If you are counting the days to the first pitch of baseball season, you can get ready to play ball at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Friday evening with the showing of Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey followed by a question-and-answer session with veteran pitcher Bill Lee.
With winter showing no signs of letting up, our only assurance that warmer weather may actually arrive comes with the start of spring training in late February. For anyone who loves baseball, this yearly ritual inaugurates the cheers and disappointments that any season at the ballpark will bring.
Bill “Spaceman” Lee — the star pitcher of the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos in the 1970s — loves baseball for “all the right reasons,” a claim he proudly articulates as he describes the sport that captivates his soul. Lee’s story thrives in Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey, a timeless documentary that reveals how this man thinks, what he values, and how he chooses to live with baseball at the center of his life, no matter where he must look to find a game. He observes, “I have given everything I have to this game,” as he admits how far he will travel to play the sport he loves.
With a dose of humanity, and a sense of humor, Spaceman reveals more about Lee than a standard biography. Yes he knew, from a young age, that he wants to play baseball. Yes, as a pitcher at the University of Southern California, he begins to develop a “secret power” that will propel him to a career with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. But Lee never plays the game behind the game, preferring to be true to himself than to cater to management whims. Rather than simply agree with his bosses, he openly shares his thoughts, from politics to philosophy; rather than monitor his behavior, he plays as hard off the field as on. While his actions limit his choices, Lee avoids reflecting with resentment or regret. There’s no point.
Rather than describe Lee’s career, filmmaker Brett Rapkin brings the man to life by taking us on a trip to Cuba where the aging pitcher finds a country filled with baseball fans. Without any of the trappings he enjoyed in major league baseball, Lee celebrates the joy that comes from the game. As his team of senior players challenges local amateurs in basic surroundings, Lee celebrates his passion for the fundamentals. As he pushes his arm to deliver, Lee shares the hopes that he brings to each day, no matter the disappointments he has experienced in the past. Rapkin reveals a thoughtful, caring man who still loves to surprise, a realist who savors the memory of playing baseball with anyone in any place. For Lee, the big moment in a game is defined by the fun of the sport, not the size of the stadium or the pay check. As he remarks, “you are always gonna fall down and you gotta get up, that’s the secret.”
Thanks to Rapkin’s sharp sense of camera and content, Spaceman says a lot about anyone in any profession. This man could be an aging superstar in any field who finally achieves the self-acceptance to make where he plays his game no longer the priority. He just wants to get invited to join the team.
Film Nutritional Value
Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey
* Content: High. In an efficient 70 minutes, we learn a great deal about a man, a sport and a country that loves them both.
* Entertainment: High. Bill Lee is made for the movies with his entertaining views, candid opinions and insightful observations.
* Message: Medium. For anyone who loves baseball, the film celebrates the game; for anyone interested how people thrive as they age, the film celebrates a man’s quest to remain relevant.
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to talk about baseball, with the season just around the corner, can give a family a lot to discuss.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. No matter your love for the sport, Bill Lee is an interesting character who easily holds attention and prompts conversation.
Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey will be shown Friday evening, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ridgefield Playhouse, followed by a question-and-answer session with Bill Lee. The film runs 70 minutes.
4 Popcorn Buckets