In many ways, this card is perfect for April Fools Day. This feels like a joke in retrospect.
Have you ever seen pictures of counter culture celebrities before they became famous, or more apt before the discovered drugs? Ever see young George Carlin buttoned down and dressed like a Reservoir Dog?
That’s what this card reminds me of. Everything about this would make a card collector think that Bill Lee is a button down, no nonsense player.
Anyone who has done 30 seconds of research knows that is only true in Bizarro world.
Chances are if you have read this much of this blog post, you already know who Bill Lee is. I am going to take a wild guess that if you know your pal Sully, you already know a few things about Bill Lee.
Lee was a Southern California kid from a baseball family where even his aunt played professional ball. He was a product of USC and signed with the Red Sox, where he made his debut in 1969. A reliever at first, he became a starter in 1973 and was selected to the AL All Star Team that year, winning 17 games and posting a 2.95 ERA.
He won 17 games in 1974 and 1975, a rare feat for a left hander pitching in Fenway. He pitched well in the World Series but let up a key homer to Tony Perez in Game 7 and the Reds would go on to win.
Eventually he was traded to the Expos where he had a terrific 1979 but eventually faded. He continues to play to this day in various semi pro and independent teams.
How about THAT for the cleaned up version of his life?
The real story is filled with sex, drugs, rock n roll, clashing with management while speaking about Eastern philosophy to any reporter who would listen.
He was the leader of the drug taking Buffalo Heads on the Red Sox who drove Don Zimmer crazy. He was dragged into Bowie Kuhn’s office for his public claims of putting marijuana on his pancakes.
When he didn’t have manager Dick Williams protecting him, he was in the crosshairs of Montreal management as well.
The Spaceman, travelling to Cuba to play and being the Hunter S. Thompson of baseball is nowhere to be seen on this card.
Clean shaven with a tight haircut, he even signs his name with the formal William Francis Lee (or is it Frances?)
And check out the flip side!
First of all, what is up with only one year’s worth of stats?
The facts about him talk about being a college boy and serving in the military. Hell, even his home is listed as Jackson, Mississippi.
Anyone casually looking at this would say “THERE GOES A GOOD OLE CONSERVATIVE BOY FROM MISSISSIPPI!” And boy you couldn’t be more wrong.
And his life story can be seen in not just one but two movies that feature your pal Sully!