Portland Mavericks

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Portland Mavericks
19731977
Portland, Oregon
Class-level
Previous Class A-Short Season
Minor league affiliations
Division South (1973),
West (1974),
North (1975, 1976),
Independent (1977)
Previous leagues
Northwest League
(1973–1977)
Major league affiliations
Previous Independent
(1973–1977)
Minor league titles
League titles none
Division titles 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977
Team data
Nickname Mavs
Colors      "Streetwalker Red"
     "Dig Black"
     "Snow White"
Ballpark Civic Stadium[1]
(1973–1977)
Owner(s)/
Operator(s)
Bing Russell[2]
Manager Hank Robinson
Frank "The Flake" Peters[3][4]
Jack Spring
Steve "Cut" Collette
General Manager Lanny Moss,[5][6]
Bob Levesque

The Portland Mavericks were an independent professional baseball team in the northwestern United States, based in Portland, Oregon. They began play in the short-season Class A Northwest League in 1973,[7] after the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League left after the 1972 season and became the Spokane Indians. The Mavericks operated as an independent club in Portland for five seasons, until the return of the PCL in 1978,[8] and played home games on artificial turf at Civic Stadium in Portland.[1][9]

The Mavericks were owned by ex-minor league player and television actor Bing Russell,[10] and were initially the league's only independent club.[11] As owner, Russell kept all corporate sponsorship outside the gates, and hired professional baseball's first female general manager, as well as the first Asian American general manager.[citation needed] Russell's motto in life was one three-lettered word: "fun".[12]

Ex-major leaguers and never-weres who could not stop playing the game flocked to the team's June try-outs, which were always open to anyone who showed up. Most of the Mavericks players were older than their opponents and had been released by other organizations, not all for baseball reasons alone.[11] For this reason, Russell kept a 30-man roster because he believed some players deserved to have one last season.

Among the various castoffs who made up the Mavericks' roster was former major league pitcher Jim Bouton, who made a comeback with the Mavericks in 1975 after having been out of baseball since retiring in 1970.[13]

Bing Russell's son, actor Kurt Russell, played for the club for a month in its inaugural season in 1973.[14][15] The first-year Mavericks' Hollywood connection was not limited to the Russells; manager Hank Robinson (1923–2012) was a character actor,[16][17] and players Robbie Robinson, Jason Tatar, and Ken Medlock all had long careers as actors. Perhaps the team's most successful Hollywood story is that of Maverick batboy Todd Field, who went on to have a long career as an actor before becoming a three-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director.

Franchise history[edit]

1973[edit]

Portland Mavericks' home opener
at Civic Stadium in June 1973

Open tryouts for the team in early June 1973 drew 150 hopefuls, including one who hitchhiked across the country from Tennessee.[7][11][18] Longtime minor-league star Hank Robinson managed the Mavericks to a record of 45–35 and a South Division title in 1973, their first season, but was suspended for a year after punching an umpire in late August.[19] The players were paid $300 per month.[11]

Following the first season, in November 1973, Bing Russell became the sole owner of the team, buying out co-owner Jim Carbray.[2]

1974[edit]

The Mavericks finished 50–34 in 1974 under new manager Frank Peters, finishing in second place in the newly formatted West Division, two games behind the Bellingham Dodgers.

Owner Bing Russell made baseball history in November of that year when he promoted 24-year-old Lanny Moss to become the first female general manager in professional baseball.[5][6]

1975[edit]

In 1975, again under manager Frank Peters, the Mavericks played to a 42–35 record, finishing in first place in the newly aligned North Division.[20] Aging knuckleballer Jim Bouton pitched five games, going 4–1 with a 2.20 ERA.[21]

The Mavericks met the defending champion Eugene Emeralds (54–25) in a best-of-three league championship series.[22][23] The Emeralds swept, taking game one in Portland, 5–1, with Bouton taking the complete game loss for the Mavericks,[24] and the next game in Eugene, 1–0, in front of 5,326 at their Civic Stadium.[25]

1976[edit]

Under new manager Jack Spring, the Mavericks finished in first place in the North Division with a 40–32 record.[26] (Team owner Bing Russell also served briefly as the interim manager in the dugout while manager Spring was out with a skull fracture in July.)[27]

The Mavericks played the Walla Walla Padres of the South Division in the championship series in early September. The first game in Walla Walla at Borleske Stadium went to the Padres, 9–2. The second game in Portland the next afternoon was a 14–2 win for the Mavericks, which forced another game that night to decide the series, which Walla Walla won 7–6.[28]

1977 and dissolution[edit]

In their final and finest season, the Mavericks played to a 44–22 record under player/manager Steven Collette. They had the best record in the league, and won the southern division by 22 games,[29] their third division title in as many seasons.[30] The Mavericks attracted 125,300 fans to 33 regular season home dates (an average of almost 3,800 per game), setting a record for the highest short-season attendance in minor league history.[31]

Portland met the Bellingham Mariners, winners of the northern division at 42–26,[29] in the championship series in late August. A noted member of the "Baby M's" was teenage outfielder Dave Henderson. The first game was in Bellingham and the home team won 6–2 before a paltry crowd of 575 at Civic Field, as Bouton again took the loss for the Mavericks.[32] The series shifted to Portland, and 4,770 saw the Mavericks tie the series with eight runs in the fourth and cruised to a 10–1 win to force a third and final game in Portland the next night, Wednesday, August 31.[33] The deciding game drew 7,805 fans, but the Mariners scored early and won 4–2 to secure the league title.[34] Not known at the time, it was the final game in Portland Mavericks' history.

