I guess there must be Boston on the brain. Last week I wrote about the travesty that is Bobby Valentine (Bite Me Bobby V.) and as I write I am getting ready to trek off to the Coliseum and score the Athletics/Red Sox contest.
In the mean time, one of my favorite players--Bill Lee, aka The Spaceman--made Bay Area news last week with a singular feat: He became the oldest man to start and win a professional baseball game.
Now 65, the spacey Boston southpaw and maintstay of the mid-70's, winning 17 games each year between 1973-75, and participated in what has always been my favorite Fall Classic, the Red Sox/Reds duel of 1975 (I highly recommend Roger Angell's terrific book Five Seasons which culminates with that magic 1975 Series, and some great Lee quotes, among others).
Lee was against the war in Vietnam, had admitted to smoking marijuana, actually read a book without pictures, and referred to Red Sox icon Don Zimmer as a gerbil: a moniker that many of us still associate with Zim.
He flipped off Yankees fans and wore things like beanies with propeller and a gas mask to the mound at various times, confounding the baseball establishment with his irreverance, expressing his free spiritedness, and yet confusing further by taking his mound duties beyond seriously, logging a career 119-90, 3.62 mark over 225 starts and 1944.1 innings. His post season numbers show an 0-0, 2.93 line over four games, two starts, and 15.1 innings, and those two starts were both in that 1975 October Cincy matchup.
Lee was an All Star in 1973, and finished 23rd in the 1975 MVP voting, and always had a quotable quote. For example, if memory serves, after the Red Sox came from behind to tie the Series at three each, with the improbable Carlton Fisk game winning homer (which was preceded by the equally dramatic Bernie Carbo pinch hit homer) reporters crowded Lee, asking how he classified this incredible contest.
"Tied" was the Spaceman's response.
Lee retired from baseball in 1983, but continued to play in the Vermont Senior League, and came to San Rafael last week, inking a one game deal to start for the San Rafael Pacifics, beating the Maui Na Koa Ikaika with a complete game, allowing four runs and eight hits, tossing 94 pitches, 64 for strikes.
Lee does spend time in Northern California, where he maintains a home and is part owner of a winery that produces Napa Valley Cabernets and Syrahs.
And, well, maybe it is all publicity, and maybe just part media and part fun, but for sure, Bill Lee marches to his own drummer. Which is one reason I always liked him so much.
Unfortunately, last week while he was twirling his game, we were on vacation near Lake Tahoe, so I could not attend the game, but I am betting Lee will want to stay on top of his mark, and you can bet the next time he is in the area publicly chucking the pill, I will do my best to be in attendance.
And for sure, get a great Spaceman quote!
In the mean time, here's to you Bill Lee, another one of the guys that makes baseball memorable, fun, not to mention reminding us it is a game.