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Bill "Spaceman" Lee makes comeback in independent league game

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  • Bill "Spaceman" Lee makes comeback in independent league game

    http://www.mercurynews.com/other-spo...rafael-success

    SAN RAFAEL -- A few hours before his game Thursday night, as groundskeepers readied the field, Bill "Spaceman" Lee eyed a shovel suspiciously.
    "What's that for?" he asked. "To bury me?"
    Hardly. Even at 65, one of baseball's all-time most colorful characters remains in full orbit. Spaceman, who delighted Boston Red Sox fans and irritated baseball's stuffed shirts for large parts of the 1970s, is still throwing change-ups — on the mound and off.
    Lee signed a one-game contract with the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American League in what the team ballyhooed as his chance to become the oldest pitcher to win a professional game.
    Lee not only won, he pitched a complete game in a 9-4 victory over the Maui Na Koa Ikaika and was mobbed by teammates and fans as he bounded triumphantly off the mound.
    "Honestly, this is one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen," Pacifics manager Mike Marshall, the former Dodgers outfielder/first baseman, said. "I can't believe what I just saw -- I'm like Jack Buck."
    Introduced by the public-address announcer as "a visitor to planet earth," Lee took the mound with no other trace of silliness. There was no Daniel Boone cap, no gas mask, no beanie with a propeller -- all things he wore at different times a major league career that lasted from 1969-82.
    Instead, the left-hander looked serious and worked quickly. His fastball was clocked at 70 mph and a handful of
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    high-arcing "Lee-phus" pitches were clocked at ... well, those didn't register at all.
    Lee allowed four runs on eight hits, striking out none and walking none. He threw 94 pitches -- 69 for strikes.
    As a minor league publicity stunt, Lee's outing was an even bigger triumph: The Pacifics sold out -- all 1,200 seats. Albert Field is essentially a high school ballpark, as Lee knew firsthand. "I threw a no-hitter here in 1962, against Drake," the Terra Linda High grad said. "This is like a home game for me."
    So continued a week of nostalgia for Lee, who traveled to Boston on Monday to attend the funeral of former second baseman Johnny Pesky, a beloved member of the Red Sox family.
    Lee said that when his cab from Fenway Park pulled up curbside for services, he noticed a New York Yankees fan in the car behind him.
    "So I flipped him off," Lee said.
    Wait. At a funeral?
    "Johnny would have wanted it that way," Lee explained.
    Lee's burning loyalty to Boston shows that time can heal all wounds -- or at least heal petty grievances. An All-Star in '73, the irascible left-hander clashed often with Red Sox power figures during his playing days -- including a running feud with manager Don Zimmer, whom he once referred to as a "designated gerbil."
    Always eager to tweak management, Lee was a counterculture eccentric even by '70s standards. Once, as Sports Illustrated recounted, he called a conference on the mound -- catcher, coach, third baseman, the whole cast -- and informed them that his lips were chapped.
    Oh, and he could pitch. Lee won 17 games each year from '73-75. His catcher, Carlton Fisk, later said that Lee was "was the best left-hander in the league" during that three-year stretch.
    In those days, as now, Lee threw a baffling assortment of junkballs -- an appropriate repertoire, given his personality type. Lee said a high school knee injury, combined with an already weird body type -- "sway back, big ass," is how he put it -- allowed him to put a natural sink on the ball.
    Lee said he feels spry most of the time. He's been a fixture in the Vermont Senior Baseball League since 1988 and is eager to hurl junk for anybody who calls. Lee was already the oldest pitcher to win a professional game, having triumphed at age 63 in a Can-Am League game in 2010.
    "I'm able to still do this," Lee explained, "because I've never quit."
    Mike Shapiro, the CEO and general manager of the fledgling Pacifics, his original plan was to name his team the Spacemen, partly to honor Lee, partly because of nearby Lucasfilm Ltd. and partly, he said, "because Marin County is kind of spacey."
    Though he settled on the more stately "Pacifics," Shapiro still wanted to let Lee pitch for the team that nearly bore his nickname.
    "I called him up, asked him and he said, 'Sure, how about Aug. 22 or 23?' " Shapiro said. "That might have been the easiest negotiation I've ever had."
    Lee was by far the most distinguished man on the field, and not just because of the gray hair. Still, Lee took this seriously. He reacted wildly to tough calls, high-fiving teammates after big plays and resisted Marshall's notion of taking him out of the game.
    Lee reacted to the final out with a fist pump so big it looked like Game 7 of the World Series -- which he once started, in 1975.
    Lee will probably be back in future years. He still owns a home in the area. He also partners with a Napa winemaker for a blend of California syrah, cabernet and petite sirah.
    It's called Spaceman Red. Here's guessing it ages well.
    Holding a pitcher accountable for how many runs his team scores is like holding the designated hitter accountable for how many runs his team allows.

