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Mr Spaceman, Will You Please Take Me Along For The Ride?
September 6, 2010 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Bill Lee, The Spaceman, baseball curmudgeon, subject of a Warren Zevon song, marijuana advocate, has become the oldest pitcher to win a professional baseball game at the age of 63.
posted by Xurando (32 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
For some reason, I read the last phrase of this post first, and thought it was an obit post. My heart caught in my throat. Thank goodness it isn't.

Lee gave Don Zimmer the nickname "The Gerbil." For that, we Boston fans will always be grateful. Also the array of hats he's wearing in these links is fantastic -- if Lee knows some languages beyond spaceman-ese, this pitcher going to be giving a long-time MeFite a run for his money.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:24 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wish I'd been there to see this one. What a mensch, and the Rox are a nice ballclub, despite the stupid-ass spelling.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:41 AM on September 6, 2010


These Expos, man. All gold.

Congrats, old man!
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2010


That's neat. I didn't see any explanation in the story as to why he was doing it at this point, which kind of puzzled me . . . as well as the fact that they used him against another team that had something at stake in the game (which both enhances the coolness and makes the ringerism a little less appealing).
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:52 AM on September 6, 2010


Graig Nettles says hello. I grew up watching baseball in the 70's and 80's and it was a true golden era of the sport. It seemed every player had some kind of eccentric streak that manifested itself in an odd windup, batting stance or in Bill Lee's case - an unpredictable nature. This was just after free agency came into play and it hadn't yet destroyed the originality that made the game great. These days there is just too much money at stake for players or kids to deviate from the most accepted stances and pitching windups which makes them somewhat indistinguishable from one another. The talent is as good or better than ever but a lot of the fun and passion seems to be lost.
posted by any major dude at 7:10 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dear old departed dad loooooooved the Spaceman. When Lee went to Montreal, my Dad started rooting for the Expos instead of the Sawx.
posted by popechunk at 7:17 AM on September 6, 2010


IIRC, isn't there some kind of Seniors League type of thing happening in baseball?
posted by jonmc at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2010


I love baseball. I own exactly one autographed piece of memorabilia. It's a ball autographed by Bill Lee. It's on a shelf two feet from my head as I type this. Go Spaceman!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:49 AM on September 6, 2010


Alice doesn't live here anymore.
posted by Xurando at 7:56 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Graig Nettles says hello.

That's funny, the Spaceman has a special place for Graig.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I look back at his numbers and can't imagine how he possibly had so much success while allowing so many hits and striking out so few batters. For someone with a career WHIP of 1.364, to have so much success is pretty amazing. Did he really get by on craftiness and weirdery and his Spaceball pitch?
posted by ORthey at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2010


Way to go, Spaceman!
/will be 63 all too soon
posted by languagehat at 9:09 AM on September 6, 2010


The Rox used to have Oil Can Boyd. Imagine what that dugout would be like with both of them...
posted by drowsy at 9:20 AM on September 6, 2010


I grew up watching baseball in the 70's and 80's and it was a true golden era of the sport. It seemed every player had some kind of eccentric streak that manifested itself in an odd windup, batting stance or in Bill Lee's case - an unpredictable nature.

Right on, any major dude. I was a young kid obsessed with the Expos in the late '70s and early '80s, and it was like an ensemble-casted comic book of eccentric sports superheroes. The Expoes had Spaceman, of course, and their superstar was a slightly plus-sized catcher (Gary Carter) given to plowing directly into opposing catchers in lieu of sliding, but there was another space oddity or two on the opposing roster every game.

Rollie Fingers, in addition to being a relief pitcher named Rollie Goddamn Fingers, had a twirling Salvador Dali moustache. Rod Carew leaned back into his batting stance like an anthropomorphized yawn. Gaylord Perry had joints held together with duct tape and a hardware store's worth of tools secreted in his uniform pockets, and he was older than your grandfather. Fernando Valenzuela had that skyward-eyeball thing in his delivery they goofed on in Bull Durham. Guys took the field with half of North Carolina stuffed in their cheeks, and half the teams were wearing pillbox caps like 1920s dandies for some reason. Rolaids and Billy Beer and Big League Chew.

Great time to be a baseball fan. I miss it. So heartening to see Bill Lee's still keepin' on keepin' on.
posted by gompa at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


Had to laugh, my son pitched for the Brocton team ealier this season...
posted by sfts2 at 9:30 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]




Lee is/was one of the few unabashedly liberal athletes (the Walton basketball family and Adam Morrison come to mind as others, other than that....drawing a blank) and while he was with the Red Sox, he vociferously supported the controversial forced-busing (for diversity's sake) program being implemented by a judge for Boston schools.

His support resulted in a nasty letter from City Councilor Dapper O'Neil, written on his official letterhead. Lee's letter back began, "Dear Councilor O'Neil, I think you should be made aware that some idiot has gotten a hold of your stationery..."
posted by mreleganza at 10:19 AM on September 6, 2010 [19 favorites]


Lee is/was one of the few unabashedly liberal athletes (the Walton basketball family and Adam Morrison come to mind as others, other than that....drawing a blank)

Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins - led the NHLPA's carbon neutrality push.

