It was the way you’ve come to expect Bill Lee to go down. Kicking and scratching. Fussing and feuding with the Reds, or just about anybody else that got into his way.
“Dynasty, my ass,” fumed the fiery Red Sox left-hander who went out of the seventh game of the World Series, not in a blaze of glory, but grumping about shoddy defense behind him, and a bloop hit that made the Red Sox losers.
“They did it on a clutch ‘crushing’ blow by Joe Morgan. Did you see how hard he crushed it?”
It is not the nature of Bill Lee to do anything with flamboyance, no, arrogance. Before the game, while Don Gullett of the Reds, his starting counterpart, was methodically working in the bullpen, Lee was up to his old tricks.
First he took a brisk stroll around the outfield, jogging slowly and occasionally putting on a sprint. Then he played catch. Yes, played catch in right field throwing the ball his usual 100 or so yards to warm up. Lee had pitched only twice in the last month. So he saw nothing wrong with a little show of ran stamina and courage to the National League champions.
Lee was in his glory for five innings when the Sox jumped to a 3-0 lead. But his world started to crumble in the sixth. First a costly error by Denny Doyle on a double play ball. Then his infamous Eephus pitch, which Tony Perez sent to Kenmore Square.
“Why does everybody ask me about that pitch to Perez,” he said. “Why doesn’t somebody ask me about the pitch I threw to Johnny Bench to get a double play that we botched. It was a sinker and a damn good one.
“I have lived by the slow curve. I die by the slow curve. That home run didn’t beat us. We made some mistakes and that beat us.”
Lee said he would still be pitching if the blister on his pitching hand hadn’t suddenly developed. He didn’t want to be removed. And he didn’t particularly like it. But he understood the move by Mgr. Darrell Johnson.
“I didn’t have it until the seventh inning when I walked my first man,” he said. “People don’t understand blisters. It’s something that can happen very suddenly.
“All that has to happen is one seam to open in your skin. One pitch can do it and a blister is automatically created. It’s like a burn. I had no callus tissue developed because I hadn’t pitched but twice in a month. That’s why it opened.
“I felt fine. I didn’t want to come out. But I don’t run the ball club. I just go out and do my job. But if I had stayed in there we’d never lost to the Cincinnati Reds.”
Lee took issue with the Reds’ claim that winning the Series proved once again the National League is superior.
“That’s just propaganda about them and their league. They’ve a good team and so are we. The two leagues are equal.”