Bill “Spaceman” Lee, the eccentric left-handed pitcher of 14 major league seasons with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos, still has some loose ends to tie up on the baseball field. In 2012, pitching for the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American League, Lee became the oldest player to pitch a complete game and record a victory in professional baseball. One would think that after accomplishing such a feat, that there was nothing left for him to prove on the diamond; however, last weekend, Lee once again broke out his bat, glove, and spikes for the final Joe DiMaggio Legends Game in Fort Lauderdale. Lee pitched and played the outfield during the charity exhibition. At 66, he travels the country frequently to appear in alumni games, as well as playing in adult baseball leagues in New England. So why does Lee continue to take the field more than 30 years after he threw his final pitch in the major leagues?
“Unfinished business,” Lee said. “I never really had my fill, especially of hitting. The bat was taken away with the designated hitter; Bowie Kuhn took that away from me. I always wanted to hit, so I’ve got ten years of hitting to make up. That’s 162 games times ten. I’m getting near the threshold of retirement, and this [the final Joe DiMaggio Legends Game] may be an omen, this may be it.”
While Lee contemplates his last trip around the bases, he continues to enjoy whatever time he has left in the sun. “This year I’ve hit a home run already, so I have to play one more year. I hit the ball, it was a home run, but it wasn’t out of the park. It was an inside the park home run, which means I can still run. The guy outside, he had to get a respirator and his dog couldn’t find the ball because he was blind, but other than that, I still play because I love the game.”