But yeah, most pro athletes in this sponsorship-driven corporate sports age tend to follow Michael Jordan's "Republicans buy shoes too" dictum. They are mainly in favour of winning, making money and avoiding controversy.
posted by gompa at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2010


But yeah, most pro athletes in this sponsorship-driven corporate sports age tend to follow Michael Jordan's "Republicans buy shoes too" dictum. They are mainly in favour of winning, making money and avoiding controversy.

The default for most athletes, well preceding Lee's era, has been to stay on the sidelines; perhaps this reflects the fact that sports have *long* been sponsorship-driven and commercially risk-averse, or perhaps the fact that athletes are self-absorbed or otherwise uninterested. Interesting exceptions throughout the ages, but they are genuinely exceptional.

I recall reading and hearing several stories within the last five years, and certainly a few during the 2008 election cycle, about how exactly the opposite trend -- engagement -- was occurring as of late.

This worries me, and I would accept the use of steroids in exchange for a promise to forever forswear politics. No more Bunnings!
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2010


No more Bunnings!

Heh. Don't I wish. I fully expect Curt Schilling to trot out the Sacred Bloody Sock and go for the Senate when John Kerry hangs 'em up (bet he's totally kicking himself for not making a run at Ted Kennedy's seat).
posted by hangashore at 11:07 AM on September 6, 2010


Lee is/was one of the few unabashedly liberal athletes (the Walton basketball family and Adam Morrison come to mind as others, other than that....drawing a blank)

He's more radical-leftist than liberal, but I like MMA fighter Jeff 'Snowman' Monson.
posted by box at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2010


I've resolved to never say anything bad about the 25, but if Schilling runs for Senate in Mass, I'll have to go back on my word.
posted by .kobayashi. at 11:42 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recall reading and hearing several stories within the last five years, and certainly a few during the 2008 election cycle, about how exactly the opposite trend -- engagement -- was occurring as of late.

Well, the entire Phoenix Suns team wore "Los Suns" jerseys to protest the immigration law.

But yeah, in general, not so much. The thing about pro athletes is that they may be rich and on TV, but they are employees. They have a boss, and they can be fired, and their world is so small they can easily be blackballed from working at all. Baseball players at least have guaranteed contracts; others don't even have that. So any kind of eccentricity is a huge risk, unless you're a true "only one in the world" talent like Dennis Rodman.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2010


Lee is/was one of the few unabashedly liberal athletes (the Walton basketball family and Adam Morrison come to mind as others, other than that....drawing a blank)

Steve Nash. Jim Bouton. Scott Fujita.
posted by jonmc at 12:26 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For certain definitions of 'liberal,' Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
posted by box at 12:32 PM on September 6, 2010


Rod Carew leaned back into his batting stance like an anthropomorphized yawn.

That's one of the finest sentences I've ever had the pleasure to read on MetaFilter.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:57 PM on September 6, 2010


I remember when the Red Sox were in the process of blowing a tremendous lead, and Bill Lee gave an interview where nothing he was saying could be understood, because he was choking himself. Finally he managed to get across, "..hard..gurgle..talk..gasp...choking."
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lee is/was one of the few unabashedly liberal athletes

Gabe Kapler
posted by drezdn at 3:31 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


BitterOldPunk

Bill Lee identified himself as "the punk rock pitcher," and showed up on the mound with his hat covered in safety pins. There was a conference of umpires, delaying the game, until it was ruled that he had to remove the safety pins, because they may be some kind of scheme to optically dazzle the batter.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:34 PM on September 6, 2010


β€œHe got people out today with his mind and hitting spots and knowing how to pitch. He threw a changeup that was like eephus and then he threw a fastball that looked like it was 105 (miles an hour) from the dugout. It was amazing. It was cool stuff.’’

Can't help but think that if more pitchers (and teams) properly grasped this fundamental principle of good pitching, fewer pitchers would burn out so early in their careers.

And, if we're talking about athletes going against the grain, I have to mention
Steve Nash, who made his opinions on the Iraq War known by wearing a t-shirt saying "No War - Shoot for Peace" to media day at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game.
posted by dry white toast at 3:46 PM on September 6, 2010


Bill Lee identified himself as "the punk rock pitcher,"

I though that was Joe Charboneau* (in Cleveland) who said he was a punk rock ballplayer (he wasn't a picher), although the Spaceman could lay claim as well.

*the wikipedia link mentions a record called "Go Joe Charboneau." I would be really thrilled to find an mp3 of that. I'm just saying.
posted by jonmc at 4:12 PM on September 6, 2010


I am not sure where politics should or should not be in sports, but liberal, libertarian, or whatever, Bill Lee is a Character. Baseball needs more characters. Like when Richie Allen said about Astro turf or grass, "If I can't smoke it, I ain't playing on it."

This quote from the High Times article is quintessential Bill Lee.
On drug testing: "The other day, they asked me about mandatory drug testing. I said I believed in drug testing a long time ago. All through the '60s, I tested everything."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:22 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


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