High & Outside
Packing clips from a new documentary film (www.spaceman37.com) about his life inside and outside baseball, High & Outside, (spring 2009), Bill "Spaceman" Lee brings his tales, his humor and his down right inspirational example of how to love life to the fullest and play baseball at the same time.
During his major league career, Bill Lee was anything but a conventional major league ballplayer. For 14 years Bill was a legendary left-handed pitcher (1969-1982), his first ten with the Boston Red Sox and his last four with the Montreal Expos. His career record was a respectable 119-90, including three consecutive 17-win seasons with the Red Sox (1973-1975) and a 16-win season with the Expos in 1979. He was selected to the American League All-Star squad in 1973 and pitched in the World Series in 1975 against the Cincinnati Reds. But it was Lee's rebellious spirit and opposition to the conservative baseball establishment that usually rated more attention than his performance on the field.
Lee was one of the game's few counterculture symbols: he talked to animals, championed environmental causes, practiced yoga, ate health foods, sprinkled marijuana on his buckwheat pancakes (an indiscretion for which he was fined $250 by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn), pondered Einstein and Vonnegut, quoted from Mao, and studied Eastern philosophers and mystics. It was in this context that former Red Sox teammate John Kennedy first dubbed him "Spaceman," a nickname writers thereafter used as shorthand to describe his free spirit. Lee would eventually approve of the "Spaceman" moniker. "I realized that it's the ultimate compliment," he remarked. "Everybody thinks they're earthlings but in actuality we're only here for a brief moment, and the cinder that we're on is moving as Spaceship Earth, so we're all space travelers."
A folk hero to fans, Lee was a voice of reason and sanity in a game corrupted by "planet-polluting owners" and the corporate mind set. On the field, he kept opposing hitters off-stride with a variety of junk-balls and a big lollypop curve. Off the field, he kept management off stride with a variety of verbal aerobatics. He (affectionately) called manager Don Zimmer a "gerbil". Then, when asked to publicly apologize, he apologized to the gerbils of the world. He staged two one-man walkouts in his career to protest injustices perpetrated against teammates. One such walkout led to his controversial departure from the game.
Always embroiled in controversy, Bill was released by the Expos in 1981 for protesting the release of a teammate. He was leading the team in pitching and hitting and no one called to offer him a job. Rumors persisted everywhere that Bill had been blackballed from professional baseball. Undaunted, Bill continued doing what he loved — playing baseball, traveling, meeting remarkable people. His life is an object lesson in living life on your own terms, developing your own individual value system and sticking with it despite the consequences, and realizing that we're all connected by cosmic forces bigger than we are.
Born in California and now a resident of Vermont, Lee continues to play ball, break barriers, and blaze new grounds, having recently barnstormed Cuba with a team of American old-timers competing against senior Cuban players. He has written three books including the international bestseller The Wrong Stuff (1984, The Viking Press) co-authored with Dick Lally. His most recent book Have Glove, Will Travel (2005, Crown Books) is about his experiences barnstorming around the world. He frequently appears on ESPN and Fox Sports.
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