July 27, 2014

Remember the Portland Mavericks? I’m embarrassed I don’t

Frankly, I’m embarrassed.


I was born and raised in Portland, Ore., and yet I must confess I knew next to nothing about the Portland Mavericks, a short-lived, independent baseball team that occupied Civic Stadium for five seasons.

The Portland Mavericks’ home opener in 1973.
That was until I saw a new documentary about the team on Netflix called The Battered Bastards of Baseball, which fondly recounts the team, its players, manager and most of all the owner, Bing Russell, who injected his own kind of zany fun into the Mavericks.
The movie was an eye-opening experience for this Oregonian. 
Here’s what I learned:
-Owner Bing Russell: Not only was Russell a baseball nut, including shooting his own home movies about how to play the game with his son, Kurt, he also was a longtime character actor best known for his role as Deputy Clem Foster on the TV show Bonanza.
-Pitcher Jim Bouton: Bouton, the once-heralded New York Yankee who later fell from grace and then showed another side of baseball in his book, Ball Four, resurrected his career with the Mavericks.
-Director Todd Field: Academy Award-nominated director Field, who directed In the Bedroom and Little Children, was the team’s batboy.
-Kurt Russell: That’s right, folks. The man who brought us, Snake Plissken, played on the team.
Attendance: The Mavericks drew 125,000 fans to 33 home games in 1977.
The other great thing about this doc is the footage of Civic Stadium in all its run down, ratty glory. It had the turf, the terrible dugouts, the bench seating and the outfield walls were covered with billboard advertising, including the unforgettable image of the 3-D Jantzen swimwear ad. 
That’s the Civic Stadium I remember. What’s it called now? It’s named after some hospital organization, and before that, it had one of the more ridiculous names in sports because it was named after a window and door manufacturer in southern Oregon that didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
It’s also no longer home to baseball. The Portland Beavers returned to Portland after the Mavericks left, and some form of baseball, mostly AAA, would be played there through the 2010 season.
Now, it’s home to soccer and once again the Portland Timbers, who also used to play in Civic Stadium when they were part of the original North American Soccer League.
So Portland has its Timbers again, and its hipsters, and foodies, and strippers and some place downtown that is known for its doughnuts, although they seem pretty ordinary to me. There’s also a TV show that apparently has put the city on the map, but whose popularity totally escapes this former resident.
Was Hello, Larry so bad?
–Rolf Boone

Photo credit: The Oregonian, via Wikipedia


COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone and I love the Twins.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.