“Spaceman” is the nickname of a left of center (sometimes high), crafty left-hander named Bill Lee who had a very interesting and successful career as a major league pitcher. Having played for just 2 franchises in his 14-year career, the sometimes problematic hurler always yielded results until his differences with the “business of baseball” cost him his career.
The movie starts off in 1982 when he was with the Expos. He has trouble gaining access to the “Big O” and soon enough has a big fight with his manager, Jim Fanning. Lee didn’t like the fact that Montreal cut Rodney Scott (played by Sterling K. Brown), a buddy of his and strong teammate for 3 seasons heading into that season. Some hijinx and snarky behavior got him fired and put him on course for a different kind of baseball career.
Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Las Vegas, All My Children) plays a very convincing Lee. I was 12 when Lee was pitching in the 1975 World Series for the Red Sox against the Cincinnati Reds. The movie does flashback to that time in an interesting animated way.
Duhamel was an athlete himself in high school and college and he does a great job with the slight baseball nuances and turning of phrases that make this movie very realistic from a baseball perspective.
The movie is a bit offbeat and very funny, as was Lee. His agent was played by W. Earl Brown (True Detective, Deadwood), and he plays a failed writer who tends to drink too much but he had a genuine love for baseball and Lee’s success. It’s a very compelling performance.
The movie is directed and written by Brett Rapkin. He does a great job of bringing everybody back to the 70’s and 80’s with key phrases, music and great attention to details, like Lee’s wild beard which had cheese wiz stuck in it for an entire scene. It was great because you wanted him to clean it off but he didn’t, because Lee wouldn’t have cared.
The senior league baseball games are awesome. I remember when Lee was featured in “High Times” magazine and eventually playing in that league in Quebec. Ernie Hudson plays one of his teammates, Joseph Cartwright. It’s a solid performance and he looked like a bad senior league player.
Lee’s love of the game drives him to pitch to this day. He loves to pitch and hit. The movie has plenty of bad hockey jokes about the sport being #1 in Canada compared to baseball. One great line was “You can’t replace pine tar with Fixodent” his agent told him that before he joined the off-beat league.
Footage of Lee today is compelling. I still play softball at the age of 52 because I love the game as well. This movie will appeal to baseball fans, fans of period movies and fans of Duhamel, who was perfectly cast and should win a few awards for this.
The film has a release date of August 19th.
Photo courtesy of FilmBuff