Not My Job: Pitcher Bill 'Spaceman' Lee Gets Quizzed On Kevin Spacey
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where people who have done a lot in their lives do a little bit more. So Bill Lee was a very successful left-handed pitcher in the major leagues for many years, perhaps most famously for the Red Sox in their pennant-winning season of 1975, but he's famous for his behavior, his somewhat outspoken nature. Well, he didn't get the nickname Spaceman because he was an astronaut. Bill Spaceman Lee, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
BILL LEE: Thank you. My pleasure.
SAGAL: You have one of the great nicknames in baseball, a sport known for nicknames. How did you acquire it?
LEE: You don't pick your nickname.
LEE: I pitched - Luis Tiant started in Baltimore, I think it was '71, the second time we landed on the moon. He didn't get anybody out. I came in with the bases loaded, two runs already in. The next guy struck out. I ended up throwing eight and two-thirds innings of relief. I got a fake bunt and scored the winning run. We went into first place, landed on the moon and when we went back into the locker room and the press came by, we said we got our own spaceman right here. I was holding court, saying that we actually didn't land on the moon. It was filmed in Arco, Idaho.
SAGAL: You were one of those guys?
LEE: I am, still to this day.
SAGAL: You are one of those guys.
LEE: Yeah, I'm the only spaceman I know.
SAGAL: All right, wait a minute.
SAGAL: I've only known you for a short while, but I still got to say, are you sure that's why they call you Spaceman?
LEE: Well, I'm a little higher than the average - you know.
LEE: You know, I got fined by Bowie Kuhn. You know, I got fined actually...
SAGAL: Bowie Kuhn, the former baseball commissioner, I should say.
LEE: What happened was they asked if they had a drug problem on the Red Sox when I got traded to Montreal, and I said, damn right they have a drug problem on the Red Sox. They've been abusing nicotine, alcohol and caffeine for way too long, and they got to put a stop to it. And they said no, Bill, we mean marijuana. I said, I've been using that since 1964.
SAGAL: Did - yeah. In fact, you've been pretty open about that. Did that effect or help or hinder your pitching or your performance?
LEE: That was about the beginning of the end.
SAGAL: When you started...
SAGAL: They didn't realize I could - I mean, I beat Seattle one time, and I didn't throw the ball over 42 miles an hour.
LEE: I got pictures that prove it.
SAGAL: But you still play, and you've been out of Major League Baseball for quite some time, but you actually - you still pitch every week, right?
LEE: Every Sunday, weather permitting. I'm a ringer. People fly me in to pitch. They pay for my flight and I guarantee them I'll show up.
SAGAL: Well, yeah.
SAGAL: How - may I ask, how is it possible that you're still pitching at your age?
SAGAL: In your long post-playing career, have you ever been a coach?
LEE: I coach a lot, but no one listens to the Spaceman.
SAGAL: Oh, that's a shame.
LEE: Well, you've got to realize, a general manager is a manager of nothing in particular.
SAGAL: We - Bill, there's a new movie out there about your life. It's called "Spaceman." What's it like seeing yourself played on screen?
LEE: It's the two toughest weeks of my life. You know, I get released, I get divorced, they make a movie about it. I'm going, wow, there's not really a big upside to that. It's hilarious because it starts out with - you hear the sizzling of pancakes and stuff and it - you see, all of a sudden, a thing open and marijuana go on the pancakes.
LEE: And then it pulls back, and there I am in an apron and nothing else.
LEE: And then it goes downhill from there.
SAGAL: I just got to ask you - I'm going to ask you, 'cause I - it's a striking scene - did you, in real life...
SAGAL: ...Look as good from behind as Josh Duhamel does in that movie?
LEE: I have a 42-inch waist. He has probably a 34-inch waist.
LEE: No, you can't get a camera around my ass.
SAGAL: Well, Bill Lee, we are delighted to talk to you. But today we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: You're Not Spacey, Kevin Is.
SAGAL: You are Bill Lee, known as Spaceman, so we thought we'd ask you today about Kevin Spacey, the actor in such great films as "The Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty" and such terrible films as "Pay It Forward" and "K-PAX." Answer three questions about the award-winning actor and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Bill Lee playing for?
KURTIS: Emily Brink of Boston, Mass.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: You've played for a Boston crowd before. Here's your first question. Mr. Spacey is, of course, an extremely successful actor, having won Oscars, Emmys and even an honorary knighthood, but he wasn't always successful. In fact, during his early struggling years in New York, he managed to get by by doing what? A - growing his own vegetables in a secret garden in Central Park; B - pretending to be Johnny Carson and getting free food and drinks in restaurants and clubs; or C - stripping.
LEE: I like Ogallala, Neb.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Is that, in any way...
LEE: Isn't he from - isn't...
SAGAL: You know, he...
POUNDSTONE: Who - is Carson from Nebraska? Is that what you're saying?
LEE: I think he's from Ogallala, Neb.
SAGAL: Oh, I'm sorry. The Nebraska reference was, of course, to Johnny Carson. You were way ahead of me. Yes, that's the answer.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Very good.
SAGAL: Mr. Spacey...
LEE: I rest my case.
SAGAL: Mr. Spacey says that he did a really good Johnny Carson imitation, so he'd go up and say, I'm Johnny Carson, table for four, and they'd let him in and feed him really well.
LEE: Brilliant man. He's a brilliant man.
SAGAL: All right.
ROY BLOUNT JR: A lot of people would have just said B, and you said Ogallala, Neb.
SAGAL: All right, it turns out that Kevin Spacey is not the only performer in his family. Which of these people is his brother? A - Randy B. Fowler - Boise, Idaho's number one Rod Stewart impersonator; B - champion competitive eater Joey Chestnut; or C - Dame Maggie Smith.
LEE: Well, process of elimination, it's got to be A.
SAGAL: It's got to be A. You're right. It's Randy B. Fowler.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
POUNDSTONE: Wow, nice.
SAGAL: Boise, Idaho's number one Rod Stewart impersonator. I urge you to Google Randy B. Fowler because...
LEE: I didn't know he was from Idaho.
SAGAL: Well, that was - we threw that in to trip you up there.
LEE: It's where everybody in the O.J. Simpson case went.
SAGAL: That's true. They all live up there. You really have the most interesting mind I have ever encountered.
LEE: Should've started smoking in '64.
SAGAL: Last question. Believe it or not - and frankly, I did not want to find this out, but it is true - believe it or not, Mr. Spacey starred in a major motion picture that was released just last month. What was it and what was his role? Was it A - "Nine Lives," in which Mr. Spacey plays a businessman trapped inside the body of his family's cat; B - "Arthur," in which Mr. Spacey plays the heroic but forgotten U.S. president Chester A. Arthur; or C - "Talk Slowly And Use Big Words," a sex farce set in the world of public radio.
LEE: I want it to be A.
SAGAL: Do you want it to be A?
LEE: Yeah, I do.
SAGAL: Then it is A.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: It's true. While we were all distracted with something else, this big Kevin Spacey movie came out, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, in which Mr. Spacey plays a talking cat.
LEE: I'm there.
SAGAL: Bill, how did the Spaceman do on our quiz?
KURTIS: He's in our hall of fame, 3 and 0 for Bill Spaceman.
SAGAL: Bill Spaceman Lee is a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. He's the subject of the new biopic, "Spaceman." Bill Lee, thank you so much for joining us. Bill Lee, everybody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPACEMAN")
HARRY NILSSON: (Singing) I wanted to be a spaceman. That's what I wanted to be. But now that I am a spaceman...
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill becomes the ultimate puzzle master in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.