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What Notorious Baseball Weirdo Bill 'Spaceman' Lee Will Do if He Becomes Governor of Vermont

They don't call him 'Spaceman' for nothing.

by Patrick Lejtenyi
Jun 8 2016, 7:00pm

The Spaceman still likes to talk. Photo via AP

Bill Lee is a reluctant politician, but an apparently committed one. The Spaceman, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978 and the Montreal Expos from 1979 to 1982, compiling a lifetime record of 119 wins and 90 losses, has decided to run for governor of Vermont, under the banner of the socialist Liberty Union Party—the party that launched Bernie Sanders's career. In an election cycle this weird already, his campaign makes a bizarre kind of cosmic sense.

"I've been offered the job, and it would be in the best interests of mankind that I take it," he told VICE. He was grinning when he said it, but Lee has always been fiercely competitive despite his stoner sensibility.

It's hard to tell how serious Lee, 69, is about his candidacy. He obviously likes to talk, and references names like Plato, Socrates, Buckminster Fuller, Victor Papenak, Eugene Debs, and other early labor socialists. And while his beliefs are no doubt deeply held, some—such as Vermont seceding from the US to join Canada—are also deeply impractical. In the interests of democracy and baseball, VICE sat down with Lee over a beer at his hotel patio in Old Montreal.

VICE: You said you're conservative. I've also heard you describe yourself as a liberal with a gun. Where are you here, politically?
Bill "Spaceman" Lee: Well, I cut my own firewood. I turn my potato patch over with a shovel. I don't use gasoline. I don't use fossil fuel. I gather all my own kindling. I recycle all my own paper. I recycle everything. I eat within fifteen miles of my house. I think those are conservative things that Republicans don't do. Republicans are these animals that have these little short arms [here he draws his arms into his T-shirt so that only his hands are sticking out], they're like Tyrannosaurus Rexes. They have these little front appendages that don't get to their pockets, and they have closed fists. And they all work for insurance corporations [laughs].

So how are you going to try to convince Vermonters to vote for you? What's your pitch?
Every question you ask me, I have the answer. Basically, R. Buckminster Fuller in his Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth says that if there is anywhere in this book where you think I am wrong, please stop me and ask me a question, and we'll discuss it. And that's it. We'll discuss every issue all the way to the end, and they will all come around. Because it's Cartesian logic. Everything I do is based on Cartesian logic. You know, you multiply a plus-integer with a plus-integer, you're gonna get a plus result. But anytime you throw anything negative in there, you're gonna get a negative result. If you have ninety-nine positives and one negative, it's still negative. That's Cartesian logic. And that's the way I do it.

So what would Governor Lee do on day one of his mandate?
I would meet with Justin Trudeau and work on the fact that if Trump gets elected, we have a covenant in our charter that says we're allowed out of the United States. We will become a participant of Canada and get socialized medicine, and we'd get the Montreal Expos back. That would be my first job. The next thing I'd do, I'd meet with all the Maritime premiers, and we'd work on harnessing the Bay of Fundy and get free energy out of turbines that run underneath with the tidal bore.

Well, let's talk about leaving the US. That's a fairly complicated matter. You guys did fight a war once over certain states that did want to leave, right?
Good question. Yes, but it's in [Vermont's] covenant, supposedly the Moscow Covenant between Ethan Allen and the United States. I think there's a clause in there that said if we did not like the way things were going in the United States, we were free to go on our own. But we would never go on our own. We'd form an alliance with Canada.

Do you think President Trump would let you go?
Ha! President Trump will be the shortest-reigning president in the history of the United States because he'll be indicted and will have to go to trial on November 28 in San Diego. Did you know that?


The Trump U. thing.
Exactly. So he'll be convicted of fraud, and then he'll be impeached, and then we'll have President Sarah Palin [laughs]. Her daughter got knocked up because of me. I left a six pack of beer in the Wasilla Best Western one time, and I think Levi got ahold of it and drank that thing and knocked up her daughter. Anyway, that's another story.

OK. Another one of the things you want to do is legalize pot.
It's not legal? I thought it's been legal since '64.

Do you smoke it anymore?
I do not smoke anymore. I mean, I say I have not refused. I get it pushed in my face all the time—everybody wants to smoke with the Spaceman—but I don't smoke much of anything anymore. I'd rather drink beer. Smoking, y'know... I've only got so many breaths left at seventy years of age. I'd rather eat it. It sure helps me pitch though.

Of particular interest to Montrealers would be bringing the Expos back. So as governor of Vermont, how would you go about doing that?
Well, I'd pressure Major League Baseball and show them that it's in their best interest to have an American League East team closer than Tampa Bay. First of all, you got your expenses. Plus you're gonna have a thing when you come to the ball park in Montreal that they don't have in Tampa, they're called fans. You're gonna have twenty thousand Boston people up here every game. You're gonna have twenty thousand New Yorkers up here every game. You're gonna have fifteen thousand people from Baltimore coming up here for every game. And you're gonna have thirty thousand Montrealers. So that's fifty-five to fifty-eight thousand fans every ball game for eighty-one ball games. Do the math. It works.

You've been around for those Blue Jays exhibition games, and what Warren Cromartie's been doing. What do you make of that whole movement?
[It won't happen] until Charles Bronfman and some of your big corporations here get involved, and you put it in a really nice ballpark that has a temporary domed area so you could play in inclement weather. We'll find a space. I know they're putting condos down there and stuff, but we'll find another small space downtown where we can build that. If we have to elevate it and have it up in the air, over the condos. Have stadium in the clouds, overlooking Mount Royal. If we can get new design technology to levitate a ball field, a floating ball field.

Follow Patrick Lejtenyi on Twitter.