The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox Historyby Bill "Spaceman" Lee
Inspired by Chairman Mao's infamous Little Red Book, “Spaceman” Bill Lee offers an off-the-wall revisionist history of baseball's most colorful franchise, the Boston Red Sox. In addition to rewriting Red Sox history, Lee offers up his unique views on today's and yesteryear's game. With this hilarious take on Red Sox history, the Spaceman proves he's the true MVP in helping the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series and lift the Curse of the Bambino.
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The Little Red (Sox) Book
A Revisionist Red Sox History
By Bill Lee, Jim Prime
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2003 Bill Lee and Jim Prime
All rights reserved.
Chairman Lee's Baseball Manifesto
"What baseball needs is a benevolent dictator, elected by the fans. I, Chairman Lee, am offering to take on the job."
— Chairman Lee
I was kind of the Alice in Wonderland of the game. Like Alice, I had to pass through the looking glass every time I walked to the pitcher's mound. My proudest accomplishment as a baseball player was to prove once and for all that you can exist and prosper — at least for a while — as a dual personality in baseball. As a person and a citizen, I made every effort to protect and defend Mother Earth, and I couldn't care less about earning more than the other guy or having a better job than the guy next door. That kind of soul-destroying competition doesn't interest me. But when I was pitching, I morphed into an entirely different person. I am a driven, extremely competitive being and I am out to win. Early Wynn was like that. Batters never dared to dig in on him or they'd get a fastball near their chin. Once he was asked if he would throw at his own mother. His reply? "Only if she was really crowding the plate."
That competitive nature becomes something of a paradox for me now, since I often pitch for both teams in charity games. I always get the "W" and the "L" in the same game. It opens a bunch of philosophical questions about my yin and yang, sort of like Casey Stengel's observation that "Good pitching will beat good hitting every time; and vice versa." Or his other comment: "Most ballgames are lost, not won." The trouble is, I understand exactly what he means!
My problems arose when my off-field persona — the real me — clashed with the mentality of major league baseball. I was not going to back down from my fundamental beliefs for the sake of some inane, nonsensical sound bite. I decided that early on. I am a living, thinking person, and I was not going to pander to the lowest common denominator. I had to stand up for my beliefs. To sit idly by and let injustice flourish would have compromised me as a human being and as a pitcher. That's why I am proud that I was able to maintain my compassion while retaining my competitive edge. I go on junkets to Cuba, and the competition is amazing and exhilarating, but so is being able to give a little Cuban boy his first pair of shoes.
I know that I was able to entertain the fans with my pitching skills — and maybe with a well-placed comment here and there. Baseball isn't brain surgery; it's meant to be enjoyed. As I said in my first book,The Wrong Stuff, I want to be remembered as someone with a social conscience, a man who cares about the planet and is a champion of the little guy — but also a guy who would take you out in a heartbeat if the game was on the line.
It is entirely consistent and fitting that I was kicked out of baseball and blacklisted for sticking up for my fellow ballplayers. I stuck up for Bernie Carbo while I was with the Red Sox and I was sent to Montreal for Stan Papi; then I stuck up for Rodney Scott in Montreal and I was kicked out of baseball. This is baseball's version of McCarthyism. It's almost better to be kicked out of a false conservative fraternity like that than to be part of it and, by staying in, condone their actions. You are probably thinking: You can't be a conservative and a lefty at the same time (look what happened to Dravecky — his arm fell off). My answer to that is simple: Since the earth is round, I'm so far left, I'm right. That's right, sports fans: Bill Lee is a baseball conservative! I am conservative about the integrity and the traditions of the game. Pure baseball is without politics. That's why a staunch Republican like Ted Williams got along so well with a Bolshevik like me. The Splinter and the Spaceman are both baseball conservatives.
