Catching up with Bill Lee (66-67-08)

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October 17, 2004

CRAFTSBURY, Vermont — He was one of the most interesting and unique people to play for the Boston Red Sox.

Nicknamed the “Spaceman”, Bill Lee pitched 10 seasons for the Red Sox (1969-78) and was an integral part of the starting rotation during that time span. Despite his success on the mound, however, Lee received more attention for his eccentric personality.

“I don’t ask questions, I answer questions,” said Lee. “I do things spontaneously and not premeditated. I take things as they come and live my life in the present. What I do everyday is what I want to do. If I want to hunt turkeys I have fun doing that.”

These days Lee, 57, resides on a farm in Craftsbury, Vermont ( which is about 22 miles from the Canadian border) with his wife Diana. They have been married four years.

“I met her in Canada and we settled down and brought her back to the states,” said Lee. “She doesn’t really care for the U.S. too much, but we are close to Canada so it makes it worthwhile. I picked that spot when I came back from Canada because it was close to Montreal and close to Boston.”

Lee has two sons and two daughters – Michael, 34, Andy, 30, Caitlin, 27, and Anna, 10.

His son Andy was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Boston and played in the Red Sox Minor League system. Andy now coaches at Hinds Community College in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I thought he should have been picked up earlier,” said Lee. “With the old regime we didn’t really get along that much. He was a very good pitcher and ended up 2-1 in professional ball. He still plays and coaches in Mississippi.”

Lee has stayed extremely busy. He owns his own bat company in New Brunswick called The Old Bat Company.

“We use slow growing ash, maple, and yellow birch,” said Lee. “We make bats just as good as Barry Bond’s bats.”

In addition to his company, Lee just finished his third book “Have Glove, Will Travel”, which will be out in February. He also works as a broadcaster for Rogers Communications Canada for the playoffs and did radio for the Montreal Expos.

“I’m basically busy everyday of my life,” said Lee. “I answer the phone and people ask me to do things. I just pick my spots and try not to work too hard and get burnt out. I’m busy all the time and continue to stay around baseball. Really, what I want to do everyday is what I want to do.”

As an Expos broadcaster, Lee was not happy with the team’s move to Washington D.C.

“I hated it and I thought it was very poor to take a team out of a foreign country and say it was because of the fans,” said Lee. “They never gave them any support and didn’t get a new ballpark. People will realize no one goes to games in Washington D.C. either.”

When he’s not working, Lee still likes to play baseball for fun.

“I like to play baseball. I like to go play in tournaments and just compete,” said Lee. “I like to stay in shape.”

He played a total of 14 seasons in the Major Leagues including 10 seasons with Boston, and four with the Montreal Expos (1979-82).

Lee was 119-90 with a 3.62 ERA over his career. He posted several outstanding seasons, most notably in 1975 where he went 17-9 with a 3.95 ERA and helped lead the Red Sox to the World Series.

Lee was involved in many moments in Red Sox history, but arguably the most famous one came in 1976 when he was forced to leave a game after hurting his shoulder in a bench clearing brawl with the New York Yankees.

“I have never cared for them [the Yankees] that much,” said Lee. “They are a great come-from-behind ball club and they have a lot of great players, but I have always been a Red Sox fan and will continue.”

One of Lee’s most memorable off-the-field moments came when he protested the sale of former Red Sox player Bernie Carbo to the Cleveland Indians. Lee stormed into the clubhouse, cleaned out his locker, and told the team he was retiring.

Upon returning, the Red Sox fined him $533. In response Lee asked if they could make it $1,500 so he could take the weekend off.

That wasn’t the only example of Lee’s wacky off-field behavior. He jogged from Fenway Park to Belmont on the days he pitched. He rehabilitated a shoulder by hanging from MBTA straps, and he once showed up to a game in Milwaukee in an astronauts suit to protest air pollution.

While Lee was a productive pitcher for the Red Sox, these off-filed antics define his place in Red Sox history.

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