OBSERVATIONS: ‘The Spaceman’ is still earning his bananas

By HAL McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSEVATIONS from back in The Man Cave, where I can now get in and out of my La-Z-Boy without calling for a crane.

—It was former major league pitcher/author Jim Bouton who wrote in his infamous book, Ball Four, “You spend a good deal of your time gripping a baseball and it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”

Never was it more true than it is for former major league pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee. Baseball has a vise-grip on the guy who may be the game’s most interesting man.

Lee threw his last major league pitch in 1982 for the Montreal Expos than was blackballed because, well, if you look up controversy in your Funk & Wagnalls Lee’s picture shows up.

It is 40 years since Lee’s last pitch for the Expos, but at age 75 he is still pitching. He plays exhibition games for the Savannah Bananas travel team, baseball’s version of basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters.

Last week, Lee was warming up in the bullpen when he collapsed. He was not breathing when reached quickly by Town of Thunderbolt firemen, a policeman and a medic. The medic called it a cardiac episode, usually fatal. They were able to resuscitate him and he walked, with help, to an ambulance.

Quit? Not the man they call The Spaceman. He posed for a photo in his hospital bed the next day wearing his baseball glove.

And it is for certain, at 75, Lee’s every pitch is the same one he threw to Tony Perez in Game Seven of the 1975 World Series, a blooper lob pitch that Perez put into orbit until it landed somewhere near the site of the Boston Tea Party.

For a great read about Lee, pick up a copy of Scott Russell’s ‘The Spaceman Chronicles.’

—Remember ‘The Dream Team,’ the 1992 Team USA that won the gold medal in the Olympics. The roster contained Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing? That team won every game by an average of 44 points.

Well, it appears that Team USA is putting together a Dream Team for the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

The team will be managed by Mark DeRosa, former major leaguer and currently an outstanding host/analyst on MLB-TV. His hitting coach is Ken Griffey Jr. and his pitching coach is Andy Pettitte.

Already committed to play: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Trevor Story, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Pete Alonso and Cedric Mullins.

So far nobody from the Cincinnati Reds bullpen has been contacted.

—Those 1919 throwback jerseys the Cincinnati Reds wore in the Field of Dreams game were spiffy, right.

Want a replica? You can pick one up at the Great American Ball Park gift shop. Bring a Brinks truck. They cost $350. And the hats? Only $49.

A better deal is available at Day-Air credit union. It has several options at opening accounts that gets you a black special edition ‘Gem City’ Dayton Dragons jersey.

—Why aren’t post-season games included in a player’s career statistics? It makes no sense that they aren’t. Post-season games are high-pressure games and even more meaningful than regular season games.

For example, Babe Ruth’s career stats list him with 714 home runs. He hit 15 home runs in World Series games, but they don’t count in his career statistics.

Whitey Ford is listed with 236 career victories for the New York Yankees, but that doesn’t include 10 World Series wins.

Does that make sense?

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford: “You kind of took it for granted around the Yankees that there was always going to be baseball in October.” (And why don’t all those October stats count on a player’s career stats?)

—Hall of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor was managing the 1937 Pittsburgh Pirates when he received a telegram from a man named Chester Washington.

It read: “Know your club needs players. Have answer to your prayers right here in Pittsburgh.”

Washington said Traynor could acquire Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Ray Brown and Satchell Paige. They all played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League.

Traynor was in favor of blacks playing in the majors, said they all were worthy, but he was not brave enough to break the color barrier and never answered the telegram.

All five of those players are in the baseball Hall of Fame, but only Paige played in the majors because it was 10 years after that telegram that Jackie Robinson broke the barrier. Imagine what kind of team that Pirates would have had if Traynor had the courag of Branch Rickey.

—From anonymous: “Every time a guy steps out of the batter’s box to adjust his batting gloves for two minutes, I’m reminded that Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs by rubbing dirt into his bare hands.”

—Words to live by from iconic broadcaster Vin Scully when he retired: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

—Does anybody else abhor those alternative uniforms MLB teams are wearing, especially the all blue (jerseys and pants) worn by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs and the all black worn by the Chicago White Sox?

They remind me of the garage mechanics who worked on my dad’s 1952 Packard.

2 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: ‘The Spaceman’ is still earning his bananas

  • August 24, 2022 at 8:55 pm
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    Nice to see Manfred the Wonderdog ball adopting those crappy uniforms. Afraid he was gonna whiff on that hot trend. Rome, NY needs a sign apologizing for him.

    Reply
  • August 24, 2022 at 10:00 pm
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    I saw some bad black unis on the Rockies recently – where they thought it was a good idea to put a mountain landscape on the front – not good.

    Reply

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