These Mavericks Were The “Battered Bastards Of Baseball”

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The Portland Mavericks, an independent team, took Portland OR by storm–but not for long.  


Bing Russell (photo, Pinterest)

Long ago, a Hollywood actor by the name of Bing Russell portrayed the sheriff on the popular show, “Bonanza” (1959). Russell had a long and successful acting career, and most people knew him for his acting roles.

But Russell was also a huge baseball fan. His love affair with the game started as a boy when he became “the unofficial mascot” of The New York Yankees.

Years later, Russell took a leadership role in the game. It was the early 1970’s and the place was Portland, Oregon. After the 1972 season, the Portland Beavers left town to become the Spokane Indians. That meant there wouldn’t be pro baseball in Portland.

Russell stepped in. He started an independent team, the Portland Mavericks. Russell’s son, Kurt–yes, THAT Kurt Russell–played for the ballclub for a time during its inaugural season in 1973.

Kurt Russell as a Portland Maverick (photo, Stumptownblogger)

Independent baseball is very different from teams that are affiliated with major league clubs. Affiliated players move around a lot, going from club to club, in the quest to make “The Bigs.”

Independent teams, on the other hand, are unaffiliated with MLB. Players play for a variety of reasons. Some make it to the Majors, but many guys play for the love of the game and play for the same club for multiple seasons.

And many guys wanted to be a Maverick. The club expected 40 or 50 prospective players to show up for the initial tryouts. 150 to 200 came. Local people tried out, too. Construction laborers, store workers, and house painters were among those who sought an opportunity to play ball.

Russell, who believed that every player should get a chance to play, wanted to field a big, 30-man roster. And the team he fielded was pretty good, too, finishing the 1973 season with a record of 45-35, winning the Northwest League’s South Division title. Each Mavericks’ player was paid $300 dollars a month. One of Russell’s friends, character actor Hank Robinson, served as the team’s manager.

The Portland Mavericks were a success, but they didn’t last long. The went defunct in 1977 because the city brought back the Portland Beavers, an affiliated team, to play in the prestigious Pacific Coast League.

In Portland, many people still remember the Mavericks. And millions more are getting to know them through the 2014 Netflix documentary, “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.”

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About Matthew Paris

I grew up an avid Houston sports fan. After graduating from Texas Tech University in Theater and English Literature I worked as a marketing rep and coach for I9 Sports, coaching baseball, flag football, soccer, and basketball. I’m currently with Austin Sports Academy as a marketing coordinator, baseball and football coach, and coordinator of middle school and high school open play nights. I’ve written three short films for Looknow Productions and have also written articles on film marketing, producing, and directing. I really enjoy writing about sports and being an active contributor to The Sports Column.



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