I’ve often said that Baseball was my first love, one of the few constants of my childhood I could drown myself in. It was always a savior in many ways, and I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say it helped mold the man I’ve become to some extent. The attention to detail, artful strategy, and unique grace all wrapped into an athletic game of joy and childhood at heart.
Growing up in what is considered the suburbs of Portland, Oregon in the dawn of the internet, I would wake daily and fire up the classic dial tone of logging onto the world wide web to quickly read over the previous day’s box scores and dive into the articles of my favorite baseball writers John Sickles and Rob Neyer (I read my fair share of newspaper box scores); I dreamed of endless conversations with Bill James about what stats made the greatest judge of ball players. Now, if only my home-town could have had a team…. We flirted with the idea a few times, settling for short stints with minor league teams of the Rockies and Padres, and local broadcasts of the neighboring Seattle Mariners with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.
So close and yet so far.
Baseball never materialized in Portland and probably never will, it’s just not how the local community wants to spend it’s time in arguably some of the most beautiful summers in the United States. Even as I grew up baseball never left my heart: I took many trips to Seattle to see the greatest player of my generation, Derek Jeter; and while on the road with my job I couldn’t even turn down ball games in Milwaukee, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, and countless minor league clubs.
This summer, Chapman Way and Maclain Way – along with actor Kurt Russell – at least for a moment brought baseball back to Portland (and childhood memories to the front of my mind) with the Netflix Documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball. An almost tall-tale of Kurt’s father, Bing (of Bonanza fame), starting what would become a shining example of how the love of the game wins every time. Bing created what was the only independent baseball club of its time, The Portland Mavericks, a rag-tag group who was sure to fail… and fail in a raging ball of fire in a city that couldn’t care less.
They succeeded in ways that may never capture a city or Major league baseball ever again. If you’ve ever enjoyed watching a game or learning about its history, or if you live in the great city of Portland – this is a must watch for you; even soccer fans of the current team playing in the stadium the Portland Mavericks used to call home will appreciate the passion of the followers from 1973 to 1977. At its core, this father and son tale – mostly told by Kurt – is a heartwarming story of what baseball is all about. Hands down the best baseball movie I’ve seen since Field of Dreams, go check it out on Netflix.
~ E.S. Norton ~