But that doesn't mean baseball has to be a conservative, boring game. Baseball needs more color and fewer clichés. In today's game, the purpose is to sell, and to do that you apparently have to live by clichés and political correctness. There are too many millionaire ballplayers. Money is like cow shit: it's best when spread around. Today's ballplayers all sound like that old Saturday Night Live routine with their "Baseball's been berry berry good to me" rhetoric. Baseball freethinkers such as the Buffalo Heads, like their namesake beast of the Great Plains, are threatened with extinction in today's bland-leading-the-bland environment.
Baseball is a utopian world because it has no timeline and should have no boundaries. That's why domed stadiums are sacrilegious. Playing under a dome is like playing in an old pair of sneakers. The baseball is a metaphor for the earth, and in reality I have always been more of an Earthman than a Spaceman.
I believe that strikeouts are as fascist as Benito Mussolini. Fastballs rise up the ladder. Good morning Reggie, good afternoon Reggie, and good night Reggie! Curveballs are very organic and very natural. They make optimum use of gravity. They induce ground balls. Ground balls are what I attempted to achieve because they stimulate and incorporate so many more aspects of the game. The hitter has to hit it, the fielder has to catch and throw it, and the first baseman has to field it. It leads to double plays, and double plays are as democratic as the U.S. Congress, because everyone gets involved (although Congressmakes far more errors). The so-called Leephus pitch employed gravity to its maximum potential, with batters trying to hit the perfect unhittable pitch going straight down. Forget the apple falling on his head; Isaac Newton could have used that pitch to illustrate the concept of gravity. A change-up is like the four seasons. First the hitter experiences the promise of spring, then the anticipation of summer, then the reality of autumn. Then, all of a sudden he's frozen like it's the dead of winter, and he grounds out weakly to the shortstop. He ages a full year in one at-bat.
My first edict as commissioner of baseball will be to disintegrate the designated hitter, annihilate the Astroturf, doom the domes, and massacre the mascots. Pitchers will be allowed to hit — or at least try — and guys like Roger Clemens won't have carte blanche to throw at people. All of a sudden, he'll be just another .500 fascist fastball pitcher.
I'll maintain smaller ballparks. I'll outlaw video replays. I'll eliminate interleague play. The World Series will be played only in daytime. I'll get rid of the electronic scoreboard at Fenway and just use that great manually operated one in the Wall. (I've always thought that having an electronic scoreboard at Fenway Park was like having a Rolls Royce and hanging fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror — very tacky.) I'll institute salary caps and revenue sharing. I'll put organic food in the stands, and I'll make it mandatory to serve only cold-pasteurized beer from small, local breweries. No big breweries. Then I'll bring back warm, roasted peanuts. Just the smell of grass mingled with those roasted peanuts will be enough to draw fans back to the ballparks. Baseball should be an organic game, the way it used to be. It should be about spheroids, not steroids.
In Philadelphia they decided to mix grass with artificial turf. To me, that's the baseball equivalent of hair plugs for men — it doesn't fool anyone and it still makes grown men look silly. At every level except the major leagues, baseball is still the purest and greatest of games. The verities of the game remain timeless and immortal. It's only at that professional pinnacle that all the bastardizations begin. When I see those outrages, I see my own mortality reflected. What we need is a series of mea culpa and more positive thinking.
In the original ballparks, the fields went on forever. Basically you were playing within one Cartesian coordinate of reality. It's a very esoteric thing. You take a circle and cut it into quarters; the plus axis runs up and down, and the minus axis runs left and right. There would be four fields: the plus-plus quadrant, the minus-minus quadrant, and two plus-minus quadrants. You surround yourself with people depending on which quadrant you are in; I always felt that it was the plus-minus axis of reality that held Zimmer back. If he did a positive thing, his negative personality always brought it down. (After a 4–4 road trip, Zimmer once told a reporter: "It could just as easily have gone the other way!") He had to do negative things in negative situations to get positive results. That's the essence of what Descartes was saying: that it is never good to put Descartes in front of de horse. When Descartes died, someone passed by his open coffin and said, "He stinks, therefore he was." They also say that about washed-up major league pitchers who end up playing in outposts like Saskatchewan or Mississippi.
