The return of a sports classic with a new foreword by the author
Finally back in print after many years, here is Bill Lee's classic tale of his renegade life on and off the mound. Whether walking out on the Montreal Expos to protest the release of a valued teammate or telling sportswriters eager for candid and offbeat comments more about the game than his bosses wanted anyone to know, pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee became celebrated as much for his rebellious personality as for his remarkable talent. Add to the mix his affinity for Eastern religions and controversial causes, and you can see why Lee infuriated the establishment while entertaining his legion of fans.
In this wildly funny memoir that became a massive bestseller in the United States and Canada when it was first published, Lee recounts the colorful story of his life--from the drugged-out antics of his college days at USC (where he learned that "marijuana never hammered me like a good Camel") to his post-World Series travels with a group of liberal long-distance runners through Red China (where he discovered that conservatives don't like marathons because "it's much easier to climb into a Rolls-Royce"). Lee also describes his minor league days, joining the Reserves during the Vietnam War, his time with the Red Sox, and the 1975 World Series. He spares no detail while recalling his infamous falling-out with Red Sox management that led to his trade to Montreal.
Full of irreverent wit, and an inherent love of the game, The Wrong Stuff is a sports classic for a new generation.
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May 22, 2006
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Excerpt from The Wrong Stuff by Bill Lee
God, it's dark. I am sitting in the lotus position on the floor of the office of Montreal Expo president and general manager John McHale. There is not another soul around. It is early morning, the lights are out, and the room is as quiet as a crypt. That may seem spooky to some, but I find it rather relaxing.
I had been summoned to these executive chambers for an audience with McHale. I was presuming he was upset with me. Less than twenty-four hours earlier I had walked off the Expos in protest over the release of our second baseman, Rodney Scott. The walkout lasted four hours; I had gone back to the clubhouse before that afternoon's game was over. Upon returning, I was informed by manager Jim Fanning that I had been indefinitely suspended, was about to be fined, and had to see McHale the next day. I assumed that it would be then that the shit would really hit the fan.
I had stopped off in the clubhouse before going up to McHale's inner sanctum. The only player there was John Milner. Milner was a psychic. Had to be. He had spent most of his career with the Mets, Pirates, and Expos as a lefthand hitting outfielder--first baseman, playing against right-handers or sitting on the bench in a state of advanced readiness. Life as a platooned player breeds an ability to perceive events long before they actually happen. So, on the morning of May 9, 1982, as we both sat in that clubhouse, and he handed me a fried egg sandwich, I'm sure we both knew that he was giving me something more than just an early snack. He was giving the condemned man his final meal. I thanked him, ate it, and made my way to the door, pausing only to grab a bagel. Slobbering it with peanut butter and cream cheese, I thought to myself, What a time for us to run out of spareribs.
I went directly to McHale's office and, seeing no secretary around, decided to let myself in. I made myself comfortable on his floor and quickly reached a meditative state that was beyond transcendental. This wasn't the first time I had crossed swords with management; I was always matching wits with authority. Pondering over my past and present hassles, I began to wonder why my life had taken the direction it had. What cosmic forces had led me to this precise moment that saw me, once again, dancing on the rim of the volcano? The answers started to come to me as my life flashed before my eyes. I think it all started when I was arrested as a pyromaniac.
I was five years old.
It was a tree that got me into trouble. My grandfather owned a walnut ranch, and he had hundreds of beautiful walnut groves. I loved to sit and look at them. There were similar ranches all around his spread. One of them was cursed with this horrible-looking tree. It was gnarled, twisted, and diseased. I was only five, but even then I had an appreciation for the beauty of nature. I decided the best thing anybody could do for this poor wreck was to put it out of its misery. I grabbed a book of matches and held services for it. I always liked the idea of cremations. Very neat and clean. I had whipped up a pretty good pyre when suddenly the air was filled with the sound of sirens. Somebody had seen the smoke and sent in an alarm. When the fire engines arrived they were able to put out the flames in a couple of minutes. There really wasn't much damage: The tree was hardly marked. I didn't fare as well. A fire marshal collared me and hauled me off to the firehouse. My parents had to come and get me. I really caught it for that one. The tree enjoyed a perfect revenge because for the next two weeks my butt developed a severe inability to come in contact with wood. Or any other hard surfaces.
I really didn't get into much trouble when I was a kid. I spent my formative years in California, living first in the San Fernando Valley and then moving to Marin County when my father received a transfer from the telephone company. We had a real Leave It to Beaver sort of family. I was Wally and my younger brother, Paul, was the Beave. There was some sibling rivalry there. As a child he was much prettier than I was, so I took a scissors and cut off all his curly locks. Transformed him into a normal mortal and robbed him of his strange powers. I used to jump in whenever he was involved in a fight. Everyone would turn on me and start swinging. Paul would back off and start rooting for the other kids. I guess he really liked those curls.