Jose Canseco, eat your heart out. Bill 'Spaceman' Lee - whose last birthday cake had 63 candles on it - is gearing up for yet another return to baseball, as the pitcher in an independent league. MLB.com reports Lee "signed a contract with the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League on Monday and is scheduled to pitch against the Worcester Tornadoes on Sept. 5."
I say "yet another," since the man has hardly been absent from the mound since finishing his major-league career in 1982. Three years ago, he was part of Oil Can Boyd's Traveling All-Stars, and in June 2008, Lee pitched for the Alaska Goldpanners and was the winning pitcher during their annual Midnight Sun game - first pitch there is around 10:30pm, and they pause at midnight to sing the Alaska Flag Song.
Lee was - no, make that is - a character and a half, and is the only baseball player to have a song written about them by Warren Zevon. He is certainly right up there with Yogi as among the most quotable of all players. The Spaceman referred to Don Zimmer as "the designated gerbil," and said he was in favor of mandatory drug testing because, "All through the sixties I tested everything." Here's my favorite Lee quote:
"I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens, it won't matter if I get this guy out."
That kind of philosophy is why I suspect there'll be a healthy crowd for his appearance next month. Though I am probably not the only person who confuses Lee with Dock Ellis...