'Spaceman' to land in Toronto

STEVEN SANDOR -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Bill Lee wasn't the winningest pitcher in baseball history. But the former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos hurler will always be remembered as a maverick, famous for quoting philosophers, making political statements and being open and honest about drug use.

But underneath all the hype, "Spaceman" Lee is an old-school ballplayer, a guy who would not have been out of place playing alongside the likes of Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. At least that's what "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey," the documentary that traces Lee's famous Major-League career and present-day exploits as a barnstorming ballplayer, would have you believe.

"I did play back then," says Lee. "If you are a Zen Buddhist like me and believe in reincarnation, you'd know that I was able to play in 1881 and in 1912."

Lee was one of the top left-handers of the '70s and was loved in Boston for his hatred of all things associated with the Yankees. According to the Spaceman, there's no way that, in any life, he could have ever played for the Bronx Bombers.

"No, pinstripes and me never did go well together... The only people who wear pinstripes are behind bars or are on work crews."

The film follows Lee and a cadre of American ballplayers who travel to Cuba for a series of exhibition games.

He estimates that, if you total all of his amateur, minor- and major-league wins, his total would be close to Negro League legend Satchel Paige. He jokes that he would have had a perfect 54-0 season a few years back had New York Rangers and Boston Bruins legend Brad Park not dropped a fly ball in the final inning of a charity game.

Lee hates the Major League game as it is now, and urges baseball purists to abandon the Jays and all things MLB for minor-league and amateur ball.

"You can see (passion for the game) in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I've seen it in Canada," says Lee. "But not in this southern enclave we know as the United States. People play it for the gratification and the high-fives. Even the last World Series didn't do anything for me. It was two teams that didn't know how to field bunts."

The movie is showing at the Bloor Cinema Friday through Monday. Lee himself will be at the Friday screening for a question-and-answer session. 


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