Bill “Spaceman” Lee returns to the mound.
On Thursday, August the 23rd, 2012 I made a short trip with some friends up to the North Bay from my home in San Francisco to witness Bill “Spaceman” Lee make another triumph return to professional Baseball. If you did not hear, Lee signed a 1 game contract with the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American Baseball League to pitch against their divisional rival Maui Na Koa Ikaika. The contract with the Pacifics guaranteed that Lee would get a shot to break his own record of being the oldest pitcher to win a professional Baseball game. For those of you that are not aware, in 2010 the then 63 year old Lee broke the previously held record by winning a game for the Brockton Rox of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball.
I went to the game not knowing what to expect as I was not really sure who was even familiar with Bill Lee outside Baseball history nuts like myself. In addition, the Bay Area is so incredibly wrapped up in the Giants and A’s that I had doubt that a Baseball team with no major league affiliation would even spark the interest of leisurely fans of the game. It turns out that I was wrong.
I quickly realized that Lee is still very well known in the Bay Area (he is originally from the North Bay) and the Pacifics are doing quite well for themselves as Albert Park was packed with fans. From what I understand, the park seats 1265, however I heard from various people there was around 1500 folks at the game due to the extra seating created for the game. For those of you not familiar with Independent Baseball, that’s a LOT of fans at a game. The place was rocking and I was genuinely more excited about the game then I had been for any Major League game in a long time.
On a side note, I must thank my buddy Rich Janeway for hooking up our group of friends with free tickets in the ground level area near the Pacifics dugout. Rich used to play for the Chico Outlaws, who were essentially the Pacifics prior to the 2012 season and he still has a good relationship with the team since retiring. Thanks again, Rich!
I’m not going to go into every detail of the game as the information is everywhere online and most readers probably heard about the history made by Lee. However I will a list of my personal highlights of this awesome baseball filled night:
-65 year old Lee went all 9 innings for the win and threw 94 pitches while doing so. Even when getting trouble mid-game, he held in there and basically refused to be taken out by Manager Mike Marshall. Quite impressive.
-Lee played for the price of the plane ticket to fly out from back East. His only request was that the DH rule be waived for the game so he was able to hit. How cool is that??
-Speaking of hitting, Lee went 1 for 3 with a RBI single. That RBI was actually the first run of the game also. He also had a sacrifice bunt and crushed a ball the opposite way to left-center that was unfortunately caught by the Maui left fielder. I’d say it was a good day at the plate.
-Lee was VERY fan friendly. After the game he stuck around on the field while signing autographs and chatting with fans and the media for a long time. In fact, I got Lee to sign a ball for me. This is the first and probably only autograph I have asked for in my adult life.
-After the final out, Lee was rushed by his teammates and the media to congratulate him on his accomplishment. While walking off the field, he stopped by the first base line, dropped to his knees and kissed the grass. So very cool. You can watch a video of this that I filmed here:
PS. To listen to a great Bill Lee interview regarding the game from KNBR San Francisco Sports radio, click HERE.