Bill Lee Eyeballing Governorship

It’s not surprising to hear about Bill Lee eyeballing governorship of Vermont. The former Red Sox southpaw recently announced that he’s running for governor of his home state on the Liberty Union Party ticket, running on a platform that includes legalizing marijuana, introducing single-payer health care, and bringing baseball back to Montreal. Lee finished his career with the Montreal Expos in 1982, who have since moved to Washington where they became the Nationals in 2004. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Bill Lee running for public office in support of such eccentric ideas.

Lee ran for president in 1988 as a member of the Rhinoceros Party, pledging to bulldozeBill Lee eyeballing governorship the Rocky Mountains so that Alberta could see a few more minutes of sunlight every day. While many might see Lee’s eccentric personality as strange, no one can say it’s not entertaining.

Lee is remembered as one of the more colorful members of the Boston Red Sox of the 1970s. During his pitching days with the Red Sox, Lee claimed that he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes every morning before jogging to Fenway Park to pitch. The marijuana, Lee claimed, immunized him from bus fumes. While Lee hasn’t been shy about his support for the legalization of marijuana, he was also one of the more vocal supporters of Civil Rights in Boston in the late 1970s when the city’s policy to integrate its school system though its busing system was met with backlash. Lee also isn’t afraid to stand up for himself and his team. During the 1975 World Series, Lee berated an umpire for a bad call and threatened to bite his ear off. “I would have Van-Goghed him!” Lee exclaimed later (he didn’t bite anyone that we know of).

Whether Bill Lee eyeballing governorship is something we should take seriously or not is yet to be determined. But one this is for sure, it’s going to be entertaining to see “Spaceman” debate his opponents!

Former Red Sox Frustrated by Unmotivated Players

The death of the Reserve Clause and the birth of free agency in the mid-1970s ushered in a new era of baseball that saw skyrocketing salaries and multiple-year contracts. For the players, it was a victory over the owners who had sought to limit their salaries and leaveFormer Red Sox them with no room to negotiate. Since then, however, some former Red Sox are saying that huge salaries and multiple-year contracts are leaving current players with less motivation to play as hard as they can.

I recently spoke with Jim Gosger, a former Red Sox reserve outfielder who played for the team from 1963 to 1966. Known as a line-drive hitter, Gosger played in the major leagues for a dozen years, and won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969. Gosger told me that his years in the big leagues were the best years of his life, and that most players back then played for the love of the game. He said that many players today just don’t have the drive and enthusiasm to play because to them it’s all about the money. “There’s no loyalty to a team anymore,” Gosger told me, “We used to have to be at a certain weight when we arrived at spring training. But now look at Pablo (Sandoval). How do you even get that far overweight?” Gosger’s words echo what many other former players like him are saying today.

I sat in on a Q&A last summer with members of the 1975 Boston Red Sox World Series team that included Jim Rice. Rice said that fans would start seeing players play much harder with more motivation if they got one and two year contracts instead of the six or seven year contracts many of them are accustomed to receiving. Rice makes a good point. If you’re an outfielder with a six-year contract making $5 million a year and you want to take a day off, who’s going to stop you? You’re a millionaire, so what do you care if someone gets on your case for not hustling? For a million dollars I’d lean in and let pitchers peg me if it meant getting on base to help the Red Sox win!

Former Red Sox Players Knew How to Hustle!

A lack of hustle used to get a player benched immediately. During a game in 1977 against the Red Sox, the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson got yanked from the game by his manager, Billy Martin, for not hustling to field a hit. Jackson seemed to almost jog to the ball as Jim Rice pulled into second base for a double. While Jackson said he misjudged the depth of the hit, anyone watching the footage can immediately tell he wasn’t giving his best effort. It’s worth mentioning that Jackson was one of the game’s first $1 million players.  What’s bothersome to former Red Sox players and old-school fans alike is this lack of hustle makes the game less exciting, which is the last thing baseball needs. Games already last for hours, and while I love every minute of it, I’d love it even more if I saw outfielders diving for catches, or a hitter run his butt off trying to beat out a bunt.

Seeing Luis Tiant Outside Fenway Always a Treat

I love seeing Luis Tiant outside Fenway Park on game day. One of my most favorite things to do when I get to Fenway is to see if Tiant is hanging out at his concession stand appropriately named El Tiante. Seeing the Red Sox pitching legend on Yawkey Way not only excites visitors, but cements his status as an ambassador of inspiration for the Red Sox Nation.