Subsequently, Major League Baseball regained interest in Portland; when the Pacific Coast League expanded for the 1978 season, they added a new Portland Beavers team in January.[35] The Mavericks shut down after the PCL paid Russell the highest payout for a minor league territory in history[citation needed] — $206,000[8][36][37] — when Russell took the matter to arbitration.

In contrast to the popularity of the Mavericks, the 1978 PCL Beavers drew only 96,395 fans to 69 home games, an average of under 1,400 per game.[38]

Yearly records[edit]

Year Record Finish^ Manager Playoffs
1973 45–35 2nd Hank Robinson (no playoffs in 1973)
1974 50–34 2nd Frank Peters
1975 42–35 3rd Frank Peters League finals
1976 40–32 2nd Jack Spring League finals
1977 44–22 1st Steve Collette League finals

^ regular season finish

Notable players[edit]

  • Jim Bouton — Bouton's landmark book Ball Four was set mostly in Seattle with the expansion Pilots in 1969, and Bouton returned with the Mavericks to pitch at Seattle's Sick's Stadium in 1975 after a five-year absence, tossing a 2-1 complete game win over the Rainiers before a crowd of 825.[39] After the game, he said, "I told (Pilots' manager) Joe Schultz I'd pitch here again someday. I just didn't say at what level." Bouton pitched for the Mavericks again in 1977,[40][41] eventually making it back to the majors with the Atlanta Braves the following year.[42]
  • Larry Colton — after having made one relief pitching appearance for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1968, Colton suffered a separated shoulder injury that forced his retirement.[43] Colton returned to professional baseball at age 33 with the Mavericks in 1975, mostly playing first base but also pitching in three games. Colton later became a writer; his book Counting Coup won the Frankfurt eBook Award.[44]
  • Jeff Cox — an outfielder for the Mavericks in 1974, Cox eventually made it to the major leagues as an infielder with the Oakland Athletics and later became the third-base coach of the Chicago White Sox.
  • Joseph Garza[45] — known affectionately as "JoGarza", the light-hitting utility player was the team's unofficial mascot in 1976–1977, often wielding a broom on the field when the team was on the verge of a two-game "sweep."[46]
  • Rob Nelson — Bouton's teammate and pitching coach, Nelson worked with Bouton to develop Big League Chew bubble gum.[47]
  • Kurt Russell — team owner Bing Russell's son played for the club for a month in its inaugural season in 1973 and for one at-bat in 1977.[14] His appearances in '73 were after suffering an injury to his rotator cuff earlier in the year while playing for the El Paso Sun Kings in the Texas League.[14][15] The injury eventually forced his retirement from baseball and led to his return to acting.[48]
  • Dick Rusteck — a pitcher who played for the New York Mets in 1966, Rusteck pitched for the Mavericks from 1975–1977.
  • Reggie Thomas — the Mavericks' best everyday player, he played mostly outfield for the team from 1973–1976, stealing 72 bases in 1974.[49] Thomas was also a hotheaded player who responded to a benching once by coming after manager Frank Peters with a gun.[50]
  • Terry "T-Bone" Jones — supplied most of the muscle in the Mavericks' lineup.

Legacy[edit]

The team's success helped inspire the establishment of several independent minor teams — in the Mavericks' final season in 1977, three of the six teams in the league were independent. The following year saw four independents among the eight teams.[10][51] The movement culminated in the establishment of several independent minor leagues beginning in the 1990s, including the Northern League.

Popular culture[edit]

