Five in this Foursome: Andy Lee, Glenn J. Nashen, Mike Cohen, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Police Commander Jean O’Malley

Had you asked me a few weeks ago I couldn’t tell you who Bill Lee was. I’m not the biggest sports fun, but despite my occasional venture to see the Expos at Jarry Park as a teenager I really didn’t know the names of the players all that well.

So when I was told that my recent foursome in the Cote Saint-Luc Golf Classic included Bill “Spaceman” Lee I was kind of excited to know I’d be meeting an astronaut. Well, that’s what I thought.

Truth be told, I was more excited that Police Commander Jean O’Malley of Station 9 would be one of my four besties for the day.

But life has a funny way of unfolding and once I was adequately briefed by my fellow rookie golfer Mike Cohen as to the background on Bill Lee the day was anything but usual.

For those that were as clueless as me, William Francis Lee III (born December 28, 1946), nicknamed Spaceman, is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Boston Red Sox 1969–1978 and the Montreal Expos 1979–1982. On November 7, 2008, Lee was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, as the team’s record-holder for most games pitched by a left-hander (321) and the third-highest win total (94) by a Red Sox southpaw. On August 23, 2012, Lee signed a contract to play with the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American League at age 65.

In addition to his baseball experience, Lee is known for his counterculture behavior, his antics both on and off the field, and his use of the Leephus pitch, a personalized variation of the eephus pitch.[1]

Lee has co-written four books: The Wrong StuffHave Glove, Will TravelThe Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History; and Baseball Eccentrics: The Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game. In 2006, the documentary film by Brett Rapkin Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey featured Lee.

In 1988, Lee was the Rhinoceros Party presidential candidate running on a platform of bulldozing the Rocky Mountains so Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of sunlight and banning guns and butter. His slogan was “No guns, no butter. Both can kill.”[21]

In May 2016, Lee was chosen by the Liberty Union Party as its nominee for the 2016 election for governor of Vermont.[21] Lee, who had never heard of the Liberty Union Party before, was contacted by the party to run for governor and accepted.[4] Lee did not take campaign contributions.[22] His campaign slogan was, “So far left, we’re right”.[23] 

Lee lost the election, receiving 8,912 votes (2.78%).[25]

Commander O’Malley with Montreal’s Finest, ‘Officer’ Flick, Bill Lee and Glenn J. Nashen

True to his bio, Bill was as entertaining as can be, a ton of laughs. He reminisced about his olden days in Montreal, about his life experiences and his ‘retirement’ plans to move from Vermont to British Colombia. He was joined by his son and his adoring and charming wife, Diane.

Baseball player or not, Bill instructed me every step of the way, as I was completely out of my element with golf clubs in hand. We spoke about family, travel, and of course, baseball.

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was a real sport golfing in his Expos T-Shirt, seen here at the ACC for lunch, with my dad, George, and me

Not to underscore (pun intended, as I really underscored) the importance of having the best coach the Montreal Police Department could offer, Jean had the patience of a saint in instructing me on proper posture, grip and swing. My game, only the second time out in my life, was dramatically improved by Jean’s coaching and the pressure of not making a complete fool of myself. Lucky for me, years of mini putt really paid off.

Oh, who am I fooling? I wasn’t even close to being close!

The honouree at this year’s tournament was Johnny Elias, a long-time volunteer and past owner of the Grand Slam Baseball School. “Johnny recently agreed to loan nearly 50 years’ worth of baseball memorabilia to Côte Saint-Luc,” said Councillor Mike Cohen.

Bill shared stories about his close relationship with Johnny Elias from the days he played with the Expos. When he was released in 1982, Johnny hired him to be an instructor at his camp. Bill has maintained a connection to our city for more than 30 years. “Johnny and I are like brothers,” Bill said.

The Pierre Brunet Parks and Recreation Bursary Fund was launched, sponsored by local McDonald’s franchisee Pierre Brunet. “The Fund will be used to help local families who need financial help to register their children in recreation programs. Funds will also support children with special needs. Pierre Brunet has been involved in helping our community for many years,” Mike Cohen said. “This new initiative will have a direct impact in the lives of many kids in our community.”

Brunet announced that $4,700 was raised at the two McHappy Days in CSL this year. CSL Men’s Club contributed $1400 by selling coffee to its members (courtesy of McDonald’s). Men’s Club funny man, Mannie Young, announced that his grandchildren Jesse, Zoe, Andie and Cooper Young, donated an additional $500. With spontaneous support from others including Steve Woloz from the CSL Model Aeronautics Association and MNA David Birnbaum the fund will be launched with more than $7,000. Now that’s the power of community!

Bill Lee was interviewed live on stage by the well-spoken and personable CSL resident and TSN 690 Radio show host Matthew Ross.  Lee was hilarious in his views on anything and everything and in telling bits of his fascinating life story. “Live in the moment,” the outspoken and provocative sports legend told the audience. “Don’t worry about the past or be concerned by what may come. Just enjoy thing right now.”

Thank you to event co-chairs Councillors Mike Cohen and Sam Goldbloom, to staff leads Harold Cammy and Alvin Fishman and to all the volunteers and sponsors such as Marc Ezerzer. It was really a great time and Mike and I got to meet a Montreal Expos legend and hang out with a Top Cop. What a great day.