They called Bill Lee “The Spaceman,” because he had a unique way of looking at things. But the former pitcher wasn’t out of his mind: he understood pitching. Which is why he pitched 17 professional seasons and won 119 games in the major leagues.
Lee won 17 games in three consecutive seasons for the Boston Red Sox, from 1973 to 1975. He was an All-Star and the practitioner of a bevy of pitches that kept hitters off-balance. In the 1975 World Series, he started Game 7 against the Big Red Machine, and pitched into the seventh inning, keeping the Red Sox in the game. Unfortunately for “The Spaceman,” he tossed a soft curveball that Tony Perez deposited over the Green Monster at Fenway Park in the sixth, which helped Cincinnati erase a three-run deficit and win the Fall Classic.
In the video short from YouTube we share here, Lee explains the importance of his sinking fastball. He details the difference between what we would call a two-seam and four-seam fastball today, and how crucial defense is to a pitcher’s success.
Lee penned or co-wrote four books, including The Wrong Stuff; Have Glove, Will Travel; The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History; and Baseball Eccentrics: The Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game. He was featured in a documentary about his life in 2006.
In 1976, Lee was involved in a famous brawl between the Red Sox and New York Yankees, in which is pitching arm was injured. He’s also well-known for his criticism of Boston manager Don Zimmer, whom he referred to as “The Gerbil.”