To any modern athlete who thinks of himself as an iconoclast, a funnyman, an intellectual, a wit - whether it be Jason Williams, Barry Zito, Michael Irvin, Charles Barkley, you name it, I say that I knew Bill Lee. I worked with Bill Lee. Bill Lee is a friend of mine, and you are no Bill Lee. This is no put down of those who are not the Spaceman. It is an ode to Lee. I love this character.
This is as funny a book as has ever been written about baseball. It is so unique, so California New Age, so filled with Boston baseball lore and Ruthian curse that reading it is just one big pleasure cruise. Lee is in the tradition of Casey Stengel and Rod Dedeaux, whose lineage he follows.
Lee's aunt was the main character described in "A League of Their Own". This is a guy surrounded by men's men growing up (his old man, his Uncle Grover), yet it is his aunt who taught him how to pitch. Amazingly, I know most of Bill's family, and they are Ed McMahon to Bill's Carson. His father was a straight arrow phone company exec. His aunt just smiles at Bill's buffoonery. She pitched a perfect game in the women's pro league on June 6, 1944 and, when asked if events of that day distracted her, she just said she had the ability to focus.
Recently Spaceman told an audience that "I don't believe in killing anybody, but the Unabomber had some good ideas." Like Hunter Thompson, here is a guy whose politics are the polar opposite of mine, yet I just dig the man.
If you grew up in the San Fernando Valley or Marin County, went to USC (particularly when Dedeaux coached there), or matriculated at Fenway Park, this book will tickle your jones for those memories. Lee is the closest guy I can think of (outside of George Patton) to making me think reincarnation is possible. I see him as a court jester of Camelot, always funny, always taking the minority view and making you shake your head - and smile.
I once had Bill as a guest at my home. At 6 A.M. I went to wake him, and he was gone. I looked out my window and Space was doing Tai-Kwan do with my 119-year old Chinese neighbor, a guy who probably was the emperor's body guard in 1880. I took Space to work. At a law office, I was in conference when the secretary came in yelling to "call 911. A guy's having a heart attack in the parking lot." I looked out the window. Space was doing his afternoon Tai-kwan do. I asked Space to meet me and my SC baseball buddies at the 501 Club in L.A. that night. The guys were all there, skeptical that Space would show. He showed and drank beer with us all night, filling us with stories. When a Doors song came on the juke Space announced, "My brother got stabbed at a Doors concert once." Survived. Space made nice-nice with an SC cutie, regaling her with stories about the 1968 College World Series vs. the Southern Illinois Salukis. Only Space could have captured some chick's attention with memories of the Southern Illinois Salukis. You had to be there.
Space spoke to the Orange County Young Republicans when he was running for President on Canada's Rhino ticket in 1988. The YRs were aghast at Space filling their precious speaker's rostrum until he took stage and had these buttoned-down types - and I do not exaggerate here - literally rolling in the aisles with laughter. Space in front of a crowd is up there with Carlin or Robin Williams.
These anecdotes are a typical example of what is in his autobiography. Not everybody can have the experience of spending time with Lee, but you all can get the next best thing, which is reading this book.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism