Bill “Spaceman” Lee knows a thing or two about extending his career in an unconventional way. The former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox—at 69 years old—pitches every weekend in Vermont and Florida senior baseball leagues.
“I won the Vermont [Senior Baseball] state championship this year, and I am going to go to Florida to play this winter,” Lee said. “I love baseball. When you play, it puts your brain over the pain of slight arthritis and pulled muscles, and it allows you to breathe better, and makes you look forward to each day.”
Now, the eccentric southpaw pitcher is running in the 2016 Vermont gubernatorial race—his latest foray into politics since campaigning in the 1988 U.S. election under the satirical Rhinoceros Party of Canada. While some of Lee’s more ‘out there’ policies from his political past—such as destroying the Rocky Mountains to increase sunlight in Alberta and banning chairs to help combat back pain and obesity—must be taken tongue in cheek, he does display genuine concern for social and environmental justice.
“[In 1988, I ran on a platform of] no guns, no butter. They will both kill you,” Lee explained. “Basically, small is better. I believed in limits to growth, I believed in harnessing the tidal force, I was always pro-fish, pro-water, pro-ecology [….] We have to go small, or we are going to basically pollute our country to death.”
Unsurprisingly, Spaceman has strong opinions on the charged 2016 U.S. election.
“It is terrible,” Lee said. “It is a polarization. You know, Donald Trump’s music is right—we should throw out the incumbents—but his spirits are wrong and he is the wrong person for the presidency. [Trump] leads to fascism. As much as Hillary is the consummate politician, she is not the answer either.”
Lee still believes that the United States missed a trick by not voting for him in 1988, or Bernie Sanders in 2016.
“I believe that if I had been elected in ‘88 the world would be a kinder, gentler place, with Canadian-style politics,” Lee said. “We would have total health care, a civilized society with less guns, less violence, with less Black Lives Matter things—because Black Lives do matter because they are the ones getting lynched and the Trump people are against [Black Lives Matter]. It is a sad state of affairs.”
Despite his strong sense of justice, it is tough to know when to take Lee seriously. A University of Southern California graduate, he is intelligent and funny—he appeared on the cover of High Times after he was indicted by the MLB for marijuana consumption. He is also perceptive—at a recent film screening of his biopic Spaceman, Lee implored questioners not to be caught on the wrong side of history, like a “dinosaur with his stubby arms close to his chest.” It was a comically apt image and message.
Perhaps Lee provides his best wisdom when he is rhapsodizing about baseball: He graciously recalls losing game seven of the World Series as Red Sox’s starting pitcher against the Cincinnati Reds.
“[The game seven loss] just shows you that winning and losing is not what [baseball] is all about,” Lee said. “[Rather], it is the fact of the game. It is like the day I got to hear Vin Scully broadcast Dennis Martinez’s ‘el perfecto’ game. It was poetry. That is what baseball is all about. It is the constant playing and reliving summer and spring again.”
It’s unlikely Spaceman will become the governor of Vermont. But, in the year that the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908 and a reality TV show host is the Republican presidential nominee, anything seems possible.