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Bill Lee (left-handed pitcher)

Bill Lee (left-handed pitcher)

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William Francis Lee III (born December 28, 1946), nicknamed "Spaceman", is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 former Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 pitcher
Pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

. He played for the Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are a professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of Major League Baseball’s American League Eastern Division. Founded in as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox's home ballpark has been Fenway Park since . The "Red Sox"...

 from - and the Montreal Expos
Montreal Expos
The Montreal Expos were a Major League Baseball team located in Montreal, Quebec from 1969 through 2004, holding the first MLB franchise awarded outside the United States. After the 2004 season, MLB moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. and renamed them the Nationals.Named after the Expo 67 World's...

 from -. On November 7, , 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 16, 2010, Lee signed a contract to play with the Brockton Rox
Brockton Rox
The Brockton Rox were a professional baseball team based in Brockton, Massachusetts, in the United States. The Rox were a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. From the 2002 season to 2011, the Rox played their home...

 of the Can-Am League at age 63.

In addition to his baseball experience, Lee is known for his adherence to counterculture
Counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

 behavior, his antics both on and off the field
Baseball field
A baseball field, also called a ball field or a baseball diamond, is the field upon which the game of baseball is played. The terms "baseball field" and "ball field" are also often used as synonyms for ballpark.-Specifications:...

, and his use of the Leephus pitch, a personalized variation of the eephus pitch
Eephus pitch
An Eephus pitch in baseball is considered a junk pitch with very low speed. The delivery from the pitcher has very low velocity and usually catches the hitter off-guard. Its invention is attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the...

.

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 , the acclaimed documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 by Brett Rapkin Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey featured Lee.

Biography


Lee was born in Burbank, California
Burbank, California
Burbank is a city in Los Angeles County in Southern California, United States, north of downtown Los Angeles. The estimated population in 2010 was 103,340....

 into a family of former semi- and professional baseball
Baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 players. His grandfather William Lee was an infielder
Infielder
An infielder is a baseball player stationed at one of four defensive "infield" positions on the baseball field.-Standard arrangement of positions:In a game of baseball, two teams of nine players take turns playing offensive and defensive roles...

 for the Hollywood Stars
Hollywood Stars
The Hollywood Stars were a minor league baseball team that played in the Pacific Coast League during the early and mid 20th century. They were the arch-rivals of the other Los Angeles based PCL team, the Los Angeles Angels.-Hollywood Stars :...

 of the Pacific Coast League
Pacific Coast League
The Pacific Coast League is a minor-league baseball league operating in the Western, Midwestern and Southeastern United States. Along with the International League and the Mexican League, it is one of three leagues playing at the Triple-A level, which is one step below Major League Baseball.The...

 and his aunt Annabelle Lee
Annabelle Lee
Annabelle Lee Harmon was a female pitcher who played from through with four different teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5' 2", 120 lb, Lee was a switch-hitter and threw left-handed...

 was a pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was a women's professional baseball league founded by Philip K. Wrigley which existed from 1943 to 1954. During the league's history, over 600 women played ball.-History:...

. He attended the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

 from 1964- where he played for Rod Dedeaux
Rod Dedeaux
Raoul Martial "Rod" Dedeaux was an American college baseball coach who compiled what is arguably the greatest record of any coach in the sport's amateur history....

, and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft
1968 Major League Baseball Draft
-First round selections:The following are the first round picks in the 1968 Major League Baseball draft.* Did not sign- Background :The Los Angeles Dodgers laid the groundwork for their championship clubs of the 1970s with an outstanding draft...

.

Major league career


Lacking a good fastball
Fastball
The fastball is the most common type of pitch in baseball. Some "power pitchers," such as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, have thrown it at speeds of 95–106 mph and up to 108.1 mph , relying purely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit...

, Lee developed off-speed pitches, including a variation of the Eephus pitch
Eephus pitch
An Eephus pitch in baseball is considered a junk pitch with very low speed. The delivery from the pitcher has very low velocity and usually catches the hitter off-guard. Its invention is attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the...

. The Leephus pitch or Space Ball, the names for Lee's take on the eephus pitch, follows a high, arcing trajectory
Trajectory
A trajectory is the path that a moving object follows through space as a function of time. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit—the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass...

 and is very slow
Velocity
In physics, velocity is speed in a given direction. Speed describes only how fast an object is moving, whereas velocity gives both the speed and direction of the object's motion. To have a constant velocity, an object must have a constant speed and motion in a constant direction. Constant ...

.

