Bill Lee (left-handed pitcher)

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Bill Lee
Born: (1946-12-28) December 28, 1946 (age 69)
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
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 119–90
Earned run average 3.62
Strikeouts 713
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 1969–1978 and the Montreal Expos 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 documentary film by Brett Rapkin Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey featured Lee.


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, and Bill Lee claims she was the one who taught him to pitch.[3] Lee also claims to be related to the prominent Hunt family which has produced Lieutenant Governors and Congressmen in Vermont.[4] Lee attended and played baseball at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, California, graduating in 1964 before enrolling at the University of Southern California. At USC, Lee majored in physical education and geography and attended 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. Lee is currently a rastafarian and formerly Catholic.[5] He is married to his Canadian born wife Diana Donovan.[6]

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 is the last Red Sox player to miss time during the season for military obligation after being active duty in the Army Reserve from June 1 to October 1, 1970.[7]

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.[8]

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 Ferguson 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. In his 1984 book The Wrong Stuff, he claimed his marijuana use made him impervious to bus fumes while jogging to work at Fenway Park.[9] Much of the material in this book is, however, tongue-in-cheek.

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
Lee at Fenway Park with a 2012 Boston Marathon runner

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.[10] 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.[11][12] Since then he has played mostly as a celebrity pitcher in games around the world.[13]

Since 1999, Lee has been an ambassador for Major League Baseball to Cuba helping to bring Cubans players to the US and setting up goodwill tours especially to Canada.[14]

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.[15]

In September 2010, Lee pitched 5 23 innings for the Brockton Rox (a team that was then a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball), picking up the win.[16] The win made him the oldest pitcher to appear in or to win a professional baseball game.[17]

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, Lee pitched a nine-inning complete game for the San Rafael Pacifics in San Rafael, California, beating the Na Koa Ikaika Maui 9–4. Using a homemade bat in the fifth inning, he drove in the first run of the game for the Pacifics.[18] Lee 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.

Lee lives in northern Vermont with his third wife and plays ball for the Burlington Cardinals.[19] He is also a regular on "Melnick in the Afternoon" with Mitch Melnick at TSN 690 sports radio in Montreal in a segment called "Answers from Space". In 2007, Lee was featured in High Times, a counterculture, pro-marijuana magazine. He also makes frequent appearances on Sports Overnight America, a nationally syndicated radio program hosted by Gerrie Burke (a long-time friend) out of San Francisco.

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, and New Hampshire.[20] 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.

Political career[edit]

In 1988, Lee was the Rhinoceros Party presidential candidate running on a platform of bulldozing the Rocky Mountains so Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of sun light and banning guns and butter.[21]

2016 gubernatorial campaign[edit]

In May 2016, Lee was chosen by the Liberty Union Party as their nominee for the 2016 election for Governor of Vermont.[21] Lee, who had never heard of the Liberty Union Party before, was contacted by the party to run for governor and accepted.[5] Peter Diamondstone, the leader of the Liberty Union Party, reached out to Lee because he saw him as the embodiment of the "spirit of the socialist community", using the example of Lee's trips to Cuba to play baseball with young children.[5] Lee identifies himself as a "socialist and a left winger" but also "conservative and pragmatic".[5][21] Part of his political platform include legalization of marijuana, a single payer health care system, taxing the rich, paid family leave, encouraging schools not to cancel PE to stop the opiate problem, a ride share program to help rural people get around, an education system similar to Cuba, harnessing the tidal bore of Bay of Fundy for energy and seizure of federal highways.[5][6][21][22][14] He also includes some baseball issues on his platform like arguing steroid users should be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame and also supports bringing the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal which he argues would spur economic activity by harvesting trees to make bats and Red Sox fans heading to Montreal would spend money going through Vermont.[4][5] However he is mostly pragmatic saying his main platform goal is eliminating borders especially the Quebec-Vermont border.[5][6] Lee wants to make travel between Quebec and Vermont easier saying "My problem isn't getting into Canada; my problem is getting back into the United States".[6] Other major issues he wants to address is having more clean water along with ending the opiate epidemic and attacking corruption in government.[23] Clean water is Lee's number one environmental concern and says he is "Earth first" in many of his issues.[23][24] Lee is not taking campaign contributions or putting up commercials only asking that supporters put up signs.[4] Though Lee has claimed to have met "big donors" from Stowe and had former members of Lincoln Chafee's presidential campaign volunteer to run his campaign.[4][25] He will use his senior league baseball team's road trips as his way to campaign around the state.[26] Lee has also developed a campaign slogan: "So far left, we're right".[27] Lee has admitted that he probably wouldn't do much as governor if elected saying "This is a perfect state. Why touch it?".[14] But would fill his administration with "independent free thinkers" over partisan Democrats and Republicans.[28]