Ballplayers, and especially pitchers, are like canaries in the coal mine. Miners used to take canaries down the mine shaft in case there was a whiff of poisonous gas. If there was, the canary would die and the miners would know to get out fast. Similarly, everybody watches ballplayers and benefits from the mistakes we make. We are the barometer for society. Everything affects us and our on-field performance. If there is a whiff of gas, we go down real quick.
You've probably heard of a guy named Mel Famey, a famous Milwaukee Brewers pitcher who walked everyone. He went to a bar one night after a tough loss and got drunk. The Red Sox came into the bar and asked him what beer he was drinking. He took another drink and said, "It's Schlitz." Yastrzemski said, "So that's the beer that made Mel Famey walk us!"
A Chinese professor from Rhode Island used to write me, thinking that because of my last name I was Chinese. He was complaining that NBC announcer Tony Kubek always used to call any dinky little hit to centerfield a "chink hit." He was writing me to make me do something with NBC to make them stop calling it a chink hit. I wrote back and said, "I've got a Chinaman's chance in hell of ever changing that!" But some things in baseball can and should be changed, and I'm just the guy to do it. And the Boston Red Sox are a great place to start the process rolling. They are one of the original American League teams, and as such they are the canary for all of baseball.
I have simplified the basic rules of baseball into three categories: the Emotional, the Physical, and the Intellectual. They constitute everything you should know about baseball but might be afraid to ask.
1. It's better to be pissed off than pissed on. When Bernie Carbo and Rodney Scott, both easygoing guys, were summarily dismissed by the Red Sox and Expos, respectively, I staged a walkout. I was pissed off; they were pissed off and pissed on.
2. Don't talk about yourself. We'll do that when you leave.
3. Don't false hustle; it detracts from the fact that you can't play. Guys who false hustle become managers; it's a vicious cycle. The truth is Pete Rose, also known as "Charlie Hustle," really did hustle. He loved to play the game. He once said: "I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball."
4. No sycophantism (that means apple polishing, or ass kissing, for those of you without a dictionary).
5. Don't show up your opponent. If you hit a home run, run around the bases with your head down. Ty Cobb was wrong when he said, "The great American game should be an unrelenting war of nerves."
6. Serendipity: believe in the Fates.
7. Remember that the earth is a hanging curveball, and God is doing with it what he wants. He torments Red Sox fans. It's the nature of His personality. Everyone loves to hit a hanger, even God. I hate the word hanger. When I was a kid I threw my clothes on the floor, because even then I hated the hanger. I knew it would get me one day. I disdain the hanger.
8. Be confident in your abilities but do not alibi. That was the advice my father gave me. Ignore what the great Christy Mathewson once said: "You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven't one, you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained." Pitcher Bo Belinsky, after losing a game 15–0, once said, "How can a guy win a game if you don't give him any runs?"
9. Don't get too high or too low. George Carlin put it best: "Some people think of the glass as half full. Some think of the glass as half empty. I think of the glass as too big." In the early thirties, the Brooklyn Dodgers were perennial National League cellar dwellers, but they still seemed to remain cocky, even arrogant. A New York writer warned them not to be too cocky: "Overconfidence may cost this team seventh place," he cautioned. At the other extreme is Woody Allen, who once said, "When we played softball, I'd steal second base, feel guilty, and go back."
10. Don't let the other team psych you out like they did Bob Uecker: "When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth inning, I looked in the other team's dugout and they were all in street clothes."
1. If you slide, get up.
2. If you can't play, don't lose your day job.
3. Don't take steroids. If you do, your nuts shrivel up, like Caminiti's. If that happens, make sure you eat a lot of bran flakes to go with your raisins.