A documentary on the team, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.[52][53] The original documentary, "Farewell Portland Beavers" was the first to feature The Portland Mavericks, and aired on Portland TV station KOIN-TV in 1993, produced by Produced by Portland native Kirk Findlay and Findlay Films.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Stadium cover, expansion proposed in Portland". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. July 25, 1973. p. 12. 
  2. ^ a b "Mavericks now have one owner". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. November 9, 1973. p. 11. 
  3. ^ "Frank Peters new leader of Portland's Mavericks". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. February 26, 1975. p. 14. 
  4. ^ "Bouton "dassles in comeback try". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. August 11, 1975. p. C6. 
  5. ^ a b "Mavericks hire woman for post". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. November 13, 1974. p. 19. 
  6. ^ a b "High-flying minors expect banner year". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. June 16, 1976. p. B10. 
  7. ^ a b "Mavericks slate baseball tryouts". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. June 5, 1973. p. 5B. 
  8. ^ a b Stone, Larry (July 27, 2014). "Meet the nuttiest baseball team the Northwest has ever seen". Seattle Times. p. A1. 
  9. ^ "Mavericks sign stadium lease". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. March 28, 1976. p. 6B. 
  10. ^ a b "NW League is going to miss Mavericks". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. June 20, 1978. p. 10. 
  11. ^ a b c d "No wonder they're called Mavericks". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. July 28, 1973. p. 1B. 
  12. ^ "Bonanza Legacy". Bonanza Ventures. Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Jim Bouton and the Mavericks: pitching and loving it". Spartanburg Herald. South Carolina. Associated Press. August 25, 1975. p. B2. 
  14. ^ a b c "Kurt Russell". Baseball Reference. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Wise, Kurt Russell to join Mavericks for rest of season". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. July 27, 1973. p. 11. 
  16. ^ Kantowski, Ron (June 12, 2012). "'Scout' just one of many hats Hank Robinson wore". Reno Journal-Gazette. Nevada. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Hank Robinson". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Mavericks lure 150 hopefuls". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. June 8, 1973. p. 1D. 
  19. ^ "Maverick manager suspended for year". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. August 31, 1973. p. 11. 
  20. ^ "Northwest League: Final Standings". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. August 31, 1975. p. 7D. 
  21. ^ 1975 Portland Mavericks Statistics, Baseball-Reference.com. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
  22. ^ Withers, Bud (August 31, 1975). "Grudge". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 1D. 
  23. ^ "Emeralds get their record – in the rain". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. August 31, 1975. p. 3D. 
  24. ^ Withers, Bud (September 1, 1975). "Moskau, Emeralds best Bouton". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 1B. 
  25. ^ Withers, Bud (September 3, 1975). "Ems pull repeat in grand style". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 1B. 
  26. ^ "Northwest League: Final Standings". Eugene Register-Guard. September 5, 1976. p. 9C. 
  27. ^ "Russell takes Mavs' reins". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. July 7, 1976. p. 3B. 
  28. ^ "Walla Walla wins NWL". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. September 7, 1976. p. 6C. 
  29. ^ a b "Northwest League: final standings". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. August 27, 1977. p. 3B. 
  30. ^ "Bouton opens for Mavericks". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. August 28, 1977. p. 6B. 
  31. ^ King, Susan (July 8, 2014). "Bing Russell's grandsons explore his 'Battered Bastards of Baseball'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Bellingham wins first playoff game". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Associated Press. August 29, 1977. p. 5D. 
  33. ^ "NWL crown up for grabs". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. August 31, 1977. p. 5C. 
  34. ^ "Bellingham wins title". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. September 1, 1977. p. 22. 
  35. ^ "Portland Beavers return in 1978". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. Associated Press. January 21, 1978. p. 10. 
  36. ^ "Board to decide Mavs' compensation". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. UPI. December 24, 1977. p. 2B. 
  37. ^ "Territorial rights enhance profit prospects in Portland". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. September 3, 1993. p. D-1. 
  38. ^ Connor, Shea (June 26, 2014). "The Shuffle: Major league outcasts". St. Joseph News-Press. Missouri. Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  39. ^ "Jim Bouton, Mavericks triumph, 2-1". The Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Associated Press. August 26, 1975. p. 6B. 
  40. ^ "Jim Bouton, trying for comeback at 38". Prescott Courier. Prescott, Arizona. Associated Press. July 20, 1977. p. 8. 
  41. ^ "Bouton drawing fans for Mavericks". Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. August 13, 1975. p. 10. 
  42. ^ "Jim Bouton is quitting for TV job". Wilmington Morning Star. Associated Press. December 13, 1978. p. 1C. 
  43. ^ "About: Career Timeline," Larry Colton official website. Accessed Aug. 3, 2014.
  44. ^ Berg, Ted. "6 astonishing facts about baseball's biggest misfits, the minor league Portland Mavericks," USA Today (July 10, 2014).
  45. ^ Garza entry, Baseball Reference. Accessed Aug. 5, 2014.
  46. ^ Ellison, Annie. "How the Battered Bastards of Baseball kept Portland weird: Portland Mavericks documentary, Oregon Historical Society celebrate rag-tag ball team," KOIN (July 11, 2014).
  47. ^ McGovern, Mike (January 20, 1989). "In business world, former Yankee keeps pitching". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. p. 10. 
  48. ^ Freedman, Richard (August 2, 1981). "Baseball player Kurt Russell banging out hits in new field". Youngstown Vindicator. Ohio. Newhouse News Service. p. B6. 
  49. ^ Thomas entry, Baseball Reference. Accessed Aug. 5, 2014.
  50. ^ Buker, Paul. "Beavers dam up operation," Baseball America online (2002). Accessed Aug. 5, 2014.
  51. ^ Withers, Bud (June 16, 1978). "No more Mavericks". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 1D. 
  52. ^ McKay, Hollie (January 22, 2014). "Kurt Russell pays tribute to dad's Portland Mavericks with 'The Battered Bastards of Baseball'". Fox News. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  53. ^ Marc Mohan (July 9, 2014). "'Battered Bastards of Baseball' review: Portland Mavericks' story is true to the team's name". The Oregonian. Portland. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]