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THE SPACEMAN, BILL LEE, IS . . . : Still Crazy After All These Years

July 05, 1987|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

MONCTON, Canada — There is something you should know about our future President, so keep this in mind before you vote for Bill Lee. He loses things sometimes.

Lee's driver's license and his money fell out of his Bermuda shorts on the seventh hole during one of the several rounds of golf he played last week. But by the time he reached the fairway on 18, a couple of kids had returned them to him.

The next two days were an epidemic. Lee temporarily lost his golf clubs in the woods, which is where he left them when he was looking for the ball, which he also lost, courtesy of a tremendous slice. He found them. The clubs, that is. The ball is still missing.

Then Lee lost his car keys in a restaurant but a waitress found them and had them waiting for him when he came back to search. Lee completed his lost weekend when he misplaced his eyeglasses. Like all the other stuff, Lee's glasses were only temporarily absent. Lee found them at the side of the asphalt basketball court where he had taken them off before shooting some hoops in a slight drizzle.

A pattern seems to be emerging here. All this lost and found must mean something. Things just keep coming back to him. It's like completing a circle. It's symmetry. Some people would call it luck. Lee would call it Zen, karma, something to do with Buckminster Fuller, the Cartesian coordinates, or he might have another kind of theory that those who recognize Lee only by his reputation would consider to be as flaky as a freshly baked croissant.

You might even see why they would think that. Early in his childhood, long before he pitched in the major leagues, Lee realized that he was seeing life from a somewhat different perspective. He said his first bed was one of those that you pulled out of the wall.

"I constantly had nightmares of being sucked back into the wall," Lee said. He was silent for a moment while he thought about it. "Something happened to me, obviously," he said.

And now, Lee wants something else to happen to him. He wants to be President. He wants to pitch in relief of Ronald Reagan. For a couple of reasons. It seems that Lee and Reagan have their philosophical differences. Lee said Reagan is mixing up his pitches.

"It's all based on Descartes," Lee said. "Reagan tries to put Descartes before the horse."

Lee wants to replace Reagan, and not only because Reagan didn't accomplish much at the economic summit in Venice.

"I know why he went there," Lee said. "He went there to get a vacation and to eat. Why does anyone go to Venice? To rekindle his vows with his wife. He never even got to ride in a gondola."

The "Spaceman," Bill Lee has landed, deep in Canada's Maritimes. He is spending the summer playing semipro baseball as a 40-year-old pitcher-first baseman with the Moncton Mets, here in New Brunswick. The Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League is not the major leagues, which is where Lee worked for 13 years, and the Moncton Mets are not the Boston Red Sox or Montreal Expos. Those are the teams Lee pitched for until the Expos fired him early in the 1982 season after a celebrated incident in which he bolted the team. Lee was gone, but only for a little while. Then he came back. It was Zen.

When the Expos waived second baseman Rodney Scott, Lee protested by leaving the clubhouse for four hours. He went to a bar, had a few beers and then returned to the clubhouse in the eighth inning so he could be there if he was needed in relief, which was baseball's version of last call. It turned out to be the final straw. Then-Expo manager Jim Fanning was not amused then and he still isn't.

Fanning, who is a radio broadcaster for the Expos, had little nice to say when he was asked about Lee.

"I don't want to talk about Bill Lee," Fanning said. "Too bad he didn't have his head screwed on straight. He jumped the club. He was out there in a tavern one game. How'd you like to have had him in your platoon in World War II?"

Here's another question: How would you like him for President?

Bill Lee is running for the highest office in the land, the presidency of the United States, although he is currently living and playing baseball in Canada. This is only a small inconvenience, he points out. As the champion of the Rhinoceros Party, Lee's candidacy is more satirical than serious. It's a bit of whimsy, but often, so then is Bill Lee.

After all, Lee is considering asking Muhammad Ali to be his running mate on the Rhino ticket because Lee likes the idea of the slogan they would have: "Me and Muhammad."

Lee envisions asking author Tom Robbins to head up a newly created cabinet post of Secretary of Gravity so "he'd lighten things up." Lee wants to do away with chairs so we would become a nation of people who can stand up for themselves and also plans to turn the White House ellipse into a baseball diamond. Of course, as President, Lee would pitch.

"Everybody wants to see if they can get a hit off the President," Lee said. "They'd try to take him deep."

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