Saturday, December 28, 2013





  • Bill Lee and the 1975 Topps design are a match made in deep outer space, especially this one that appropriately leans to the port side. Spaceman comes from the left and right into baseball lore as one of its true characters. Statistically, the soft-chucker was a little better than average, going 119-90 with a 3.62 ERA in 14 seasons with the Red Sox and Expos. He made his only All-Star team in '73, the first of three consecutive 17-win seasons. Metaphysically, Spaceman was a free-thinker during a closed-minded time of conservatism in the game and society. This counter-culture persona put him on the cusp of being traded or released throughout his career. It also made him quite interesting.


  • Happy 67th, William Francis "Spaceman'' Lee III.
  • Mel Parnell won 123 games for the Red Sox from '47-'56, tops among left-handers.
  • If only Topps would've put a space-related cartoon on this card ...


  • A spring training shot from Chain O' Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla., I always do a double-take because this photo doesn't look like Lee. Too clean-cut.


  • Lee comes from a baseball family: Father, grandfather and aunt played professionally.
  • Drafted in the 22nd round of the '68 draft out of USC, where he helped lead the Trojans to the College World Series title in June.
  • Used out of the bullpen during his first four seasons, Lee joined the rotation in '73, making 33 starts and going 17-11 with a 2.75 ERA.
  • Started Games 2 and 7 of the '75 World Series, pitching 14.1 innings and allowing five earned runs (3.14 ERA). He's most remembered for throwing Tony Perez his patented "Leephus'' pitch that got drilled over the Green Monster in Game 7. He got two no-decisions in the Series, with the Sox losing both.
  • Limited to 14 starts in '76 after he and Graig Nettles mixed it up during a classic brawl with the Yankees, tearing ligaments in his left shoulder. The injury reduced what velocity Lee had and made him rely even more on his sinker and pitch to spots.
  • After his five-win season '76, Lee won nine games in '77, making 16 starts. More notably, Spaceman -- along with Fergie Jenkins, Bernie Carbo, Rick Wise and Jim Willoughby -- formed the Loyal Order of the Buffalo Heads.


  • The Loyal Order of the Buffalo Heads? That was a club of Manager Don Zimmer haters. Jenkins coined the nickname "Buffalo Head'' for Zimmer, whom the group considered as dumb as a buffalo, especially when it came to managing a pitching staff.
  • It was only a matter of time when Lee, who affectionately called Zimmer "The Gerbil,'' would rub the manager the wrong way and the skids were greased in '78 after Carbo was traded. Lee walked out in protest for a day and eventually lost his place in the rotation as the Red Sox began their famous collapse.
  • Fourth all-time in Red Sox history in victories by a left-hander with 94 and also added 13 saves.
  • Spaceman was traded to the Expos for Stan Papi on Dec. 7, 1978, a development that excited Lee because he would be able to bat again after the DH rule took the bat out of his hands in '73.
  • In 208 plate appearances, Lee hit .208 with two homers and 10 RBI. Six of those RBI came in '79, his first year with the Expos.
  • Went 25-22 in his four years in Montreal with a 3.57 ERA. His best season was in '79, when he won 16 games and had a 3.04 ERA.
  • Lee's second walkout occurred in '82 after friend and teammate Rodney Scott was released on May 8. The next day, Spaceman joined Scott on the street, earning his release. He never pitched in the majors again, done at age 35.
  • While on the road, he always walked or jogged to the ballpark to get a feel for the town and its people. 
  • In August for the independent San Raphael Pacifics, Spaceman, 66, played all nine positions during a game on "Senior Citizen Night.''
  • In '12 for the Pacifics, Lee is believed to be the oldest to win a professional game, when he went the distance against the Maui Na Koa Ikaika. He also had an RBI single.
  • That hit came off a Vermont yellow birch bat he manufactured at The Old Bat Company, which he owns.
  • Woody Harrelson has the movie rights to Spaceman's story. Here's hoping it makes it to the big screen soon.

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