    An individual statistic is meaningful only if it is based strictly on what the player does and not on what the other players on his team do.

    Contrary to what most baseball fans claim, a pitched ball which is hit into play is not a strike.

  • #2
    as relevant as Clemens
    1. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that many players are over-rated due to inflated stats from offensive home parks (and eras)
    2. Strat-O-Matic Baseball Player, Collector and Hobbyist since 1969, visit my strat site: http://forums.delphiforums.com/GamersParadise
    3. My table top gaming blog: http://cary333.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      Originally posted by 9RoyHobbsRF View Post
      as relevant as Clemens
      But a much more pleasant story. Who doesn't love Bill Lee? Just the fact that he threw 94 pitches, some of them at 70MPH is remarkable enough, never mind that he defeated a pro team by doing so.
      They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
        But a much more pleasant story. Who doesn't love Bill Lee? Just the fact that he threw 94 pitches, some of them at 70MPH is remarkable enough, never mind that he defeated a pro team by doing so.
        I don't know. I actually think Clemens is a more pleasant person than Lee. He's not conceited, he's convinced.

        But yeah, good for Mr. Team Player.
        Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
        Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
        Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
        Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
        Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
          I don't know. I actually think Clemens is a more pleasant person than Lee. He's not conceited, he's convinced.

          But yeah, good for Mr. Team Player.
          If you say so, Cap'n. I know which one I'd rather have a beer with.
          They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

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          • #6
            Yeah I would think Bill Lee is the more easier to be around guy too. But man it is pretty impressive that he won a game at his age. I almost have to wonder if the other team was laying down for him. It almost doesn't seem possible.
            "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

            "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
              Who doesn't love Bill Lee?
              I have a bad feeling that you'll find out before this thread is done.

              Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
              If you say so, Cap'n. I know which one I'd rather have a beer with.
              If that develops, please call me. I want to hear some stories about The Designated Gerbil.
              3 6 10 21 29 31 35 41 42 44 47

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Los Bravos View Post
                I have a bad feeling that you'll find out before this thread is done.



                If that develops, please call me. I want to hear some stories about The Designated Gerbil.
                What is the gerbil story about Bill Lee? If it's a bad story which you can't repeat can you just say Richard Gere that way I'll know what your talking about.
                "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
                  If you say so, Cap'n. I know which one I'd rather have a beer with.
                  Or Cheerios with.
                  Dave Kent

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wrgptfan View Post
                    Or Cheerios with.
                    Even better.
                    They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
                      If you say so, Cap'n. I know which one I'd rather have a beer with.
                      He'll probably tell you he brewed it himself.
                      Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                      Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                      Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                      Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                      Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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                      • #12
                        Not bad to be able to fire a 70 MPH fastball at age 65. He spoke at my college in the 70's and was intelligent, funny, and had very bold ideas. Had the Sox won a World Series in his era I think he would have been given much more respect.

                        He's got a copy of my book which I hope he read during those long cold Vermont winters.
                        "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                        "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
                          What is the gerbil story about Bill Lee? If it's a bad story which you can't repeat can you just say Richard Gere that way I'll know what your talking about.
                          No, nothing that wild. "The Designated Gerbil" was his nickname for Don Zimmer, who does sort of look like some sort of rodent.

                          The two men didn't get along. To put it mildly.
                          3 6 10 21 29 31 35 41 42 44 47

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                          • #14
                            Lee's winning this season (and last season in the Can-Am league for the Brockton Rox) and Clemons' performance this year for the Skeeters shows just what it means to be a major league talent: athletic skills that are several levels better than those of average players, even players twenty or thirty years younger than you.
                            If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve!

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