Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Wrong Stuff

Bill Lee was a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos in the 1970s and early 1980s.  He was well-known for his outspoken views, free-spirited approach to life, and (controversially at the time) unabashed drug use. Oh, and he was a pretty good pitcher as well.

The Wrong Stuff is an autobiography he wrote with ghostwriter Dick Lally.  I'm not sure how much of this Bill wrote himself, but he seems pretty intellectual for a ballplayer, and his voice comes through very strongly, so I assume he contributed a lot more than in most of these celebrity ghostwritten books.  The book was published in 1985, and I wonder whether it made a splash when it was printed.  Bill certainly doesn't hold back in expressing his opinion or in naming names, so I have to think it must have raised quite a few eyebrows.

It's also hilarious, full of anecdotes about baseball life and especially the nightlife after the game is over.  He has a skewed view of the universe that imparts a stand-up comic's wit to his observations, sort of a baseball version of George Carlin.  Despite the fact that he holds a lot of new-agey beliefs--karma, and Eastern medical practices, and that sort of thing--he nevertheless comes off as saner and more down-to-Earth than most of his teammates and managers, competing hard when the game is on but not worrying too much afterwards if was a win or a loss, nor obsessed with the money, fame, or groupies that so preoccupy those around him.

I checked Amazon and this book recently became available again after years of being out of print (I found my copy on a giveaway table at work).  I would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in baseball, especially the Red Sox or baseball in the 70s.  But I think it would entertain a far broader readership than that, as Bill also peppers his book with his unique views of inter-gender relations, politics, the merits of various US cities, and anything else his curious mind happens to land on.


  1. I haven't read it, but I remember when it came out. It was a big deal in baseball and sports fan circles.

    Lee was an above average pitcher who, I believe, may have hurt his arm after throwing 260 or more innings each year 1973-75. (He won 51 games and threw 51 complete games in that span.) He had one more good year in 1979 with Montreal, part of a great pennant race.

  2. They certainly worked pitchers at that time. He says he disliked playing for manager Don Zimmer in 1976 and 77 because Zimmer didn't keep his pitchers on a regular schedule, instead saving them to play against certain teams. ("Am I pitching today, Coach?" "Nope, I need you to pitch against Baltimore on Monday.") That can't have helped his arm either. I think the only reason he lasted as long as he did was because he relied on finesse rather than power.