys telling it.

There is a bit of drama and misfortune as Major League Baseball can’t let it stand that an independent team has become so popular. Still, much like Bing’s motto, the movie is “fun.” And for all its macho posturing, the team was welcoming to everyone, including hiring a woman as a general manager as well as an Asian-American general manager. For Bing, baseball was truly for everyone.

Archival footage of the games — while a bit rough in terms of quality — is a delight here and backs up all the stories being told.

This seems so well-suited for a fictionalized Hollywood remake but I don’t think it would be as effective as this movie is. This documentary is great because it’s true (or as true as people’s memories can make things). A dramatization can’t improve upon reality.

I think this is probably my favorite baseball movie I’ve watched this year.