Bill Lee was one of baseball's last free-spirit/lunatics, as well as one of the last great junkball artists, a man who was fined for openly admitting to smoking weed, who once took the bump in an astronaut suit and propellor beanie, and who threw an eephus pitch in the World Series. He was born December 28, 1946.
Lee made the All Tournament Team at the 1968 College World Series as a pitcher for the University of Southern California Trojans, and was subsequently taken by the Boston Red Sox in the twenty-second round of the draft. He spent his first four years with the Sox primarily coming out of the pen, before winning 17 games each year from 1973 to 1975. Lee pitched well in the 1975 World Series, leaving both Games 2 and 7 with a one-run lead over the Cincinnati Reds, only to see the bullpen spit the bit in both games.
In 1976, Lee was facing the Yankees when world-class douchebag Lou Piniella tried to bowl over Sox catcher Carlton Fisk who was waiting at home plate to apply the tag. After getting Piniella out, Fisk went after him for a bit of revenge, kicking off a bench-clearing brawl that eventually left Lee with torn ligaments in his pitching shoulder, costing him the final two months of the season.
By 1977, Lee was in open revolt against manager Don Zimmer, whom he nicknamed "The Gerbil," and by 1978 Zim was so sick of Lee's shit that he stopped using him during the final three weeks of the season, despite the fact that his team was in freefall and trying to stave off the surging Yankees. The Sox would finish tied with the Yankees before losing a one game playoff, as Lee didn't start a single game after August 19 and pitched only eleven and two-thirds innings of relief in September.
After the 1978 debacle, Lee was shipped off to Montreal where he had one more good season, going 16-10 with a 3.04 ERA, but he pitched just 219 innings over the next three seasons and retired from the show at the age of 35.
Since then, Lee has traveled across America and the world, playing baseball for just about any team that will have him. Jim Bouton famously wrote, “A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” Few men in the game's history have held on as fiercely as Lee, who pitched for 14 years in the Major Leagues, threw a complete game in the North American Baseball League as a 65-year-old in 2012, and just this past summer at the age of 75 collapsed while warming up in the bullpen for the Savana Bananas.
"I always thought I'd die on the field, but not in the (obscenity deleted) bullpen," Lee said that night. He has since made it clear he will pitch again.