Bill Lee was left handed and born in California;a decent formula. The “spaceman” didn’t disappoint. He coulda been a mountain rebel, a story teller, big league southpaw, baseball bat manufacturer, weaver of eeuphus pitches, and oh that’s right, he was all of that and a damn good writer too. He still is.
I met Mr. Lee a few years ago. He was on a book tour and supposedly promoting his new book; “Have glove Will Travel: Adventures of a Baseball Vagabond.” I say supposedly because the gathering of about 20 of us quickly exited for the nearest “watering hole.” Lee was the first out the door.
I was carrying a basketball under my arm. Lee caught a side glance of the ball from another sport and dropped the question he was answering. He reached out his arms so I threw him the basketball and he started spinning it on his finger and talking about pick up games at USC.
The book itself is about his baseball life after being unofficially banned from the Montreal Expos and major leagues in 1982. Lee hit the road to extend his career. It didn’t matter if it was softball, hardball, or wall ball. He just wanted to keep playing. He joined leagues in New Brunswick, British Columbia, New Hampshire, the Alaskan midnight sun game and in 2012 he signed a contract at 65 years young with the San Rafael Pacifics. On August 23, 2012 he became the oldest pitcher to ever start a professional match. He tossed a complete game shutout.
The book is in many ways a continuation of “The Wrong Stuff”- his first book chronicling his days as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. Both books are written exactly as he speaks with few fancy licks and a lot of honesty. It’s easy to imagine him sitting down and cranking out both in five hours.
There’s also “The Little Red (Sox) Book; The Curse Reversed Edition.” Lee might have been born in Burbank, California, but his loyalties rest with the Red Sox. He pitched in Boston for 10 years, earned an all star appearance in 1973 and pitched well in the 1975 World Series.
I dare say best story, idea, or quote in the Red Sox book because that’s for deodorant advertisers. I’ll just say that the spaceman reveals a logical explanation regarding the IQ of Yankee fans. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Reading Bill Lee is a seance we all deserve in the original.
Lee knocks you off your center and literally realigns lives. That may sound a tad dramatic, but his integrity is so fine tuned that it’s virtually impossible to not walk away from him feeling a bit more determined to dig deeper into who you are.