BURLINGTON, Vt. – Bill Lee is fielding so many phone calls he's beginning to have second thoughts about his run for Vermont governor.
"I shouldn't have done it — I hate the phone," the former Major League pitcher says in between calls from well-wishers and the coach of his Vermont Senior League baseball team, the Burlington Cardinals.
But, Lee, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos, is brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. He wants to abolish the border between Vermont and Quebec so travel would be easier, including for him and his Canadian-born wife, Diana Donovan.
"My problem isn't getting into Canada; my problem is getting back into the United States," he says.
He wants to form an alliance with Quebec and Canada's Maritime provinces to harness wave energy from the Bay of Fundy. Closer to home, he wants to set up a new ride-sharing system to help residents of rural Vermont get around.
Lee, 70, is running on the Liberty Union ticket, represented by Bernie Sanders in his early, unsuccessful runs for office in Vermont. He faces five major-party opponents for the open seat Democratic Peter Shumlin will be vacating at the end of the year.
WCAX-TV reported on Lee's candidacy Monday.
As for relations with the Legislature, Lee says, "I'll get along fine if they decide to be smart and work in the right direction."
Lee got the nickname "Spaceman" while pitching in Boston in the 1970s, when he often would digress in interviews into lofty subjects. Now, as then, he's known for brash ideas that can raise eyebrows.
He's not a newcomer to politics. He ran for president on the Rhinoceros Party ticket in 1988.
Lee, who variously describes himself as a socialist and "a liberal with a gun," says he's a fan of Sanders.
"I put Bernie in office — singlehandedly," Lee says. "I pulled two rednecks off him in Hardwick (a town near Lee's home which has had a rough reputation) who were throwing stuff at him ... back when he was running for Congress."
He says he spends a lot of time now traveling to charity fundraisers. He's not smoking much marijuana these days, he says, but told with relish a story of having two pot brownies on a trip between fundraisers in Nova Scotia and San Francisco.
Other favorite hobbies are gardening and drinking — the later running to tequila and beer. The Spaceman said he particularly likes an item called Space Juice made by Vermont's Long Trail Brewing Co., though he says the names are coincidental.
As for his upcoming game with the Burlington Cardinals on Sunday, he tells his coach, "I'll make sure I won't drink too much and I'll pitch really good."
And as for how well he'll do in the campaign, he says, "I got the left-wing vote and I got the right-wing vote. Now all I got to do is ascertain how I'm going to get the middle to like me."