Bill Lee (left-handed pitcher)

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Bill Lee
BillLee.jpg
Pitcher
Born: (1946-12-28) December 28, 1946 (age 67)
Burbank, California
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
June 25, 1969 for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
May 7, 1982 for the Montreal Expos
Career statistics
Win–loss record 119–90
Earned run average 3.62
Strikeouts 713
Teams
Career highlights and awards

William Francis Lee III (born December 28, 1946), nicknamed "Spaceman", is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Boston Red Sox from 1969-1978 and the Montreal Expos from 1979-1982. On November 7, 2008, Lee was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame as the team's record-holder for most games pitched by a left-hander (321) and the third-highest win total (94) by a Red Sox southpaw. On August 23, 2012, Lee signed a contract to play with the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American League at age 65.

In addition to his baseball experience, Lee is known for his counterculture behavior, his antics both on and off the field, and his use of the Leephus pitch, a personalized variation of the eephus pitch.[1]

Lee has co-written four books: The Wrong Stuff; Have Glove, Will Travel; The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History; and Baseball Eccentrics: the Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game. In 2006, the acclaimed documentary film by Brett Rapkin Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey featured Lee.

Biography[edit]

Lee was born in Burbank, California[2] into a family of former semi- and professional baseball players. His grandfather William Lee was an infielder for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and his aunt Annabelle Lee was a pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He attended the University of Southern California from 1964-1968 where he played for Rod Dedeaux, and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft.

Major league career[edit]

Lacking a good fastball, Lee developed off-speed pitches, including a variation of the Eephus pitch. The Leephus pitch or Space Ball, the names for Lee's take on the eephus pitch, follows a high, arcing trajectory and is very slow.

Lee was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher during the first four years of his career. During that period, Lee appeared in 125 games, starting in nine, and compiled a 19-11 record. In 1973, he was used primarily as a starting pitcher. He started 33 of the 38 games in which he appeared and went 17-11 with a 2.95 Earned Run Average, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He followed 1973 with two more 17-win seasons.

He started two games in the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. He left both the 2nd and 7th games with the lead, but the Red Sox lost both games, and the Series.[3]

Later Red Sox career[edit]

During the 1978 season, Lee and Red Sox manager Don Zimmer engaged in an ongoing public feud over the handling of the pitching staff. Lee's independence and iconoclastic nature clashed with Zimmer's old-school, conservative personality. Lee and a few other Red Sox formed what they called "The Buffalo Heads" as a response to the manager. Zimmer then relegated Lee to the bullpen and management traded Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and Bernie Carbo.

Montreal Expos[edit]

Lee was traded at the end of 1978 to the Montreal Expos for Stan Papi, a utility infielder. Lee bade farewell to Boston by saying, "Who wants to be with a team that will go down in history alongside the ‘64 Phillies and the ‘67 Arabs?" Lee won 16 games for the Expos in 1979, while being named The Sporting News National League Left Hander of the Year (Over Philadelphia's Steve Carlton); his professional career ended in 1982, when he was released by the Expos after staging a one-game walkout as a protest over Montreal's decision to release second baseman and friend Rodney Scott.

Reputation and controversy[edit]

Lee's personality earned him popularity as well as the nickname "Spaceman"—a nickname given to him by former Red Sox infielder John Kennedy. His outspoken manner and unfiltered comments were frequently recorded in the press. Lee spoke in defense of Maoist China, population control, Greenpeace, and school busing in Boston, among other things. He berated an umpire for a controversial call in the 1975 World Series, threatening to bite off his ear ("I would have Van-Goghed him!") and encouraging the American people to write letters demanding the game be replayed. He claimed his marijuana use made him impervious to bus fumes while jogging to work at Fenway Park.[citation needed]

His propensity to criticize management led to his being dropped from both the Red Sox and the Expos, and the end of his professional career by 1982.

Post-professional life[edit]

Bill in Nashua, New Hampshire playing for the Oil Can Boyd All Star Team

After the Expos released Lee in May 1982, he played for semi-professional teams, including the single-season Senior League in Florida, largely composed of retired major leaguers. He played in Venezuela, and starting in 1984 he lived in Moncton, New Brunswick, where he played first base and pitcher for the Moncton Mets, earning $500 per week.[4] That year, he published his first autobiographical book, The Wrong Stuff.

