I’ve noticed a trend among the various baseball card bloggers I read and sometimes trade real cards with to be in the process of e-publishing their “dream” baseball cards now that we are in the middle of winter, and Spring Training seems so far away. I figured I’d toss one of my own out into cyberspace and see where it lands.
Keep in mind that this is a card that I WISH Topps or Upper Deck had/would produce, and against odds so astronomical they would make Carl Sagan’s head spin, I would somehow manage to pull this 1/1 card from a normal pack of baseball cards that I picked up at Target while standing in line to buy a bag of charcoal.
The irony that Topps would probably choose to portray one of the most colorful baseball players in the modern era in black and white isn’t lost on me. From a design standpoint, I think it “works.” Normally I would tend to steer as far away from a dark background as possible, but since this is a fantasy card, it would already be featuring a dual autograph in some beautiful copper-colored ink currently unknown to chemists at the Sharpie Corporation.
The choice of honoring Bill Lee was easy. There simply are not enough cards of the man who was pretty much kicked to the curb of major league baseball by the owners for his crime of being a free thinker. Sure, he was also a hell-raiser, but he wasn’t alone in that department. Including Warren Zevon on this card was also a no-brainer.
Lee was born some 27 days before Zevon. I’m sure Warren was aware of that fact, and was fine with it. After all, 2 + 7 = 9, and a nine is but three 3s, and Warren loved 3s as much as he embraced his OCD.
Both were living in California when Bill was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. Lee made his major league debut on June 25, 1969- the same summer Warren broke away from his gig with the Everly Brothers by releasing his first solo album “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and having one of his compositions, “She Quit Me,” featured in the Academy Award-winning film “Midnight Cowboy.”
I’m not sure when the two first became friends, but it isn’t difficult to imagine Lee sitting around the Fenway Park clubhouse completely hopped up on painkillers listening to Zevon’s self-titled album which hit the music stores just days after Bill suffered a career-altering shoulder separation during a Red Sox-Yankees brawl on May 26, 1976.
The controversial Spaceman wasn’t shy about quoting Zevon lyrics to reporters whenever a good opportunity presented itself. Warren returned the favor by including the song “Bill Lee” as the ninth track (again with the 3s?) on his 1980 album “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.”
The “relic” portion of this dream card doesn’t feature a ticket stub or a fragment of a baseball jersey. Instead, it contains a portion of the label from a bottle of Oban single malt scotch whisky to commemorate the day in the early 1980s when Lee stopped by Zevon’s for a visit. Warren was currently on the wagon, attempting to dry out in an effort to extend his marriage, his career and possibly even his life, but when Lee arrived he decided to have just “one drink” to welcome his friend. Legend has it that the two partied like madmen for THREE straight days.
Lee’s major league career ended after the Montreal Expos released him in May of 1982 and every other team refused to even take a look at him, having decided that he was too much to handle. Meanwhile, having survived a drinking binge that nearly finished him, Warren gave up drinking that same summer and remained sober until he was diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of 2002.
In an interview in May of 2001, Bill Lee stated that he and the Mutineer still kept in touch- “on an ESP level.” There is no reason to believe that the two excitable boys haven’t maintained their special relationship even since Warren’s death.