From the State That Brought Us Bernie Sanders, ‘Spaceman’ for Governor

Baseball eccentric Bill Lee launches bid in Vermont

Former Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee is launching a campaign for governor of Vermont and is drawing inspiration from Sen. Bernie Sanders' success in the Democratic presidential primary. (Winslow Townson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Former Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee is launching a campaign for governor of Vermont and is drawing inspiration from Sen. Bernie Sanders' success in the Democratic presidential primary. (Winslow Townson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:16am

The Vermont fringe party that launched the political career of Sen. Bernie Sanders is now backing a 1970s baseball star-turned-gubernatorial candidate known affectionately to generations of fans as “Spaceman.”  

What campaign slogan Bill Lee, 69, will pick is anyone’s guess. The former Red Sox and Expos pitcher, a self-described “Zen Buddhist Rastafarian ,” earned as much of a reputation for his often strange and hilarious one-liners as he did for his preternatural talents.  

Lee won 17 games  for the Red Sox for three straight seasons, ending in 1975. And he won minor league games well into his 60s. All the while, his sense of humor never flagged.  

He once famously quipped that he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes to immunize himself from the Boston bus fumes as he jogged to Fenway Park. In a previous foray into politics — a 1988 run for president under the Canadian Rhinoceros Party label — he touted positions like bulldozing the Rocky Mountains so that Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of daylight. More recently, he said he would pick this epithet for his tombstone: “I told you I was sick.”  

Lee is expecting a boost from Sanders’ success in the Democratic primary.  

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“I’m Bernie-heavy, I’m not Bernie-lite. My ideas were before Bernie,” he said in an interview with Vermont television station WCAX. “If you want to see money come down from the 2 percent, we’re going to need umbrellas when I’m elected, because it’s going to be raining dollars.”  

Lee will be the gubernatorial candidate of Vermont’s Liberty Union Party, the same party under whose banner Sanders ran for governor and senator in the 1970s.  

Lee has also staked out a few policy positions of his own.  

“He argues for legalization and taxation of pot in Vermont, along with single-payer health care, paid family leave and bringing the Expos back to Montreal,” WCAX reported.  

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But he could face some heavy competition for the most colorful candidate in Vermont, where candidates in the last gubernatorial election got less attention for their policy platforms than their fashion choices  — which included a floppy hat, a chest-length beard and a pair of jean shorts.

Contact Akin at 


stephanieakin@rollcall.com


 and follow her on Twitter at 


@stephanieakin



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