Documentary Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

Release Date: January 20th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
Music by: Brocker Wa

Netflix, 73 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a Netflix exclusive that just dropped this past weekend. It is the story of the short-lived Portland Mavericks minor league baseball franchise that was started and ran by Bing Russell, actor and father of Kurt Russell.

The Mavericks were pretty big in the ’70s. In fact, they were getting more press coverage than a lot of the major league teams. They also set some minor league attendance records during their existence. They were scruffy, tough and not your typical clean cut all-American team. They brought a hardened edge to baseball and a level of competition that not only surprised the City of Portland but also surprised the team.

This was a thoroughly entertaining, informative and enjoyable documentary. As a baseball fan that was born in the late ’70s, I’ve heard the stories of the Portland Mavericks but I wasn’t alive to witness it. This gave a lot of the stories I’ve heard, more insight and depth. It also added in a bunch of stuff I would’ve never known otherwise.

It was great seeing Kurt Russell and his mother adding their two cents to the documentary, as well as the interviews with all the old Mavericks and key people. The movie was well edited, well put together and seemed to fly by with ease. The short 73 minute running time may have something to do with that.

This is one of the better baseball documentaries that I’ve seen come out in the last few years. If you’re a fan of the sport, check it out. If you’ve got Netflix streaming, it’s free.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: No No: A Dockumentary and Ken Burns’ Baseball.

Book Review: ‘So You Think You Know Baseball?’ by Peter E. Meltzer

So You Think You Know Baseball? is pretty interesting if you are at all a hardcore baseball fan or even a casual fan that wants to understand the game’s rules at a much deeper level.

This book goes through every single rule in the official rulebook. In fact, it doesn’t just reiterate or try to explain the rule, it gives actual real examples, often times multiple examples, of the rule in play and how it effected the cited game.

The book also provides examples and asks multiple choice questions to the reader, to try and determine the right answer. This allows the reader to better understand even the most complicated or seemingly useless rules. It also makes the reader respect some of the more obscure rules.

This book is a must own for any baseball fan just because of the lengths the author goes in trying to make each and every single rule clear. It will challenge purists and aficionados and bring some enlightenment to those on the eternal quest for ultimate baseball knowledge.

It is well written, well organized and just damn interesting.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca, The Hidden Language of Baseball by Paul Dickson

Ranking All 30 Second Series Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2015.

Luckily for us, ESPN decided to do another set of thirty films to expand this series. Now that this series has also reached 30 films and we got the soccer spin-off series, I’m hoping we get a third generation.

But for now, here are the 30 films of the second series ranked. And to be honest, all of these are really good.

1. Survive and Advance
2. Of Miracles and Men
3. Requiem for the Big East
4. Ghosts of Ole Miss
5. No Más
6. I Hate Christian Laettner
7. Big Shot
8. Bad Boys
9. You Don’t Know Bo
10. Benji
11. Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
12. Brothers In Exile
13. The U Part 2
14. Bernie and Ernie
15. Free Spirits
16. Angry Sky
17. Rand University
18. This is What They Want
19. When the Garden was Eden
20. Sole Man
21. The Price of Gold
22. Brian and the Boz
23. The Day the Series Stopped
24. Slaying the Badger
25. Broke
26. 9.79*
27. There’s No Place Like Home
28. Playing for the Mob
29. Elway to Marino
30. Youngstown Boys

Book Review: ‘Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers’ by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts

*Written in 2015.

This is a sequel to the awesome book Baseball Between the Numbers, which I reviewed.

The Baseball Prospectus staff once again provides baseball fans and stat heads with a magnum opus. Yes, they have produced two perfect and amazing works for us to read and both are monstrous volumes to add to your sports library.

Being that this one is a few years older than its predecessor, it is a bit more current with its subject matter and it gives us some other topics. A big part of the book goes into the use of PEDs and how it effects the game. It is a section that I agreed with wholeheartedly and it helped inspire the post I wrote about PEDs several weeks ago (*referencing an old website that is now gone).