Lee is a supporter of Bernie Sanders but sees himself as "Bernie-heavy not Bernie-lite" arguing he is Sander's policy twin.[21][29] He doesn't like Hillary Clinton and despises Donald Trump, arguing for Vermont's secession from the United States if Trump is elected.[4] Lee also is a supporter of guns calling himself a "liberal with a gun" claiming he has more guns than the NRA but is also against the death penalty.[4][23] Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger calls Lee "bright" and "well read", he also thinks Lee would impact the gubernatorial race during the final months.[21][30] University of Vermont professor David Jenemann describes Lee as "exceedingly smart" pointing to his collection of books. Lee has used Plato's Republic in forming his political ideas and practices.[29] He also is familiar with Eugene V. Debs, Buckminster Fuller and Laozi.[29]


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 Lee[edit]


  1. ^ "Bill Lee Shrine of Eternals". Archived from the original on November 16, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2006. 
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick, Curry. "In An Orbit All His Own", Sports Illustrated, August 7, 1978.
  3. ^ Lee, Bill, and Dick Lally (1984). The Wrong Stuff. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-76724-7. pp. 5-6
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Spaceman throws hat in for Vermont governor". Boston Herald. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "He Was a Pitcher Nicknamed ‘Spaceman.’ Now He Wants to Be a Governor". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Bill 'Spaceman' Lee running for governor of Vermont". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Bill Ballou: Jeff Sellers' promising career cut short by injury, Lyme disease - No-win situation". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved May 28, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Bill Lee Biography". Archived from the original on October 26, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2006. 
  9. ^ Lee, Bill, and Dick Lally (1984). The Wrong Stuff. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-76724-7.
  10. ^ Carlson, Peter (August 20, 1984). "Bill (Spaceman) Lee Takes His Last Star Turn as a Canadian Semipro". People. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  11. ^ United Press International (April 10, 1988). "Lee Takes Comedy Act on the Road". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ Longman, Jere (June 7, 1987). "He`d Want `Hail To The Chief` On A Kazoo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ Hughson, Callum. "Spaceman: A Cuban Baseball Odyssey". Mop Up Duty. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c "‘SPACEMAN’ LEE ADDS CURVEBALL TO FIELD OF GOVERNOR HOPEFULS". VTDigger. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  15. ^ Armstrong, Joshua (July 28, 2008). "Spaceman’s Midnight Sun Game was one for the ages". Daily News-Miner. Retrieved October 13, 2008. 
  16. ^ Bill Lee starts and wins independent league game at age 63 | HardballTalk
  17. ^ Tornadoes manager Rich Gedman left impressed by Bill Lee’s performance - News - The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA - Quincy, MA
  18. ^ Brown, Daniel. "Ex-big leaguer 'Spaceman' Bill Lee earns victory for Pacifics". Bay Area News Group. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Burlington's new mayor opens up about the transition, his goals and his favorite music". Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  20. ^ Bill Lee Speaks Highly of Terry Francona’s Managerial Abilities, Says Daniel Bard Needs to Be More Aggressive | Boston Red Sox |
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Vermont's Most Famous Former Baseball Player's Pitch For Governor". WCAX-TV. Retrieved May 25, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Ex-Expo pitcher Bill 'Spaceman' Lee runs for governor of Vermont". CTV News. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b c "Bill 'Spaceman' Lee to run for Vermont governor". WPTZ. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Bill Lee Interview". WBZ-FM. Retrieved June 29, 2016. 
  25. ^ "The Drive AUDIO: Bill “Spaceman” Lee". Bangor Daily News - The Drive. Retrieved May 28, 2016. 
  26. ^ "Bill 'Spaceman' Lee, former Expos pitcher, running for governor of Vermont". CBC News. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Bill 'Spaceman' Lee, former Expos pitcher, announces candicacy for governor of Vermont". CBC Radio. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Governor Spaceman?". Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  29. ^ a b c "Bill (Spaceman) Lee launches run for Vermont governor". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  30. ^ "Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee makes his pitch for VT governor". The Burlington Free Press. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  31. ^ "What Bothers The Spaceman" at This Might Be a Wiki

External links[edit]