I started going to Red Sox games often after moving to Boston in 2014. Seeing Luis TiantSeeing Luis Tiant Outside Fenway outside Fenway Park at El Tiante for the first time was exciting, especially since it’s rare for most fans to get that close to a retired all-star. I first heard about Luis Tiant after watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary on PBS in 1994. I immediately became a fan of the Cuban-born pitcher after watching footage of him pitching in the 1975 World Series. I even tried to mimic his unusual pitching style, which often led to throwing the ball over the backstop. Needless to say, my pitching career was never going to go anywhere.

Luis Tiant played in Boston from 1972 to 1978, longer than any other team he pitched for in his 19 year career. He was a four 20-game winner and twice led the American League in ERA. His best years, however, were with the Red Sox. Not only were three of his four 20-game winning seasons with the Red Sox, but he won two games against the Reds in the 1975 World Series, both complete games with one being a shut out. Tiant even managed to hit a decent .250 with two runs scored in the series. While not a great average, it’s not bad for an American League pitcher who hadn’t had an at bat for a few years. Why he isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame remains a mystery. Let’s hope the Veteran’s Committee picks him when they meet in 2017.

Before coming to Boston, injuries and lack of offensive support almost forced Tiant’s career to end prematurely. Leading the league with 20 losses in 1969 made almost everyone assume that his career was finished. Boston, however, took a chance on him. He was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1972 after leading the American League with an astounding 1.91 ERA and 15 wins. Luis Tiant is now a living example of what it takes to overcome the challenges life places before us, and he inspires so many in the Red Sox Nation, including this writer. He’s a big part of what makes us continue to root for the Red Sox, especially after two losing seasons. He’s proof that it’s possible to come back stronger than ever.

Let’s hope we get to see Luis Tiant outside Fenway Park for years to come!

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Catcher’s Life (pt.1)

Doug Wilson’s Pudge explores the life of Boston’s Carlton Fisk, born in Vermont, raised in New England, and grew up to play twenty-four seasons of baseball, first with the Boston Red Sox then with the Chicago White Sox. Fisk is best known for hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. The win kept the Red Sox alive to play Game 7, but they lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Doug Wilson's PudgeFisk was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, entering as a Red Sox.

Wilson’s well-written biography (the first one written about Fisk on a large scale) goes into great detail about the catcher’s disciplined upbringing. His tough but caring father taught his son the true meaning of integrity and hard work, which helped Fisk reach the major leagues in 1969 at the age of 22 for two games. After playing in the Red Sox farm system for a few years, Fisk’s break out year in 1972 saw him win Rookie of the Year Honors as well as his first (and only) Gold Glove at Catcher Award.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge portrays Fisk as a quiet but well-determined player who wanted nothing more than to play the game with honor and integrity. Nicknamed “The Human Rain Delay,” Fisk often took his time walking to the mound to talk with pitchers, which frustrating his teammates to no end. In Fisk’s mind though, communication between teammates as well as having a solid plan for the next batter was all a part of winning.

While Doug Wilson’s Pudge goes into great detail about Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Wilson’s extraordinary story-telling abilities extend to his description of Fisk’s rivalry with the New York Yankees’ catcher Thurmond Munson. Fisk and Munson, whose devotion to the game was just as intense, got into a brawl during a game in 1973. Munson crashed into Fisk at home plate in an effort to advance the Yankee runner on base. The fight that followed was the height of long rivalry between the two that had been fueled by Munson’s jealousy of Fisk, who he thought got more attention from the press. Fisk and Munson’s fight, told well by Wilson, will always be known as one of the most intense brawls between the two teams (which says a lot of you consider the long rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees).

Doug Wilson’s Pudge Details Much More About Fisk

Most Red Sox fans probably don’t think about Fisk’s career after leaving Boston to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Doug Wilson’s Pudge, however, keeps it interesting by detailing the prickly yet interesting relationship between Fisk and the ownership that led to his departure in the first place, describing it as one of the most insulting points in Fisk’s career (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened). Fisk would play for another fourteen years with Chicago before retiring in 1993, being one of 29 players to have played in four different decades. Fisk’s Chicago years included another post-season appearance, as well as a confrontation with NFL and MLB player Deion Sanders at home plate.

Doug Wilson’s Pudge shines best when it expands on the in-depth interviews with many of Fisk’s family members, teammates, and coaches. While Fisk declined to assist Wilson in any way, as he’s a very private individual, Wilson took what he had to work with to craft one of the best biographies of the year.