Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee on Running for Governor and Why the MLB Really Blackballed Him
Getting banned from Major League Baseball may have been a hard pill to swallow for Bill “Spaceman” Lee, but the outspoken, former Red Sox star hasn’t let the controversy affect him or his convictions over the decades. The fan-favorite pitcher, who’s the subject of the new movie Spaceman, still considers himself a “utopian dreamer” and hopes to change the system by running for governor of Vermont on a third party ticket. Ahead, Lee talks about facing his past in the film, marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, and why he was really blackballed by the MLB.
Was it hard to watch a film about such a difficult part in your life?
It was terribly hard to watch because you basically get released from Major League Baseball, no other team is going to pick you up. You’re a pariah. And [director] Brett Rapkin decided to throw my divorce with that, which had already preceded it by a year. So that was already out of my life. But to make the movie, I basically thought Brett Rapkin should’ve got a 15 yard penalty for piling on.
Josh Duhamel, who plays you in Spaceman, praised you for sticking to your convictions and remaining loyal to your teammates.
I stuck up for Bernie Carbo and that cost me my job in Boston. Then I stuck up for Rodney Scott in the National League and that cost me my job in baseball. So I was basically run out. But I did it for the right reasons. I believed at that moment, those people needed my support and I was the player rep. When they look back at it, they can say they got me out for those reasons, but they got me out actually for making more millionaires in the game of baseball than anybody else. Joe Torre, Bill Lee, Marvin Miller, and Dick Moss, the four of us sat down on the island of Oahu and we came up with the idea for arbitration and free agency in the early ’70s. And that is the reason.
Players are making more than ever thanks to arbitration and free agency.
$9500 I made. Now a minimum salary is $502,000. If you can’t make it on $502,000 and set that aside and buy 14 acres in the state of Vermont and become an organic farmer, then you do not deserve to be on this planet Earth.
You’re running for governor in Vermont as a third party candidate. How do you get people to not be afraid of alternative political parties?
Always fear the military industrial complex. Eisenhower said that a long time ago. We’ve got to realize that we can’t live in fear. We cannot build fences, we have to tear fences down. By tearing fences down, we have to tear borders down. We have to readdress the concept of states rights vs. federal rights and federal rights vs. world rights. I am not a flag waver. I would like to see the Olympics naked like they used to do in the old days.
What do you think of Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker, and Attorney General Maura Healey teaming up against marijuana legalization?
When I’m elected, we’re going to keep our youth in Vermont because we’re going to legalize it. We’re going to tax it and we’re going to make hemp clothing and we’re going to have a giant manufacturing hemp organization. It’s the Green Mountain state, we’re going green. We’re going to keep jobs, we’re going to keep everybody in Vermont. If Massachusetts doesn’t want to be part of it, come up to Vermont. We’ll take care of you.
Considering all the flak you’ve gotten, why have you remained so outspoken?
I’m a utopian dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Earth first. I’ve worked for water keepers. I’ve worked for fair share. I’ve worked for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. I’ve worked for the bottle bill. I’m the guy who brought recycling to America. I have this foundation that I look back on, “Yeah, I was on the right side of history.” That’s all that matters because when they come to tally on the abacus in the sky and they say, “Do you believe in God?” I’ll go, “Yeah, she’s black and she’s pissed.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.