battered bastardsMoving over to this year’s Documentary Premieres section: Chapman Way and Maclain Way’s THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL, the untold story of the ragtag 1970s independent team, the Portland Mavericks.

Sundance Program Description:

Chapman and Maclain Way’s energetic telling of one of baseball’s great, unheralded stories is as much about independent spirit as it is about the game. When Portland, Oregon, lost its longtime minor-league affiliate, Bing Russell—who briefly played ball professionally before enjoying a successful Hollywood acting career—bought the territory and formed a single-A team to operate outside the confines of major-league baseball. When they took the field in 1973, the Mavericks—the only independent team in America—started with two strikes against them. What did Deputy Clem from BONANZA know about baseball? Or Portland, for that matter? The only thing uniting his players, recruited at open tryouts, was that no other team wanted them. Skeptics agreed that it could never work.

But Bing understood a ballplayer’s dreams, and he understood an audience. His quirky, unkempt castoffs won games, and they won fans, shattering minor-league attendance records. Their spirit was contagious, and during their short reign, the Mavericks—a restaurant owner turned manager, left-handed catcher, and blackballed pitcher among them—brought independence back to baseball and embodied what it was all about: the love of the game.

Some Background:
This marks the first feature documentary for the brothers Way, grandsons to Bing Russell and nephews to Bing’s famed actor son Kurt Russell, who appears in the film. Also appearing is Sundance alum and Oscar nominee Todd Field (IN THE BEDROOM (2001)), who was the Mavericks’ batboy. The project received support from the Tribeca Film Institute, claiming last year’s TFI/ESPN Prize, a grant made to sports-themed docs-in-progress. Former Tribeca Film Festival executive director/SXSW Film Festival producer Nancy Schafer serves as executive producer.

Why You Should Watch:
Facing off against a theoretically disinterested Portland public who had seen their previous baseball franchise fail, and a BAD NEWS BEARS starting line-up culled from wannabes and the cast-offs of other, legitimate, professional teams, the Mavericks defy the odds, giving them an inherent underdog appeal that should win over even non-baseball fans. Finding the human element in a little-known sports story while expertly incorporating great old period footage of the team and its promotion, the Ways deliver an entertaining tribute to their grandfather and his unlikely sports dream.

More Info:
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page. As they become available, I’ll link to the Ways’ Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and to their Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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