Lee was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher
Relief pitcher
A relief pitcher or reliever is a baseball or softball pitcher who enters the game after the starting pitcher is removed due to injury, ineffectiveness, fatigue, ejection, or for other strategic reasons, such as being substituted by a pinch hitter...

 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 , he was used primarily as a starting pitcher
Starting pitcher
In baseball or softball, a starting pitcher is the pitcher who delivers the first pitch to the first batter of a game. A pitcher who enters the game after the first pitch of the game is a relief pitcher....

. He started 33 of the 38 games in which he appeared and went 17-11 with a 2.95 Earned Run Average
Earned run average
In baseball statistics, earned run average is the mean of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings pitched. It is determined by dividing the number of earned runs allowed by the number of innings pitched and multiplying by nine...

, and was named to the American League
American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League , is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major...

 All-Star team
1973 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1973 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 44th midseason exhibition between the all-stars of the American League and the National League , the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was played on July 24, 1973 at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, home of the...

. He followed 1973 with two more 17-win seasons.

He started two games in the 1975 World Series
1975 World Series
The 1975 World Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds . It has been ranked by ESPN as the second-greatest World Series ever played...

 against the Cincinnati Reds
1975 Cincinnati Reds season
The 1975 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. It consisted of the Reds winning the National League West with a record of 108-54, 20 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds went on to win the National League Championship Series by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in...

. His first start came in Game 2 of the series which the Reds won 3-2. In Game 7, Lee shut out the Reds for five innings and the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead. Lee left with a blister. and the Red Sox lost the game by a score of 4-3, and the 1975 World Series four games to three.

Later Red Sox career


During the 1978 season
1978 Boston Red Sox season
The 1978 Boston Red Sox season was a season in American baseball. It involved the Red Sox finishing second in the American League East with a record of 99 wins and 64 losses.- Offseason :...

, Lee and Red Sox manager Don Zimmer
Don Zimmer
Donald William "Popeye" Zimmer is a former infielder, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball, currently serving as a senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball organization...

 engaged in an ongoing public feud over the handling of the pitching staff. Lee's countercultural attitude and lack of respect for authority clashed with Zimmer's old-school, conservative personality. Lee and a few other of the more anti-authority Red Sox formed what they called "The Buffalo Heads" as a response to the manager. Zimmer retaliated during the season by relegating Lee to the bullpen and convincing management to trade away some of them, including Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins and Bernie Carbo
Bernie Carbo
Bernardo 'Bernie' Carbo is a former outfielder and designated hitter who played from through for the Cincinnati Reds , St. Louis Cardinals , Boston Red Sox , Milwaukee Brewers , Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates . He batted left-handed and threw right-handed...

.

Montreal Expos


Lee was traded at the end of 1978 to the Montreal Expos
Montreal Expos
The Montreal Expos were a Major League Baseball team located in Montreal, Quebec from 1969 through 2004, holding the first MLB franchise awarded outside the United States. After the 2004 season, MLB moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. and renamed them the Nationals.Named after the Expo 67 World's...

 for Stan Papi
Stan Papi
Stanley Gerard Papi was a major league baseball player perhaps most remembered for being traded by the Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox for Bill Lee during the 1978-79 off-season....

, a utility infielder. Letting his temper show, 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
The Sporting News
Sporting News is an American-based sports magazine. It was established in 1886, and it became the dominant American publication covering baseball — so much so that it acquired the nickname "The Bible of Baseball"...

 National League Left Hander of the Year (Over Philadelphia's Steve Carlton
Steve Carlton
Steven Norman Carlton , nicknamed "Lefty", is a former Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher. He pitched from 1965-1988 for six different teams in his career, but it is his time with the Philadelphia Phillies where he received his greatest acclaim as a professional and won four Cy Young Awards...

); 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
1982 Montreal Expos season
-Offseason:* January 14, 1982: Grant Jackson was traded by the Expos to the Kansas City Royals for Ken Phelps.* March 31, 1982: Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler were traded by the Expos to the Texas Rangers for Al Oliver.-Regular season:...

 decision to release second baseman and friend Rodney Scott
Rodney Scott (baseball)
Rodney Darrell Scott was a infielder in Major League Baseball. Primarily used as a second baseman and shortstop, Scott also played third base, designated hitter and outfield during his eight-year career....

.

Reputation and controversy


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 outrageous comments were frequently recorded in the press, much to the horror of his parents. He spoke in defense of Maoist
Maoism
Maoism, also known as the Mao Zedong Thought , is claimed by Maoists as an anti-Revisionist form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong . Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely applied as the political and military guiding...

 China, population control, Greenpeace
Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

, 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 and encouraging the American people to write letters demanding the game be replayed. He claimed his marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 use made him impervious to bus fumes while jogging to work at Fenway Park.

