The Autumn Years Of Bill "Spaceman" Lee

Illustration for article titled The Autumn Years Of Bill "Spaceman" Lee

Paul Flannery drove many miles from Cambridge to Burlington to find out what one of the more colorful characters in baseball history is up to in his old age. It seems Bill "Spaceman" Lee hasn't slowed down a bit. Lee throws over 200 pitches in a 14-inning senior league game, wears Russian baseball jerseys, carves his own bats out of maple wood, holds court in local Vietnamese restaurants, and riffs about wind farms and Occupy Wall Street. He also drinks a lot of beer. But, then, what else would you expect from a man who once claimed that he sprinkled marijuana on his organic buckwheat pancakes to protect himself from fumes while jogging to Fenway every morning? Here's a snippet from Flannery's story, which you can find at The Classical:

Lee didn't just talk tough. He stormed out of the clubhouse and left the Red Sox when the team sold his friend Bernie Carbo to the Indians for $15,000. They responded by burying him in the bullpen and then trading him to Montreal for a utilityman named Stan Papi, who had a grand total of 117 at-bats for the Sox after the 1978 season.

He pulled the same stunt after the Expos released journeyman Rodney Scott, a friend of Lee's, in May 1982. Lee went to a bar called Brasserie 77 to have a few beers and cool his heels with a political cartoonist, while getting hustled at the pool table by a man with cerebral palsy. When he returned to the clubhouse, the Expos said he was in no condition to pitch. Lee said he'd had only had three and was ready if necessary.

This was strike two, but he was out. The Expos released Lee after general manager John McHale found the pitcher waiting for him the next morning in his darkened office sitting in the lotus position. Lee spent two years wandering the wilderness playing for teams like the Moncton Mets and an outfit in Venezuela. There were a couple of sideshow MLB tryouts that never came to much, and then reality set in. It was all over. It wasn't until much later that he grudgingly admitted that he had overplayed his hand.


Imagine walking into your office and finding a person sitting in the lotus position in the dark. That's not a person you fire. That's someone you sign to a contract extension, by god.