4. As young players, we were always lectured about the dangers of women. We were told over and over to stay away from them. Women will make you weak, they said. Well, sex doesn't hurt ballplayers; what hurts is trying to find it at 4:00 in the morning. One of the years that Ferguson Jenkins won 20 games and Vida Blue was winning 20 games, it turns out they were dating the same girl on the road. So they had 20 each, but she had two 20-game winners, making her a 40-game winner, the first 40-game winner since Ed Walsh in 1908.
Ballplayers are notoriously running into women on the road. I remember Warren Cromartie meeting someone at closing time, and sometimes when the lights are lower, so are your expectations. We were on our knees begging Cro not to go home with that girl. She had a reputation with ballplayers to uphold, and she was really bad lookin'.
That's where the definition of "coyote ugly" came from. It was coined by guys like Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin. It describes when you wake up in the morning with your arm around a strange girl and you'd rather chew your arm off than move it and wake her up because she's so ugly. Of course, I'm sure women occasionally find themselves in the same predicament. Apparently Pete Rose wouldn't give up on a girl — even if he didn't like her that much anymore — as long as he was still getting base hits. Ah, the superstitions of baseball!
5. When your knuckleball doesn't knuckle, your curveball doesn't curve, and your screwball doesn't screw, it's time to walk away.
6. When your catcher throws the ball back harder than you pitched it, it's time to change your battery — just ask Carlton Fisk. I liked to experiment, but baseball hates experimentation. Fisk wanted to challenge hitters; I wanted to get them out any way I could. I'd throw a change of pace when he was expecting a fastball. He'd get really mad and throw the ball back to me harder than I had thrown it to him. It was embarrassing!
7. Starting is better than relieving. As a starter you get three days to drink and one to recuperate. Relievers pretty much have to be teetotalers all season long.
8. The explosion of home runs in the major leagues is caused by the prevailing southern winds, a result of global warming.
9. Work hard. I went to spring training recently, and I can't believe how easy they have it today. Nothing happens on the field anymore. The players do all their training off the field, I guess with a personal trainer, and then put in a brief appearance on the field. They are a clandestine bunch of guys. They don't want to be approached by the public or the press. They are like Lady Di. They wave to their public, then jump into their limos and disappear. Players must take heed of the wise words of Dave Bristol, former manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, when he said, "There'll be two buses leaving for the ballpark tomorrow. The 2:00 bus will be for those of you who need a little extra work. The empty bus will leave at 5:00."
10. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever breathed on this earth, had three golden rules of hitting: (1) get a good pitch to hit, (2) be patient, and (3) be quick. For a pitcher, those three golden rules are reversed: (1) don't throw a good pitch to hit, (2) throw strikes on the corners, and (3) throw slow stuff. In short, follow the advice of pitcher Lew Burdette, who said, "I exploit the greed of all hitters."
11. Stay fit and listen to the trainer. Don't let the pressure of the game affect your health the way it did Tommy Lasorda, who admitted, "When we lose, I eat. When we win, I eat. I also eat when we're rained out." Stay healthy. Bob Uecker once claimed, "People don't know it, but I helped the Cardinals win the pennant. I came down with hepatitis. The trainer injected me with it."
Excerpted from The Little Red (Sox) Book by Bill Lee, Jim Prime. Copyright © 2003 Bill Lee and Jim Prime. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Bill "Spaceman" Lee pitched in the Major Leagues for 14 years, 10 of which were with the Boston Red Sox. The California native amassed a career record of 119–90 including three consecutive 17-win seasons with the Red Sox. He earned the nickname “Spaceman” for his nonconformist attitudes, his outrageous comments, and for his enjoyment of recreational drugs. He lives in Craftsbury, Vermont. Jim Prime is the coauthor of several previous books on the Boston Red Sox, including Fenway Saved; Tales from the Red Sox Dugout; More Tales from the Red Sox Dugout; Ted Williams: A Tribute; Ted Williams' Hit List; and Ted Williams: The Pursuit of Perfection. He lives in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.
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