by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball is one of the only cases I can think of where the story might be better told as a narrative than as a documentary. The material is here for an interesting movie. The circumstances were unusual and the team’s continued success from the beginning is surprising and noteworthy. The team was also beloved by the city of Portland and has gone on as something of local legend, a memory held by the people involved with great esteem. What is missing is the individual personalities. We get a sense of playing on the team by former major league pitcher Jim Bouton (who played for the Mavericks after being essentially blackballed from the MLB), but the rest of the guys on the roster are discussed fleetingly via talking heads. We don’t get to know them too well. This was a rag-tag assortment of ‘70s athletes that seems ripe for Slapshot treatment. I also would have liked more time being in the head of Bing Russell, the architect of the team and pioneer of much of what independent-league baseball would eventually become. Bing Russell has passed away, so we get some stuff with him talking about the Mavericks in archival footage and recollections from the Russell family, but - for example - Bing is said to have an uncanny eye for talent and assembling a team. I want to hear more about how he did that. Here it’s just treated as a statement with no insight. This is a story ripe for dramatization. Overall, I liked The Battered Bastards of Baseball, but it’s probably a one-time watch for me.
What did you think of the movie and have you ever been a fan of a hometown independent league baseball team? I have two nearby - the Dogs and the Boomers - and love them, especially when my “real team” - the White Sox - are having a bad season. It’s nice to pivot to low stakes baseball where I don’t get as emotionally invested. It’s like when your team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament but they’re in the NIT.
And look, I understand that baseball is a business, and I understand that the people who own ball clubs have a responsibility to address concerns with their “product” in a growing marketplace. But is it really the fans who are clamoring for change? It feels more like advertisers and television networks and ownership shareholders and other degenerates doing their best to dilute this weird and beautiful game until it fits into a GIF. It sucks. Baseball is slow, boring, and elegant. It’s not football, and I liked it that way! I liked that managers could bring in a reliever to face one guy and then take him out. I liked that there were no “challenges” to an umpire’s call. If his guys are getting squeezed, a manager goes out there, kicks some dirt, and gets thrown out. That’s how it’s done. And one Wild Card team per league, damnit. I conceded the necessity for the DH in the National League, but must you take everything!?
Anyway. This isn’t why we’re here.
Adam: My baseball soul needs nursing this year, too. I’m worried we won’t have a 2020 season at all with the current state of the salary/safety disputes between team owners and the players union. That aside, and to answer your question, I would want Matthew McConaughey as Bing Russell. He’s described as owning a room the moment he enters it which McConaughey does, plus he looks like he’s been around baseball (not every actor has that look to them) and I’m pretty sure he’s also three percent baseball glove.
What did you think about the Jim Bouton subplot? That was my favorite part of the movie because it further exemplified the fraternity of Major League Baseball and how ostracized people are who go outside the lines. It was cool to discover how on board Bouton was about playing for the Mavericks. You’d imagine a lot of guys in his shoes would resent being there for vanity reasons, but he seemed to embrace the rag-tag aspect of it all immediately.
I really enjoyed watching and talking about The Battered Bastards of Baseball. I hope baseball fans check it out, if they haven’t already. What’s up for next week?
Adam: Next week, more baseball! We’re watching the Matt LeBlanc classic Ed, where an ape plays third base in honor of Animals Day for Junesploitation. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.