Hollywood Great Kurt Russell Really Played Baseball For Walla Walla
Your boy went down another Wikipedia rabbit hole. Actually, I do remember hearing about this but that information had to be excavated from its burial site under other random facts in my brain.
Kurt Russell played one season for the Walla Walla Islanders.
Before he was John Carpenter's muse, before he was one of Hollywood's most respected actors, Kurt Russell dreamed of being a ballplayer. That dream was manifested and realized in the early 1970s, all while Russell was still acting.
Kurt Russell appeared in the 2014 documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
I'm a baseball fan, albeit not as fanatic as I once was. You grow up, have kids, work a hard and honest nine to five, then you find yourself being selective with your hobbies. I consume 18 weeks of regular season NFL football, 82 games of NBA basketball, and catch the occasional NHL game. Baseball is very demanding with its 162-game schedule. When I was following the Orioles at my baseball fandom peak, I watched about 50 games and checked the standings every other week until the postseason crunch came along. Then it became daily until it culminated in watching every playoff game. It was tough.
That baseball consumption bled its way into my other hobbies; movies and documentaries. I remember being in awe of Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries. As great as it was, it was too sanitized. We're talking about a sport that Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra played. Then, I found the perfect documentary. The Battered Bastards of Baseball follows the tale of baseball in Portland, specifically the Portland Mavericks. I won't get too far in the weeds here, but if you're a fan of baseball then I highly recommend this documentary.
Kurt Russell's father owned the Mavericks, and Russell played his way into a spot on the team for the 1973 season. He would play one lone game in 1976 for the Mavericks as well. His interviews for the documentary (directed by his nephews, pictured above) offer a lot of insight into his love for the game and his experience playing baseball almost exclusively in the Pacific Northwest.
Kurt Russell played baseball for four seasons.
While he was still under contract with Disney, Russell followed his father's footsteps and his own dreams of being a professional baseball player. He hit .285 with a lone home run in his first season with the Bend Rainbows in 1971.
The 1972 season saw the Rainbows move from Bend, Oregon and rebrand themselves in Walla Walla as the Islanders. By his own account, Russell was on his way to a big league career before he got injured. The league that Russell played the entirety of his A-short season career with is the very same league the Tri-City Dust Devils played in until their promotion to A-long season, the Northwest League. The new league that was incorporated this past season to accommodate the new Minor League Baseball restructuring recently revealed its new name to be, well its old name. The Northwest League lives on.
Russell's baseball peak came in 1973 when he reached AA with the El Paso Sun Kings. He blew out his arm that season, derailing his career. He returned to baseball in the 1974 season, where he played designated hitter for his father's team, the Portland Mavericks. The Mavericks were an independent team that played until 1977. The team was resurrected in 2021. Fortunately for Russell, his acting career panned out.
Kurt Russell is just one of several terrific athletes to have played in Washington and Oregon.