A mere 10 minutes of The Battered Bastards of Baseball will have you convinced that its namesake, a ragtag minor league team named the Portland Mavericks active in the ’70s, must have served as the inspiration for the Bad News Bears.
A celebratory family affair to a fault, the film was directed by team owner Bing Russell’s grandsons Chapman and Maclain Way. It also features interviews from his son Kurt, whom you may know as the star of such entertainments as Overboard and Sky High.
The result is true to the rough-around-the-edges spirit of the team itself — which is to say, vibrant, rebellious, and fun as all hell — if also utterly biased. The Brothers Way aren’t as innovative behind the camera as their subjects were on the field, but they do earn their place as honorary Mavericks.
That Battered Bastards is practically a hagiography doesn’t negate the fact that it has more anti-establishment joie de vivre in any given scene than most talking-head docs about previously unheralded mensches contain in their entire run times, though its status as Netflix property lends it a corporate sheen that’s a bit like the Mavericks putting on Yankees uniforms. (Still, you know what they say: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.)
The team was a genuine motley crew of has-beens and never-wasses (including batboy Todd Field, who went on to direct In the Bedroom and Little Children) looking to prove a lifetime’s worth of doubters wrong; that they ended up being pretty damn good is one of the film’s many stick-it-to-the-man joys.