bill lee: baseball’s spaceman remembered

You’re supposed to sit on your ass and nod at stupid things
Man that’s hard to do
And if you don’t they’ll screw you
And if you do, they’ll screw you too
When I’m standing in the middle of he diamond all alone
I always play to win
When it comes to skin and bond
And sometimes I say things I shouldn’t
Like…
And sometimes I say things I shouldn’t
Like…”

“Bill Lee” by Warren Zevon

 

 

by mike morgan

 

While professional athletes in this country are doomed to conform to the “role model” aspirations prescribed usually by those of the unethical persuasion, such as owners, corporate sponsors and commentators, it’s always a pleasure to see someone break the rules. Of course, these quirky individuals’ careers never seem to last too long (Dennis Rodman aside), but a good nutter usually manages to appear every now and again to expose the bankruptcy of a greedy industry.

One such player was the Spaceman, Bill Lee, a fastball pitcher with the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox during the seventies. He now lives in the New England countryside and survives on roadkill. Bill Lee was blacklisted out of baseball because of his controversial statements and attitudes. During one of the strikes, he suggested that the pro players form pick-up teams and barnstorm around the United States to play in towns and cities that didn’t have major league franchises. Naturally, the players would foot the tab. He also encouraged pot smoking as a way for pitchers to better concentrate on the task at hand. When recently asked about this, he explained that he didn’t know what the big deal was with mandatory drug testing. “I was stoned all the time” he said. He has run for president and, if elected, has promised to do absolutely nothing except maybe shoot a little pool. In the days when long hair was deemed to be a threat to national security, Bill Lee wore his down to his shoulders.

While baseball executives seemed quite comfortable with the likes of five members of the John Birch society being on the San Diego Padres during the same period, and the Detroit Tiger owner allowing his ranch in Indiana to be used as a landing strip for Oliver North’s drug dealers and as an interrogation center for central American political prisoners, they couldn’t stomach the Spaceman. He was forced into an early retirement.

 

Originally published:
Issue Eight
April 2001

 


A Brooklynite by way of Wales and South Africa, Mike Morgan is the founder of Burrow Magazine and serves as one of its Senior Editors and Contributors. In addition to these duties, he has been and continues to be at the heart of a thriving literary, art and music scene and is a regular at several neighborhood bars, where he can be found discussing global and local affairs, rock and roll, various New York sports teams, and whatever books he happens to be reading at the time. More from Mike Morgan can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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