Lee often spoke out on matters concerning the team and was not afraid to criticize management, leading to him being dropped from both the Red Sox and the Expos.

Post-professional career



After the Expos released Lee, he played for semi-professional
Semi-professional
A semi-professional athlete is one who is paid to play and thus is not an amateur, but for whom sport is not a full-time occupation, generally because the level of pay is too low to make a reasonable living based solely upon that source, thus making the athlete not a full professional...

 teams, including the single-season Senior League in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, largely composed of retired major leaguers.

In 2007, Lee joined former major league players Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd
Oil Can Boyd
Dennis Ray "Oil Can" Boyd is a former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. Boyd played for the Boston Red Sox , Montreal Expos , and Texas Rangers .He batted and threw right-handed....

, Marquis Grissom
Marquis Grissom
Marquis Deon Grissom is a former Major League Baseball player. He excelled in baseball at Lakeshore High School, under the tutelage of baseball coach Mike Juenger. He currently resides in College Park, Georgia...

, Delino DeShields
Delino DeShields
Delino Lamont DeShields is a former second baseman in Major League Baseball who enjoyed a 13-year career with 5 teams. He is currently the manager for the Dayton Dragons in the Cincinnati Reds organization....

 and Ken Ryan
Ken Ryan
Kenneth Frederick Ryan, Jr. , is a retired professional baseball player who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1992-1999. He is currently working for NESN as a baseball analyst....

 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.

On September 5, 2010, Lee pitched innings for the Brockton Rox
Brockton Rox
The Brockton Rox were a professional baseball team based in Brockton, Massachusetts, in the United States. The Rox were a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. From the 2002 season to 2011, the Rox played their home...

, picking up the win. The win made him the oldest pitcher to appear in or to win a professional baseball game.

On Saturday, October 8, 2011, Lee showed up for the 100 Innings of Baseball Game hosted by the Boston Amateur Baseball Network to raise money for ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. He pitched 4 innings. He also took an at-bat, and doubled over the right fielder's head. On Sunday, October 9 - with the game still going - Lee arrived again to pitch 4 more innings. He also took an at-bat in this appearance, and was hit by a pitch with an 0-2 count.

Bill lives in northern Vermont. He plays ball in the New England area and is devoted to supporting charities through softball games and golf tournament appearances.

Bill is also a regular on Melnick in the Afternoon with Mitch Melnick at The Team 990 all sports radio in Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, discussing baseball & life weekdays afternoons at 5:45 ET in a segment called "Answers from Space".

Bill is also a regular coach/pro at the Red Sox Baseball Fantasy Camp run by the Red Sox Organization in Florida at the teams Spring Training Facility. The camp allows for fans to spend a week "living the dream" by getting to experience what it is like to play baseball as a major leaguer while being coached by former players and legends of both the MLB and specifically former Red Sox players. Other player/coachs include Bob Montgomery, Rich Gedman, Oil Can Boyd, Lou Merloni, Luis Tiant and many others.

Bill also owns a bat company named The Old Bat Company.

Bill Lee released his own wine label, "Spaceman Red" wine, a California syrah, cabernet and petite sirah blend, produced by Lee & winemaker friend Geoff Whitman, and distributed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine & New Hampshire.

Lee also produced his own beer in 2004 in partnership with Vermont's Magic Hat Brewing Company. Spaceman Ale, billed as "a left-handed, free-thinking, strike-throwing tribute" to their inimitable fellow Green Mountain Stater, a man whose free-spirited persona — philosopher, environmentalist, yoga practitioner — is a re-labeled version of Maginc Hat's Single Chair Ale.

Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey


In 2003, filmmakers Brett Rapkin and Josh Dixon gathered a guerrilla film crew and joined Lee on a barnstorming trip to Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. 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
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

 Documentary Festival and later on the New England Sports Network
New England Sports Network
The New England Sports Network, or NESN [NESS-en], is a regional cable television network that covers the six New England states except Fairfield County, Connecticut and Southbury, Connecticut, a town in New Haven County, Connecticut which is covered by New York City sports networks...

 and MLB Network. It is currently distributed across North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

by Hart Sharp Video.

Books


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 0670767247
  • Lee, Bill and Jim Prime (2003). The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History, Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1572435275
  • Lee, Bill and Richard Lally (2005). Have glove, will travel: adventures of a baseball vagabond, New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 1400054079
  • Lee, Bill and Jim Prime (2007). Baseball eccentrics: the most entertaining, outrageous, and unforgettable characters in the game, Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 157243953X

External links