Red Sox: Catching up with old friend “Spaceman” Bill Lee

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 10: Former major-league pitcher Bill Lee speaks with Alex Cobb
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 10: Former major-league pitcher Bill Lee speaks with Alex Cobb /

The Boston Red Sox have had many players in their history who marched to a different beat. Bill Lee would be on that list and probably at the top. The video interview provides an insight into Lee today.

YouTube reporter Tyler Boronski recently interviewed former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee to get some of “Spaceman’s” reflections on the past and present.

Tyler had an earlier interview with Manny Delcarmen and now interviews Lee. This article will focus on the Lee then and now with the video by an aspiring video Journalist a must before proceeding.

Lee is still active in baseball, touring the country and playing ball. In another era, this was called barnstorming and players did it as a source of revenue. For Lee, it is all about the love of the game and charity for the long time iconoclast. With the mention of Lee, several items surface in my memories.

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The first is the fantastic Janis Ian and her song that captures teenage angst – “Seventeen.” Why? Simply because Lee was simply stuck on the number 17.  For three consecutive seasons, Lee won 17 games. I can’t recall another Red Sox pitcher that matched the now 70-year-old lefty.

The second is jogging. Lee was and is still a jogger. I happen to be a jogger and on one fateful day, I had a glass bottle tossed at me while jogging on a roadway. The bottle shattered and I had a minor cut. That day Lee was hit by a car in Boston while jogging. Now I run trails.

Another memory is the Eephus pitch. Lee’s was not as dramatic and arching as the one used by Rip Sewell, but had a similar tragic outcome.  Sewell tossed him to Ted Williams in the 1946 All-Star Game and Teddy Ballgame did a nice “See Ya” to the ball. For Lee, it was a looping curve in Game seven of the 1975 World Series.

The Red Sox had a nice 3-0 lead going into the sixth inning. All looked promising when a ground ball was hit to that should have been an inning ending double-play. Denny Doyle rushed the ball to first for an error. Up stepped Tony Perez and Lee launched a high arching curve that satellite information provided by NASA claims eventually landed.

Lee, in the accompanying video, also speaks of game two of the 1975 series. A game lost, late after a rain delay and one that I do believe rests on manager Darrell Johnson. Lee talks about what many Red Sox fans consider the series turning point. Thanks, Bill, for the affirmation of Red Sox Nation.

The last notation has to be “The Fight” against the Yankees. This was a real baseball brawl and Boston and New York had quite a history of them in the 1970’s, with the ire usually circulating around the two great catchers for each team – Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson. This one resulted in Lee injuring his shoulder.

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I could fill this article up with Lee quotes and incidental information from his playing days, but what it really should focus on is the Lee of today. Lee has always been pictured as an iconoclast, but one tidbit surfaced when looking at Lee’s history. Lee was the last Red Sox player to be in the military reserves.

Lee has toured the country playing the game he loves. Occasionally, though the years, Lee has dabbled in even making a professional appearance. Lee is a regular (no surprise) on radio shows, blogs, and articles. He also has a wine label that is named (shockingly) “Spaceman Red.”

Lee is still “The Spaceman” who is known for a train of thought and extemporaneous comments on just about any topic one may wish to bring up. He once announced running for president of the Rhinoceros Party. I believe another party does have a collection of “RINO’s.”

He also ran for governor of Vermont as a candidate of the Liberty Union Party. Lee’s espoused at great length on his political view in this article. In fact, Lee is so far out he may be on his way back in and soon.

"“I’d never heard of them,” said Lee, “But I’m a socialist and a left-winger, so they came to me and said, ‘Bill, would you like to run for governor?’ I said, ‘where?’ They said, ‘the state of Vermont.’ Well, I live in Vermont. Though I’m here only three months of the year. But I hear it’s only a part time job.” – Bill Lee"

Lee was rather notorious during his playing days and that may certainly have been a contributing factor to being somewhat of an outcast when Left-handers can usually hang on if they have a pulse. Firefights with management were all too common in the conservative world of baseball – just ask the late “Gerbil” – Don Zimmer.

It is refreshing to see that Lee has not changed and most certainly never will.  He continues to play and is in, by all appearances, excellent shape.