EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

August 14, 2007

Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee convinced team won’t let lead slip like 1978

LAWRENCE — It seemed all too fitting that a steel blue thunder cloud loomed ominously overhead yesterday afternoon at the South Lawrence East Baseball Field where Bill “The Spaceman” Lee touched down and quickly tackled an equally ominous subject.

The former Red Sox southpaw standout of the ‘70s earned even greater celebrity in these parts for his candid — and sometimes unorthodox — views. He liked to speak on everything from the green leafy condiment he was fond of spreading over his buckwheat pancakes to Chairman Mao.

Yesterday, he wasted little time tackling the question that has grown from a whisper to a ground swell on talk radio and message boards alike:

Is it possible that the “Collapse of 1978” really could happen all over again?

Lee, who was in Lawrence to participate in a baseball clinic sponsored by the Red Sox and Bank of America for 250 youths, had a front row seat that fateful season which saw a seemingly unsurmountable 141/2-game lead over New York in July vanish into the September sky. The final blow came in a one-game playoff in October with light-hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent administering last rites to a stunned Sox Nation.

Lee says the anxiety was palpable as the lead shrunk that summer — at least for those who got out on the field.

“I didn’t get to feel it,” said Lee, whose loud protests of the trading deadline deal of good friend Bernie Carbo served as the last straw in his tempestuous relationship with Sox skipper Don Zimmer and landed him on the bench and out of the starting rotation. Lee was traded the following season to Montreal in a lopsided deal (for the Expos) for utility infielder Stan Papi.

“I was benched by (Don) Zimmer at the trading deadline,” said Lee, who still proudly notes that he allowed just one earned run in 91/3 innings of relief work in the infamous “Boston Massacre” which saw the Yankees sweep the Red Sox in a four-game set at Fenway to pull even at the beginning of September.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports

Local Sports Videos
Sports Videos
How Will Wiggins Deal Impact Potential Love Trade? Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Dareus fails conditioning test, Watkins lifts spirits Clay Travis On Mettenberger Punch & "Dumbest Fanbase" - @TheBuzzeronFOX Bowlsby talks cheating in NCAA Kluwe: How can Tony Dungy advocate felons, not Michael Sam SNC Minute: Phils lose; Lee set to return Eagles less than a week away from training camp Could Cliff Lee's health affect trade value? McCarthy and Stairs break down the Phillies' loss 105-year-old woman throws first pitch McIlroy wins British Open, Tiger finishes 69th Astros, Aiken fail to reach deal Could Rousey beat Mayweather? Can the Panthers replace Steve Smith? Will Bengals sign Dalton to long-term deal? Offseason Report: Biggest Question Marks in the AFC West Ole Miss facing increased expectations Derek Jeter Respect Ad Delivers Larry’s Notebook: Is Jimmie Johnson Behind the Curve?
Boston Sports
How Will Wiggins Deal Impact Potential Love Trade? Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Dareus fails conditioning test, Watkins lifts spirits Clay Travis On Mettenberger Punch & "Dumbest Fanbase" - @TheBuzzeronFOX Bowlsby talks cheating in NCAA Kluwe: How can Tony Dungy advocate felons, not Michael Sam Curran: Did the Patriots make a mistake by drafting Garoppolo? McAdam: Yankees pitching troubles bad news for Sox negotiations with Lester Curran: Will Pats struggle to find an identity on offense this season? Perry: Lester impressive again in Sox 6-0 win over the Royals 105-year-old woman throws first pitch McIlroy wins British Open, Tiger finishes 69th Astros, Aiken fail to reach deal Could Rousey beat Mayweather? Can the Panthers replace Steve Smith? Will Bengals sign Dalton to long-term deal? Offseason Report: Biggest Question Marks in the AFC West Ole Miss facing increased expectations Players to watch when training camp opens Bruins 1st round pick David Pastrnak signs entry level contract