Posted on 12 February 2012.
Bill Lee may be known as the Spaceman, but you could very easily call him Mr. Baseball. Lee has a passion for the game that really comes out in the film Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey. Bill Lee joins a team from San Diego on a trip to Cuba for a little barnstorming trip.
It’s an interesting ride in that you not only get to see a different side of Bill Lee from what you might see on TV in interviews, but you get to see a small insight on baseball in Cuba.
Nobody on the trip to Cuba from the US was ever paid to play baseball with the exception of Bill Lee. This is a group of adults who love the game. Traveling to a game on a bus and getting off together as a team is their major leagues. To do that in another country has to be an absolute thrill. Throw in that you are doing it on an island that is baseball crazy and it has to be a trip of a lifetime.
All of the Cuban players are older adults who have played their entire lives, and it shows. They play good baseball and put the American team to the test in each game. Not only do the players show a love of the game, but you see people showing up to games as fans to watch that love it. Some show up to practice their English, some show up to see the former major leaguer play, and others simply want to watch baseball.
Everywhere the players go they are greeted by friendly people and most are fans of the game. It’s an amazing insight, albeit small, into a culture that has almost been closed off completely to Americans. The opposing teams and people on the streets are interested in talking about the old guys who played with Lee, and they know them. They remember Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, Fisk, and others. It’s amazing how much the casual fan knows there.
Another aspect of the movie that is interesting is seeing the fields they play at. Of course, they are all older but the field itself always looks like its in pretty good shape. You see some nice fields with makeshift fences at times or old concrete stands that were erected in the 50′s or earlier.
A lot of the movie is about Bill Lee and his history which is pretty interesting. I enjoyed it especially since I only know Lee from what I have read because he was out of baseball before I can remember watching. He had a lot of interesting things to say and was quite a character. I can easily see how he got the nickname Spaceman, but don’t get fooled into thinking he isn’t an intelligent man. He reminds me of a baseball version of Dennis Miller. He uses a lot of references that most people won’t understand which to me makes him even more interesting. In the day of internet and Google, you can actually search some of the references with the click of a mouse.
He’s also part Satchel Paige in that he is still playing into his 60′s (I believe he was 58 at the time of the film). He talks about Paige in the film as well saying he is his idol for having played so long at such a high level. The both have some interesting quotes as well.
You get some insight on Bill from some of his contemporaries and others that he was around in the game of baseball. Fred Lynn, Dick Williams, Luis Tiant, and others are interviewed about Bill Lee. They all have something interesting to say and when you combine that with some old interview footage it makes for an interesting look at the man himself.
This film has made me more of a fan of Bill Lee and has made me want to read some of the books he wrote. You can also catch Bill on another trip to Cuba in the Film Gift of the Game.
I highly recommend watching this film. It’s only just over an hour long so its not a huge time commitment, but it’s extremely interesting. Take an inside look at baseball in Cuba, if only for a minute. And get a look at Bill Lee and you can’t help but love his love of the game whether you are a Red Sox fan or Yankees fan or anyone in between. I give it a rating of 4 gloves.
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