Portland’s professional baseball club was a charter member of the Pacific Coast League, formed in 1903. They became the “Beavers” in 1906.
My brother Mark and I would go to the immense — for minor-league — Multnomah Stadium. We paid 25¢ — I think it was 25¢ — to sit on a wooden bench in the bleachers. We were always hopeful, but never did catch a home-run ball. Sometimes we’d go late; the gates were opened up after the sixth inning, so we could sit in the grandstand for free..
The Beavers team was a fixture in the Class-AAA PCL until 1972, when the owner moved them to Spokane. The following year, a new team, the Mavericks, took their place in the stadium and in the hearts of Portland baseball fans .
Television actor and one-time minor-league ballplayer Bing Russell formed the team and joined the Single-A Northwest League. The Mavericks were the league’s only independent team, having no affiliation with a Major-League club. Instead, the Mavericks held tryouts open to all comers. The roster was a collection of has-beens looking to have one more season and never-weres. Bing’s actor son Kurt was on the opening-day roster. Former major-league pitcher Jim Bouton, by then more famous — or infamous — for his tell-all memoir “Ball Four”, joined the team for the 1975 season.
The Mavericks were known and became beloved for their free-spirited, nothing-to-lose approach to the game. They posted a winning record every year and finished first in their division four out their five seasons. They also attracted greater attendance to games than the Beavers did. The Mavericks never won the Northwest League title, but they came so close in 1977, their last season, that Bing Russell ordered championship rings. According to Bouton, the rings were fitted for their middle fingers.
The Class-A Mavericks lasted until a new Portland Beavers club joined the expanded Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1978. The PCL offered Russell $26,000 to shut down the Mavericks. His response was that the offer was missing a zero. The $206,000 buyout was the highest ever for a minor-league franchise.
Some evenings after work I’d go with my wife and two daughters to the then-renamed Civic Stadium to watch the Beavers play. We brought sandwiches (made by the girls’ mother) and purchased beverages and snacks at the park. We could always find good general-admission seats. Bonnie and Maureen grew up to become hard-core hockey fans. The Beavers left for good in 2010 when Civic Stadium was renovated into a soccer-only facility.
In 2014, Netflix produced a documentary film about the Portland Mavericks. “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” is available to stream. Give yourself some baseball fun in these social-distancing times.