The book also goes into team building, scouting, pitching, fielding, offense and other subjects. It does a thorough job of analyzing all this stuff and giving the reader with a lot to ponder. It also gives one good ammunition for bar debates with your friends.

Baseball Prospectus writes some of the best material in the baseball world. This book is no different and if you are a true baseball fan, if you don’t already own this, you are doing yourself and your library a big disservice.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Baseball Between the Numbers by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts, The SABR Baseball List & Record Book by the Society for American Baseball Research, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James.

Book Review: ‘The Hidden Language of Baseball’ by Paul Dickson

*Written in 2014.

The Hidden Language of Baseball is an interesting little book for true fans of the sport. It goes through the history of signs and sign stealing in baseball, giving insight as to where it started and how it evolved over generations.

Paul Dickson has a talent for keeping things pretty concise and straightforward while still being thoroughly entertaining and informative. In fact, this isn’t a long book by any means, as it comes in at around 160 pages or so, not counting the appendices and extra parts at the end. However, just recently reading Baseball Between the Numbers by Baseball Prospectus and The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, any book would seem short by comparison. Regardless, for a book that isn’t very lengthy, this one covers a lot.

For the true aficionado, this book is a gem. Being that it adds insight to the culture of baseball beyond just simply observing the game, makes it an intriguing and entertaining book. Sorry, I’m just a baseball junkie and I love stuff like this, as it opens up the game and gives a glimpse behind the scenes.

The Hidden Language of Baseball isn’t just a book of baseball sign language though. It is also a book full of great stories about the great men who played and managed the game in every era. It is a great little treatise on one of the most important factors in the game.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca

Book Review: ‘Baseball Between the Numbers’ by the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts

*Written in 2014.

This book is a monster. It’s also a pretty enjoyable book if you are like me. By “me”, I mean someone who has an unhealthy obsession over baseball as well as numbers. I’ve always been a pretty big stat head and this book has essentially become my bible.

The Baseball Prospectus staff are a group of pretty interesting writers and mathematicians who employ the use of sabermetrics and go pretty deep with it. Through this book, they try to settle age long debates and actually create a lot of new debates by proposing questions and offering up the math to backup their claims.

Baseball Between the Numbers tries to leave no stone unturned and it does a solid job of asking questions you didn’t even know you wanted answers to. It attempts to settle the debate between who was better, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. It also asks why Billy Beane’s tactics don’t work in the playoffs. It even uses math to show the effects of steroids in baseball.

I love this book, it is one of my favorites. They have written a follow-up, which I will read shortly. I actually wish they had the time to make one of these books each year.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The SABR Baseball List & Record Book by the Society for American Baseball Research, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James.

Book Review: ‘The SABR Baseball List & Record Book’ by the Society for American Baseball Research

*Written in 2014.

The SABR Baseball List & Record Book is one of the most interesting books a baseball stat head can pick up.

First of all, it is thick as hell. It is certainly a beast and each page of this beast is full of lists of thousands of statistics that you cannot find anywhere else. If you’ve ever wanted to know who is the all-time leader in triples for left-handed batters, there is a list for you. If you ever wanted to know who is the leader for most pitcher strikeouts in a season before 1893, there is a list for you. The amount of statistics and the detail in them is pretty insane.

In fact, I read through the book trying to come up with an idea of something they may have forgot. I came up with nothing. Even when I thought I had something, they answered it and then expanded on it with multiple lists that included specifics that I didn’t anticipate.

This book is the closest thing to God that I have ever experienced.

When it comes to baseball and especially sabermetrics now, I am turning into a crazy person. This book just came along and magnified my problems. I’m not worried about it though, I’m just going to sleep with this book as my pillow now and respond like a rabid animal whenever someone tries to take it from me. It. Is. My. PREEEECIOUS!!!

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Baseball Between the Numbers by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James.