In 1988, he and his second wife, Pamela, announced plans to move to Burlington Vermont. In 1987 he had announced plans to run for President of the United States for the Rhinoceros Party, which necessitated the move.[5][6] Since then he has played mostly as a celebrity pitcher in games around the world.[7]

Recent appearances[edit]

In 2007, Lee joined former major league players Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd, Marquis Grissom, Delino DeShields and Ken Ryan on the Oil Can Boyd's Traveling All-Stars. In June 2008, Lee pitched for the Alaska Goldpanners during the annual "Midnight Sun" ball game played at night during the Summer Solstice.[8]

In September 2010, The Spaceman pitched 5 23 innings for the Brockton Rox, picking up the win.[9] The win made him the oldest pitcher to appear in or to win a professional baseball game.[10]

On October 8, 2011, Lee participated in the "100 Innings of Baseball Game" hosted by the Boston Amateur Baseball Network to raise money for ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. On August 23, 2012, Bill pitched a nine inning complete game for the San Rafael Pacifics in San Rafael, California, beating the Maui Na Koa Ikaika 9-4. Using a homemade bat in the fifth inning he drove in the first run of the game for the Pacifics.[11] The Pacifics are in their inaugural season in the North American Baseball League. Bill was signed to a one day contract by Pacifics President and General Manager, Mike Shapiro. Lee's bat and uniform were donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame following the game as the start gave him the record for the oldest pitcher to make a starting appearance, pitch a complete game and also to earn a win in a professional baseball game.

Bill lives in northern Vermont with his third wife and plays ball for the Burlington Cardinals.[12] He is also a regular on Melnick in the Afternoon with Mitch Melnick at TSN 690 sports radio in Montreal, discussing baseball & life on weekday afternoons at 4:35 ET in a segment called "Answers from Space". In 2007, Lee was featured in High Times, a counter-culture, pro-marijuana magazine. He also makes frequent appearances on Sports Overnight America, a nationally syndicated program, hosted by Chris Townsend, out of San Francisco. Townsend's producer, and co-host, Gerrie Burke, is a longtime friend of Lee's, and both have made it a point to allow Lee to expound upon any topic he wishes while on the air with them.

He is also a regular coach/pro at the annual Red Sox Baseball Fantasy Camp run by the Red Sox Organization in Florida at the team's Spring Training Facility.

Lee recently released his own wine label, "Spaceman Red" wine, a California syrah, cabernet and petite sirah blend, produced with winemaker friend Geoff Whitman, and distributed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine & New Hampshire.[13] In 2004 he released a beer in partnership with Vermont's Magic Hat Brewing Company. Called Spaceman Ale, it is no longer in production.

Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey[edit]

In 2003, filmmakers Brett Rapkin and Josh Dixon gathered a guerrilla film crew and joined Lee on a barnstorming trip to Cuba. During this trip, Rapkin and Dixon gathered footage for the documentary film "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey." The film premiered at the 2006 SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival and later on the New England Sports Network and MLB Network. It is currently distributed across North America by Hart Sharp Video.

Books[edit]

He is the author of four books. Two written with Richard Lally, and two with Jim Prime:

  • Lee, Bill and Dick Lally (1984). The wrong stuff, New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-76724-7
  • Lee, Bill and Jim Prime (2003). The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History, Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-527-5
  • Lee, Bill and Richard Lally (2005). Have glove, will travel: adventures of a baseball vagabond, New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 1-4000-5407-9
  • Lee, Bill and Jim Prime (2007). Baseball eccentrics: the most entertaining, outrageous, and unforgettable characters in the game, Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-953-X

Songs dedicated to Bill Lee[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bill Lee Shrine of Eternals". www.baseballreliquary.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-11. 
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick, Curry. "In An Orbit All His Own," Sports Illustrated, August 7, 1978.
  3. ^ "Bill Lee Biography". www.baseballlibrary.com/. Archived from the original on 26 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-11. 
  4. ^ Carlson, Peter (August 20, 1984). "Bill (Spaceman) Lee Takes His Last Star Turn as a Canadian Semipro". People. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  5. ^ United Press International (April 10, 1988). "Lee Takes Comedy Act on the Road". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Longman, Jere (7 June 1987). "He`d Want `Hail To The Chief` On A Kazoo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Hughson, Callum. "Spaceman: A Cuban Baseball Odyssey". Mop Up Duty. MopUpDuty.com. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Armstrong, Joshua (2008-07-28). "Spaceman’s Midnight Sun Game was one for the ages". Daily News-Miner. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  9. ^ Bill Lee starts and wins independent league game at age 63 | HardballTalk
  10. ^ Tornadoes manager Rich Gedman left impressed by Bill Lee’s performance - News - The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA - Quincy, MA
  11. ^ Brown, Daniel. "Ex-big leaguer 'Spaceman' Bill Lee earns victory for Pacifics". Bay Area News Group. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  12. ^ "Burlington's new mayor opens up about the transition, his goals and his favorite music". Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  13. ^ Bill Lee Speaks Highly of Terry Francona’s Managerial Abilities, Says Daniel Bard Needs to Be More Aggressive | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com
  14. ^ http://tmbw.net/wiki/What_Bothers_The_Spaceman%3F "What Bothers The Spaceman" at This Might Be a Wiki

External links[edit]

  • Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
  • spacemanincuba.com Homepage for Bill Lee Documentary
  • [1] The Old Bat Company - Bill Lee's Bat Company.
  • [2] - Bill Lee' Alaska Goldpanners Scrapbook