Bill 'Spaceman' Lee: 67 And Still Pitching

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Bill Lee's MLB career came to an end in 1982 but he's still pitching today. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Bill Lee's MLB career came to an end in 1982 but he's still pitching today. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The very first program we produced, back on July 24, 1993, when Only A Game was a half-hour local show in Boston, featured a story about a team called the New England Gray Sox. The team included former Boston Red Sox players Jim Lonborg and Bernie Carbo, but the reason to go to a Gray Sox game was the team's player/manager/promoter who, from an early age, seemed destined, as he recalls, for stardom in Boston.

"My dad said, 'You're Irish, you're Catholic and you drink a lot. You're gonna go far in the Red Sox organization,'" Bill "Spaceman" Lee told Bill Littlefield on the first program.

More than 20 years after being featured on that show, Bill Lee returned for the OAG 20th Anniversary Live Show.

Bill Littlefield: You did go far with the Red Sox organization. Was it as far as you wanted to go?

Bill Lee: No, I should still be playing. At 65, I pitched a complete game for the San Rafael Pacifics, and I didn’t have really good stuff and didn’t have good command, and the catcher was a young guy, and I said, "Here's what we're gonna do. You're not gonna call any signs because you're probably not gonna catch 'em anyway." And I worked my tempo, and I ended up going 9 innings. I got a base hit, an RBI, and I'm the oldest guy … I beat Satchel Paige by 7 years. He was 59, I was 65, so I'm blessed. I pitched 6 innings yesterday.

Bill Littlefield: You made it to the World Series in 1975. The Red Sox didn’t win that year. But they won in 2004, 2007 and 2013. I have to imagine that you were watching at least some of that. What was going through your mind?  

[sidebar title="The Wackiest Sport" width="330" align="right"] For 20 years we've been featuring wacky sports on Only A Game. But which is the wackiest of all? [/sidebar]Bill Lee: Well, what's the last thing that goes through a bug's mind when it hits the windshield? I was in Hawaii with [former Boston radio personality] Charles Laquidara. Chucky and I, we go to this bar, and they were down [3-0 in the ALCS], and [Dave] Roberts steals second, and we win the ball game, and we come back happy, drunk like crazy.

We go to the next game, we win that game. And there were half as many Yankee fans. When we won the fourth game, there [were] two Yankee fans in the bar. And, I'm telling you, I was in Hawaii. I married off my oldest daughter, and it was a good day.

Bill Littlefield: As I mentioned, we first caught up with you in the summer of 1993 when you were barnstorming with your New England Grey Sox. Here's what you told a group of kids before the game between the Gray Sox and the Cape Cod League's Falmouth Commodores:

"When you’re finished with this game, I want you all to run back to your houses. And on the way, find two 5-pound rocks. 'Cause when I come up in the morning, after I stretch, I grab rocks, and I go down and get the mail, and I go like this. What does that do? It builds my upper body."

You really did that?

Bill Lee: I did it today! I drove 222 miles, and every 15 minutes, I have a 2.5 pound little rubber ball I squeeze, and I do that. I hadn’t picked up a ball in 45 days, and I went out and threw 6 innings yesterday against Middlebury. I struck out nine, and I got a base hit. I got two RBIs. And how do you do it? It's picking up them little rocks every day. Don’t worry about throwing! Worry about deceleration of your rotator cuff.

Bill Littlefield: You know, I was going to close this down by asking you what you were up to today. But we know. You're still pitching. 

Bill Lee: I make bats, I make wine, I pitch and I pick up them rocks.

This segment aired on May 17, 2014.


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