And now, sports fans, for an analysis of the Boston Red Sox' chances to win the American League East championship, we hear from baseball's flower child, the lefthanded philosopher, William Francis Lee.
"We're going down to Texas to be in the hurricane and so we'll get rained out there three days and have a nice picnic. Then we go up to Toronto for a few games and then it's back here against Detroit right before we go to that hell-hole in New York where if we get some easy games, we might be all right."
Bill Lee, who pitches for the Red Sox, is not a normal big-leaguer. Nolan Ryan celebrates his origins and fame by hanging a name card over his locker that says "Tex 1." At Lee's locker, there's a card printed with Henry David Thoreau's reminder that if a man seems out of step with the world, perhaps it's because he hears a different drummer. Thoreau was a long relief man for Walden Pond in the dead-ball era.
However, measured or far away, the drum-beat that moves Lee now seems ready to move him of Boston, for he is learning what all of sport's flower children learn in time, which is that the bosses will put up with what they see as weird behaviour only as long as you're performing spectacularly.
For three straight years, Lee won 17 games for Boston. He dropped to five victories last season after hurting his pitching shoulder in a brawl at Yankee Stadium in May. Put into the regular rotation two weeks ago, Lee this year has a 6-3 won-lost record. And he said, "It's been a terrible year."
The charm of Lee seems to have worn him here. Once his silly non sequiturs and imaginative metaphors delighted the newspapermen. who called him "The Spaceman" in honor of what they perceived to be large holes in his head. But Lee now can pitch a fine game and then read a backhanded compliment such as this paragraph in today's Boston Herald American.
"When Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee forgets his off-the-field involvement with the 'Save the Whales'movement, the ongoing destruction of the environment and the post-industrial ERA society - to name a few of his interests - he can be quite a pitcher."
You just can't be a human being and play big-league baseball at the same time. Everybody knows that, even the Herald American writer.
Lee refuses to believe it. He believes you can love your family, care about society and rejoice in the company of friends - and still play baseball well.
That is a radical idea in any sport, because competitors are taught from the earliest days that success comes soonest to those who are the most singleminded. Crimes against human nature are committed daily in the name of "dedication" and "sacrifice," and baseball dugouts are filled with men to whom victory is life's only goal. So when a Bill Lee comes along saying we ought to stop killing whales because they are one of God's majestic creations - well, a baseball man is going to say this guy is weird.
"Some people think I'm a bad element on this ballclub," Lee said the other day, talking in the Boston locker room after he pitched the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory over Cleveland.
"Yes, I am a bad element, in that I'm detrimental to the idea of win-at-all-costs. That's the problem with this club sometimes. We press too hard to win. We get too aggressive, too greedy. Winning isn't why we're on this planet. I will battle to win. I'll fight to succeed. But that's not my main thing on this planet. It's only a game.
In his good years, Lee started more than 30 games a season. He's had only 11 starts this year, and he's not sure why. He believes the Boston manager, Don Zimmer, was afraid to use him.
"The manager has only a one-year contract and they demanded he win," Lee said. "So, early in the season, he wanted performance than and there. My arm was still a little stiff and therefore he didn't use me. He was thinking of right then and there. not 162 games, not September which maybe he should have been.
At 46, a baseball man for nearly three decades, a player who took two fearful beanings and wouldn't quit, Zimmer may not understand a 30-year-old pitcher who cares about whales as much as winning games. Incompatibility was visible last week.
"I threw a pitchout too low and he got mad at me," Lee said, reconstructing a dugout confrontation. "I told him. "You're trying to get me to quit." I told him, 'Don't question my integrity, don't say I'm trying to hurt the team. You're trying to get me to fight you.
"Well, anybody else would have fought him. I felt like taking off my uniform right there."
Lee may be zany, but he isn't dumb. Zimmer's presence caused the pitcher to shave off a full beard in spring training. "It would've hurt me economically. I wouldn't have gotten in another game. You know, Zimmer likes the challenge (here Lee made a fist and raised it), and I believe in completely the opposite. Going with the flow, I absorb the other guy's power.
Lee said he doesn't know if Boston wants him next season. And the feeling is mutual. He doesn't like what the Herald American has said about him. ("Of course, people who buy the Herald just look at the pictures." And he's upset by a radio talk show whose hosts "have called me a bad person."
The flower childsaid, "I don't know if I want to be here next year. I want to come to the ballpark and be happy. This is supposed to be fun. It's only a game."