Top Banana

On the night of August 19th, 75-year-old left-hander, Bill Lee was warming up in the bullpen for the Savannah Bananas and had just caught a toss from his catcher when he toppled over backward. Initially, spectators thought it was possible it was yet another madcap stunt for a team and mentor that delighted in such goofs but it was soon apparent that Lee was in dire straits.

Fortunately, there were EMTs and experienced first responders among the large crowd that had gathered for a game receiving national attention on ESPN and they quickly restored Lee’s heartbeat, thus saving his life. Our beloved pal isn’t ready to pitch for the Angels just yet.

The photo shows him the day following his collapse mugging at the hospital with Bananas GM Eric Byrnes.

Who, among us, would want to be the one to inform the Spaceman he’s missing his next start? We New Englanders have loved this guy for 53 years.

Total gamer and battler. Wise owl and professor of the game. Life of the party and quote engine. He gets a gold medal just for his written reply to Dapper O’Neil surmising that some moron must have purloined the Boston city councilor’s stationery to write the letter to which he was responding.

And most importantly, Bill is a generous soul as he and Diana are there for countless charities and good causes. Including The Sports Museum on many occasions, including this past December, where, after a cold one, we doffed our shirts and compared rotator cuff surgery scars. Why was I not surprised when he informed me he lived with the cross country runners when he attended USC because they were on his wavelength? He remained close to legendary college coach Rod Dedeaux and in their periodic phone calls, they’d both sing, “McNamara’s Band”, the unofficial Trojan victory song the team sang on bus rides home from their many victories.

Bill would have been welcomed with open arms to the roster of such legendary barnstorming teams as The House of David, Bustin’ Babes, Larrapin’ Lous, Bingo Long All Stars, and any raucous band of baseball gypsies. From Havana to Moncton he’s the headmaster of The Laughing Academy and his grin only stops long enough to get you out. Here’s hoping our friend listens to his cardiologists, takes a well-earned break at his Vermont home in the Northeast Kingdom, relaxes with some chai tea laced with a dollop of Jim Lonborg’s raw honey, reads some Melville and Emerson, and muses on the fact that he, like the late Buck O’Neil, is both baseball’s Johnny Appleseed and one lucky guy.

About the Curator’s Corner

Richard Johnson’s “Curator’s Corner” is  where you will find videos featuring Richard and Sports Museum Executive Director, Rusty Sullivan, discussing Boston sports history, as well as blog posts written by Richard himself.

Is there any other sporting trophy even remotely as grand?
The dream call for any curator is one in which a donor not only offers a priceless artifact but also shares a wonderful story. Such was the case twenty years ago when a north shore woman called to offer the donation of the net in which Bobby Orr scored the most famous goal in Bruins and possibly hockey history.
One of the few benefits of being quarantined is the opportunity to paw through one’s book shelf and revisit volumes best described as old friends. Such was the case the other day when I spent several hours in the company of legendary Boston Globe sports-columnist Ray Fitzgerald, the recipient of 11 Massachusetts Sportswriter Awards, symbolic of the highest honor bestowed by his peers.